Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms.

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An Annotation by Jeff Ayer

Will Richardson does a phenomenal job of laying out everything needed to both initiate and defend the use of blogs and wikis in the classroom.  While I have already used a wiki within my classroom, this book provided the pedagogical reinforcement that I to some degree already could have used to defend such use in my classes.

Early in the book, Richardson states,

“It is less about blogs and wikis and podcasts than it is about the educators behind them who are using them so creatively to motivate students to learn more deeply and contribute what they know to the amazing body of knowledge that is the World Wide Web” (vii).

For one, teachers can use these technologies to engage students who are not easily engaged.  This alone is exciting.

Richardson outlines three goals for his book.

  • First, “To give educators some context in terms of what these technologies mean for our society as well as for education.”
  • Second, he looks to “challenge and motivate teachers to think differently about their classrooms and the potentials of technologies discuss in terms of pedagogy and curriculum.”
  • Lastly, the book aims to “share enough of the ‘how to’ needed to get teachers started using these tools right away” (vii-viii).

Richardson later focuses on the importance of securing the use of these technologies, citing the importance of educators’ communicating with colleagues, administrators, students, and parents alike.  These technologies also neatly concentrate student writing and reflections in a format that is user-friendly to both the instructor and the students, for both various types of assessment and for potential portfolio work (23).

Of course, as an English teacher, the publishing aspect is also exciting.  My favorite line in the book was as follows:

“Writing stops; blogging continues.  Writing is inside; blogging is outside.  Writing is monologue; blogging is conversation.  Writing is thesis; blogging is synthesis” (31).

Every English teacher stresses process, process, process.  The use of a wiki or blog can reinforce this and then some!  And of course, the highest level of teaching takes place, theoretically, in a student-centered classroom.  These technologies allow for such realities, once developed within the classrooms culture.

Richardson cites,

“In using wikis, students are not only learning how to publish content; they are also learning how to develop and use all sorts of collaborative skills, negotiating with other to agree or correctness, meaning, relevance, and more.  In essence, students begin to teach each other” (65).

Toward the end of the book, Richardson cites a number of “big shifts” in education that could occur using these technologies, including:

  • open content (not confined to textbooks that can quickly become outdated);
  • 24/7 access to learning and to some degree, teachers; student collaboration;
  • teachers getting in on conversation instead of lecturing;
  • students’ knowing where rather than what, as in being able to access resources to find answers instead of regurgitating information;
  • moving from “interactiveless” readers to collaborative readers;
  • using the web as a notebook of sorts;
  • writing digitally rather than solely on paper;
  • focusing on the product of learning instead of the testing of learning; and
  • reinforcing “contribution, not completion, as the ultimate goal” (131-132).

Richardson, W.  (2006).  Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web     tools for classrooms.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

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