Should there a blogging element to the Portal? – My two pennies worth

Matt Knott the developer extraordinaire of Swansea’s Learning Portal the other day tweeted:
Blogging Tweet 1

Blog Tweet 2

Blog Tweet 3

For what it’s worth, here’s my two pennies worth.

It seems to be that there are two obvious areas where blogging functionality could sit within the portal.

The first is the addition of a school blog – an extension of the ‘news’ feed to give schools the opportunity to move away from termly newsletters to a more rolling approach to news.

The issue for most schools would be over comments. It seems to me that the lifeblood of any blog is the comments, and schools would benefit from the added engagement with parents and others. Yet there may be a fear that would either result in comments not being switched on, or with a tendency to moderate out any perceived negative comments. Many schools still seem to have a web 1.0 approach to their online presence – everything should be shiny, polished and polished. I’m yet to meet many (any?) school managers who recognise the added value that comes from having visible conversations with parents and other stakeholders. [1. I actually shuddered as I typed that, but I can’t think of another word that covers what I mean. Apologies for the management speak. I promise that I won’t do it again] This fear is only made worse by the horror stories that come from facebook and sites like ratemyteacher. All of that said, if the functionality was there, there may be some schools that were brave enough to spearhead it.

The second would be the subject / teacher level blog. For me, I’m finding Moodle a useful ‘online filing cabinet’, but it’s not social enough for what I’m looking for. So I put WP back on the server and started up a class blog, just for homework in the first instance, and it’s been very successful. Now, that would be a step too far for many teachers, but having the option may be the thing that some teachers are looking for – it’s more immediate and linked to present learning than Moodle can be.

Of course, all of this is coming from my secondary perspective. Stepping back and looking at the work that people like Ian Addison and John Sutton are doing with blogs in Primary Schools, it strikes me that a WP style (or indeed, WP if it could be integrated in the way Moodle has been) may find favour in primary schools, both at the whole school and the class / club level.

The third consideration would be a pupil level blog. We’re starting to use Google Sites to allow students to create ‘e-portfolios’ / reflective journals, and in the Applied History course they’ll actually submit one of their pieces of coursework as the Google Site, but that’s not quite the same as a blog. There’s a growing body of research that points out Learning Logs have value as a learning tool, and with easy access to such a tool, more staff might start encouraging students to blog about their learning. In the medium term the easiest facilitation of this may come from the rumored addition of Blogger to Google Apps. Certainly the blogs in Moodle aren’t really up to the job, but the management requirement of a WP blog farm on that scale almost certainly couldn’t be justified for the return.

</2pence> 😉

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