The business of blogging

doyoublog.jpgI read a great article by Ian Grayson in The Australian this week on blogging in the corporate environment. 

I think the education sector can learn a lot from industries who are embracing these tools to develop more productive, resource sensitive and creative ways of working. We should not adopt them uncritically, nor should we ignore them out of hand because they are being adopted by business.

One point Ian makes is that a BIG cultural shift is requiredwithin organisations as they work in today’s world. He says the advantages of using these tools (e.g blogs and wikis) is too great to ignore and the “march of Web 2.0 into the corporate space will continue to gather pace.”

These tools are no longer fads. They use proven technologies that are readily available and becoming increasingly more ubiquitous for the simple fact that they assist organisations in improving the way they work.

Why is the education sector lagging behind?  Why isn’t our  industry leading the thinking and application of such capabilities. Surely we must be on about questioning, challenging and innovation, isn’t this part of our core business? Aren’t things like communication, collaboration, personalisation central to the work we do in schools?

I am beginning to suspect it’s because educators rarely venture out of their own networks or jump into this world themselves. I don’t think you can effectively engage in this agenda in the abstract, you have to be an active participant. This means that educators have to blog, use wikis, have a facebook page, use del.icio.ous and the like. I don’t think the contemporary educator can take this as an optional preference.  Just like the picture above – this is the reality in which we live.

Perhaps it’s time to invite industries (who are our students’ future employers) into the learning space to exchange ideas and to demonstrate educators how Web 2.0 is influencing more than just today’s learners. Why shouldn’t we be open to learning from other experts?

The question I have is where are schools at in their thinking about Web 2.0 and how these tools can be used not only in a classroom environment but to establish powerful networks and ultimately robust learning communities between educators? 

21 thoughts on “The business of blogging

  1. My professional learning would be practically non-existent if it weren’t for blogging, sharing delicious links, talking in facebook and twitter, and generally tracking the best educational thinkers who are active in these spaces. We do have teachers in our schools who are exploring right alongside me, and others who can see the power of Web 2.0 for blending learning experiences with global education and business contacts. But you are right – it is a big shift for educators to jump into social networking. The tools are definitely no longer fads – they ARE our kids, and they are their future… and now! It is no surprise the employers take strong interest in the online spaces of their potential employees. Shouldn’t we do the same? Collaboration in online environments is becoming the norm in business environments. I can’t wait for more of my teaching colleagues to ‘catch up’. In the meantime, I will continue to network with those locally and globally who are pushing the agenda in a Web 2.0 & Learning 2.0 world. At least there has been a shift, and with the encouragement of leaders like yourself, I hope that the shift will soon be a siesmic one!

  2. Greg, I think you raise a valid point that many teachers do not use web 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis and thus do not have the first hand experience of how they may influence and support the work they do with their students. I think this will evolve as the system makes this a greater priority in professional learning and collaborative development of resources and as new teachers who have grown up in the digital world come into schools . Equally as the technology continues to evolve tecahers will adopt it themselves as they have done initial web tools like the world wide web and email. I think the point of comparison with industry is often times difficult to sustain as the nature of tecahing and schools is most unlike most business organsiations and also I think partly explains the slower take up of these features in schools.Unlike office employees teachers don’t spend their day in front of a computer at a desk where they can readily access all the internet tools they like. Teachers are in the class, engaging with kids, marking, planning and doing all the other things needed to keep a profession based on relationship building going. I understand that some of these web 2.0 tools will make all this easier and more relevant to many of our kids who have ready digital access at home but for this to be part of the culture of schools and teaching teachers need the hardware, the access and the support to impelent and sustain it. It holds great promise and I have no doubt we are on the right track in making this a key driver of our schools development.

  3. Hi Greg

    I was really interested to read your post as I also believe that we need to shift our thinking about the way we view ICT use to support leadership. It is also great to see educational admin people harnessing the more creative powers of ICT and modelling this use.

    Like many of us, the internet has provided me with access to other communities of learners, and the opportunity to learn a plethora of ways which actually enhance, rather than diminish our ability to build human capital.

    You may be interested in a story earlier this year in the SMH which is linked from this post

    It supports the assessment of the value of Web 2.0

    I’ve been absolutely amazed at the range of possibility presented by Web 2.0 solutions. It really seems that basically, if we want something which will do……. then quite often some quick Googling will find it for us. And there: just another example of new verbage. We are witnessing the gradual heaving up a reluctant hill of the boulder of cultural inertia. Not far now and it will teeter at the top. Or, is it already over the edge and away: carving a cultural chasm with us left to watch and wonder and decide whether this is something which a well planned research study may be able to assess?

  4. Coming from a school where Web2.0 tools are gradually being used more and more, I think the factor that enabled us to embrace these tools was not our technology skills or willingness to try something new, but the development of a culture where all of us, staff and students alike, have the recognition that we each have a voice that is worth being heard.

    Gradually we are exploring which Web2 tools enable us to express our voices in the most efficient, (and sometimes entertaining), ways, but the purpose always remains the same…we value our work and the opinions of the people who created it, and are interested in reading and sharing the reflections of each of the people involved.

    Our Principal has always maintained that reflection and evaluation of our work, (both Students and Teachers), is of utmost importance in effective learning. This is what our work with Web2 tools has been based on. It is this focus, this culture, I feel, that is the basis of our success with social networking tools.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. Any technology is only ever an enabler! If it ever becomes the purpose then we have lost the plot. This point is also relevant in the discussion about how our school communities adapt to web 2.0 teachnologies. The issue is how do teachers change practice and how do we support change and open learning opportunities for teachers. Key to this is reflective practice in collaboration with colleagues. This is the part that excites me when I see teachers in discussion about their passion for teaching sharing how they do it. Most of the professional associations in existance know this well and are a great support

  6. Roger, it just amazes you when you see what can be done. I’d love to see our profession doing more of this collaboration in virtual spaces and using the web 2.0 technologies, as I say there are no short cuts so you have to engage. these are the new skill set. Keep in touch

  7. You questioned Greg, where schools are in relation to adopting Web2 technologies & teachnologies. I think your statement “I am beginning to suspect it’s because educators rarely venture out of their own networks or jump into this world themselves” is a little harsh. Teachers work on a needs basis, what can have an immediate impact on student outcomes in the classroom takes priority when it comes to adopting ‘new’ approaches, or in this case new technologies. Schools are exploring Web2, but these technologies have to prove their worth at the ground level, in the classroom, before teachers generally ‘branch out’ to explore them for their own Professional Journeys.
    In our school, the way to integrate Web2 tools was to ‘market’ them as a way for classes to publish reflective thoughts in an interactive and enticing way….. to have a voice. Once our teachers saw their potential in the classroom, they were more accepting to explore them further. Initially, our robust collaborations and networking began with trusted colleagues ….now we have begun to move out of our trusted networks and explore the Web2 world and what it has to offer us as Professionals. (It should be remembered though, that generally this type of exploration is usually begun late at night after planning, marking and making sure all is well in our classrooms!)
    When considering the idea that the education sector is lagging behind industry in the adoption of Web2 tools, are we simply adopting these tools in a different way? I know there is room for greater exploitation of these tools in education,….but is the issue more that we are trying to develop our own ways of using them, our ways of making them useful to us in our Professional lives? (…Lives as John Gildea observed as being different to those in other industries).

    Are we simply at the beginning of our journey…?

  8. I don’t want to be harsh, but it is my experience that in many schools there is a simple avoidance of web 2.0 capabilities. This is particularly the case with many school leaders. The point I want to make is that it is not an optional preference in today’s world to be web 2.0 literate. It has to be mandatory. Both systems and schools share this responsibility.
    I see great work going on in many schools of teachers using such tools. I know they spend much of their own time at it. Wouldn’t it be good if all our colleagues took up this challenge and we all supported each other?
    I also believe that there is a sense of urgency in the matter. Kids are in our schools now – and they deserve the best we can deliver

  9. I tend to agree with FManning’s comments regarding the classroom and web2.0. I know that my discussions with teachers have changed over the last twelve months regarding what is happening in their classrooms and how web2.0 tools can enhance learning. Admittedly I have developed a whole new vocabulary myself and I admit that at times I have no idea what some people are talking about! The teachers with whom I work are open to many ideas and are, more often than not, willing to accept new ideas and hence, new technologies. I believe that the ‘fear’ of web2.0 for many teachers may come in the form of how it may be perceived by the wider community, especially the parent community, as it is far removed from the learning within the school environment that they have experienced in the past. I do believe that this is another consideration for us as schools – to educate not only the students in our care but also their parents. However, recently I had the opportunity to discuss a student’s work with his parents and was able to direct them to our learning blog to enable them to come to an understanding of how he was working in class. These parents, and some others I have spoken to, have been most accepting and encouraging of web2.0 as a tool for student learning. I know that the students in our schools are deserving of the best education we can deliver and the tools of web2.0 – or as they refer to them, “the stuff we do on the computer”- do enable them to be actively engaged in their learning. They actually do want to think about school work when they are beyond the classroom and the school. This makes teaching an exciting time and I, for one, am pleased to be a part of it!

  10. great to hear that you find teaching is exciting. I agree with you, there are many many excited teachers out there who have such a passion for the kids in their care taht they’ll continue to challenge themselves and I hope their own colleagues.
    I don’t find the parents are blockers at all. They want to know how these new technologies will help their child, once this is done then they are big supporters.

  11. FManning and TSillis are in an enviable position – a school that is not only embracing Web2.0 but more importantly having professional conversations about it. Conversations must become part of our culture, I don’t mean talkfest but real conversations where we challenge and share our learnings, our knowledge about all facets of the educational world, and come away wanting to know more. Conversations while we wikki, blog, etc. We learn best in a social setting. Let’s turn staffmeetings over to exploration of Web2.0 to get people started – confidence in using tools makes for a greater work of art.

  12. Franziska, you are absolutely correct. I was struck by the power of blogs after listening to Tim Tyson, principal of Mabry Elementary School in Atlanta.  His school community is using their blog to post student homework and teacher worksheets and more importantly to facilitate communication with parents. Tim says

    I didn’t introduce blogs to give teachers more work but to actively involve parents in their child’s education. I want to empower families to become a part of the school.

    Just think of what we could do with blogs in harnessing the collective wisdom of teachers!

    Check out his podcast (tyson2.mp3)

  13. I have been thinking further about the article you posted here Greg, and would like to further explore the use of web2.0 tools within the education environment. I believe that many of the points that Ian Grayson makes are in fact very true of what is also happening in education and I have taken some quotes to continue the conversation …

    “Big cultural shifts are required when embracing these new services” – my experience in education has been that any new concept, technology or strategy takes time for teachers to come to terms with. The skills and/or habits, of some teachers are so deeply entrenched that they find it most difficult to adjust and to accept that change is inevitable. It is these teachers that need the supports, systems and strategies to help guide them into understanding the benefits of implementing something new. One of the reasons or perhaps excuses is, as Grayson says, “the security angle”.

    Our profession is one of care and protection so how can we ally the fears of teachers who are scared that something may “happen” to one of their students as a result of the use of web2.0? May I be so bold as to say that I feel, as a system, we need some sort of guide, rule or structure that enables us to ensure that we have done everything possible to in keeping our students safe when using web2.0, just as we would if we went on an excursion. This would enable us as school leaders to be sure that we are always promoting the responsible use of web2.0. Is there anything in the pipeline that will assist schools in educating their staff about this aspect of web2.0?

    In the community in which I work I know that this is also a concern for parents. We have parents who, whilst they have a computer in the home, do not allow their children access. It is either through fear of what may be seen or heard on the “net” – often due to negative media hype – or that the computer is for high school or adult use. I know and understand that we need to help parents to come on this journey with us and to acknowledge that “the productivity and cost saving advantages of Web 2.0 tools are simply too great to ignore.” I would be grateful if you have any insights as to how this could be done effectively or if you have seen any schools in your travels where parent education of web2.0 was successfully implemented. I know that parents are supportive of anything that will help their child to learn but the cultural shift here, at least in my community, is greater than that of the teachers.

  14. Toni, I think it is problematic as to whether you can safeguard kids form the dangers of a truly interactive and largely uncensored web experience. I guess one role of the new ‘teacher as facilitator’ s to help equip kids to understand and be cautious about their virtual habits.No doubt sites like My space and Youtube have a lot of unsavory content and a lot of stuff very limited in application to education. Social networking applications or contexts per se are not a wonderful educational tool in my view, it is what you do with the principles of it. I think the point is kids are using this as second nature and business is embracing it as a modern effective form of communication and information dissemination and I think as Greg suggests it is not an option to engage with and use this. I think the benefit is taking the principles of Web 2.0; interactivity, real time communication and digital storage and transmission and making it the enviornment of choice. I know many teachers, my wife included, who have set up blogs for their classes and are exploring wikis for project based work etc. I agree with Greg and others that leadership in the school context is critical. You need a leadership team open to this, supportive of the time and interaction involved and who can think outside the traditional box of two computer labs and a few staff computers and not much else. The system is certainly about consistency and coherence in vision and message and I believe this is changing in schools. The challenge will be not the purpose built future school built from these principles from the ground up but the conversion of all the other schools to embrace this environment.I belive we are, to coin a recently used catch phrase(!?) heading in the right direction, but with more work to do.
    I think the Maybry elmentry school mentioned by Greg is a good example of opening up the possibilities to parents that schools using web 2.0 are not about encouraging kids to post videos and profiles of their latest party on chat sites etc but that the tools allow us to reach them in a way they undrestand and are comfortable with. I think the answer may be to show parents the good side of the force and they will embrace it. Of cousre many many parents are alreday familiar with using these tools through their own work and social networking. An intersting thing I did note was that on the Maybry site on a cursory look through many of the blogs there were no comments. I imagine it will work like that; initially posting information like lunch menus, homework and assignments and gradually as the fear factor diminishes people will respond and the discussions that many here have noted as being crucial will continue to grow.

  15. John, I hope that I haven’t been misunderstood in my comments. I believe in the effective use of web2.0 and all that it offers within an educational setting. I also am part of a Leadership Team who fully embraces the use of technologies within the school environment. I, too, have a class blog with the class I teach and I believe I am an active teacher in ensuring that other classes have the opportunity to use blogs and other web2.0 tools as a way to incorporate effective conversation and reflections into daily teaching and learning as well as longer term project based work. My comments around the security of web2.0 refer to us knowing that it is or is not okay for example to post photos, and the like, of students working on the learning blogs. We have had no specific directives around this and acceptable use when setting up blogs etc from CEO. One of the very first points we make within our lessons around the use of the Internet is safety, and we liken it to giving out personal information to strangers when we are in shopping centres etc.
    Within the vision statement of our school we proclaim that we are a school “of innovation and excellence”. We have, as one of my colleagues put it, endeavoured to be “trailblazers” in education within the Diocese. Therefore, my school is most certainly embracing the new technologies but there are times when we feel we are starting from scratch especially when it comes to the guidelines of acceptable use.
    As for a purpose built school – I am sure that there are many advantages in such a setting but my belief is that any engaging, active and progressive teacher along with teachers of similar beliefs and capabilities can create a learning environment that does embrace the principles of web2.0 and incorporate them into the curriculum which in turn demonstrates improved student outcomes. This, after all, is our main aim as educators.
    I am still interested in the development of some sort of parent education model that enables us to extend our learning into the learning and lives of the parents within our community. I have looked at the Maybry school blog and can see the many benefits of reaching parents in a similar way. Some of our parents are picking up “bits and pieces” from what their child/ren are bringing home or from what is written in newsletters etc but many still do not have a real understanding of web2.0 – its capabilities and advantages for their children, or for that matter themselves. Some are still fearful to register with sites requiring email addresses. How do we overcome this mentality? I think your point about highlighting the good of web2.0 is most valid. But questions for us arise as to how we can cater for the parents within our community. Any ideas for an effective start to this? Is data gathering a way to go? I don’t feel that we can assume that parents know nothing about web2.0 but the data we gathered about technology earlier in the homes and lives of our students demonstrated that one of the skills high on the student’s list of priorities was to use a fax machine! We put this down to many parents being self employed in manual labour industries and that the fax was an effective form of communication for them.
    I know that we are heading in the right direction – I just need to read the blog comments from my students to know that we must be!

  16. Toni, I hope I did not give the impression your school was not embracing the web 2.0 context.It sounds like you are powering away out there! I had imagined that the acceptable computer use policy and privacy policies such as kids and parents signing off on photos of themselves for web or school publication purposes would cover this area but you are likely correct that this emerging area perhaps needs some clearer directives around suitable content and processes.
    With regard to parent involvement I remember many years ago when computers were new and scary for many our school ran classes for parents interested in the evening or during the day where they could learn some basics hands on. Presentations at P&F meetings alsoproved popular. Maybe that is something that schools could do with web 2.0 aspects likes blogs and wikis and podcasting to let them gain confidence. I think also the Maybry model of lots of key info on school based site/s and blogs will force parents to engage to find out what’s happening.

  17. John, I think you are right in saying that “we need some clearer directives around suitable content and processes” in regards to Web 2.0. I agree with Toni, this type of information is needed throughout the system, guiding school leaders in their journey in adopting Web 2.0 communication tools. In the corporate sector, Grayson identified ‘regular training and refresher courses as a means to ensure “people are reminded of their obligations and the limits of what they can do”. From an educational perspective, I know our system is very supportive of schools and staff members who wish to pursue and explore Web 2.0 technologies and training sessions have been provided. But Grayson continues, observing “an extension of policies already in place inside many companies that cover email usage” as a means to coping with the new and different issues presented by Web 2.0 technologies. It has been my experience, that school and system guidelines and policies are at present lagging behind staff that are forging ahead in their adoption of Web 2.0 and I think this is a possible reason why it is perceived that the Education sector is not as enthusiastically embracing Web 2.0 as quickly as the corporate world.

    By their very nature, Web2.0 tools present a myriad of challenges for educators, challenges that the corporate or business world might address, but in different ways. They are not generally dealing with children and have not the concerns that present themselves with issues such as Duty of Care and Child Protection. I am not trying to sound negative, but with system wide guidelines that address Web 2.0 communication tools specifically, I’m sure many school leaders would be more at ease with these tools and more willing to adopt them. I know that I have spent considerable time this year, investigating concerns teachers have had in using Web 2.0 tools, and the publishing of student work. Our existing policies do not adequately cover details that present themselves with Web 2.0. publishing. They were great when ‘publishing’ was exclusively the domain of the ‘experts’ and web pages or other online communication was in the control of the IT teacher or equivalent. Now, I feel, they need amending.

    Throughout the year, I have found our current Acceptable Use & Policies regarding the publishing of student photos, inadequate when teachers have enquired about different issues in regards to Web 2.0. Their general messages are still very valid, but I think Web 2.0 specific guidelines need to be included. For example, we need to ‘extend’ our current policies to address issues that include, for example:
    Types of student photos /video
    Identifying names on comments/posts
    Student “posting” /publishing- ‘monitoring’ issues

    Although we have explored these issues, and others, and learnt a great deal in the process, I feel our time as leaders in exploring Web 2.0 tools could have been used better;- devising great learning tasks & engaging with our students in the mediums. I imagine in the corporate world, these issues would have been researched and policies drawn up within a specialist department. Is this one of the reasons why it seems, that our schools are slower in taking up the challenge of Web2.0? We are both investigating and implementing at the same time, while new technologies are being introduced almost on a daily basis. I think a system wide policy would help immensely in this regard. The other issue I feel that is slowing the work of schools down, is the potential volume of work/ thoughts that are being published by students and teachers within schools. It would be worth hearing from schools in the system about how guidelines are being disseminated? How are students and teachers being ‘skilled up’ or made aware of the amended policies (hopefully drawn up within schools)? How is it all being monitored?

    I think it is interesting that we are talking about social networking issues, and yet in the ‘big scheme of things’ one of our ‘problems’ is that we don’t know how schools are tackling these issues, where specific schools are in their journeys and how we can help each other!!!

    Maybe a system wide wiki or Web 2.0 solution could enable us all to collaborate and ‘draw up’ some guidelines that will assist us on our way….just a thought!!

  18. Have just been browsing the Mabry school site. Some amazing stuff and not all that complicated. I agree with Frances and Toni re the security issues, but the reality is that policies will always lag behind developments in ICT and fear can’t be allowed to hinder its implementation – as it hasn’t at both Toni and Frances’ schools. Involvement of parents, as Toni says, is critical and the best policy for keeping students ‘safe’.

    On another note, a friend of mine works in a private school in Parramatta where every teacher must have their laptop on their desk and turned on. Absences are recorded digitally, office messages emailed, photos, etc of school events on You Tube, in short, the laptop is integral to the teacher’s work. No, teachers do not teach from their desk, but develop the habit of checking for messages. Much less intrusive than a phone or intercom. Do some teachers abuse this? I’m sure personal communications do creep into the day, but no less than they do with mobile phones in pockets. Just think, during SSR, teachers could read blogs!

  19. I suspect that we in education are no different to most other businesses in our development of procedure, policy and understanding on Web 2.0 in a way where we are responding to the possibilities of the technologies rather than using policy to lead the change.
    One of the projects on my watch at the moment is the re-development of our AUPs – Acceptable Use Agreements – for students and staff. (Do we need one for parents too?) Our current versions focus on Web 1.0 and email, and lag.
    Some contradictory propositions for consideration for inclusion in new AUPs – what do you think of any of these?

    1) We can include any photo/video of a student in a post so long as we have the normal privacy approval signed by parents on enrolment.
    2) We never include any photo/video of any student showing their face on a post.
    3) We include photos/videos of students only on secure posts where we can identify all persons with access to the site
    4) We include photos/videos of students only when we have explicit approval from student and parent for that inclusion.

    5) We never include student names in photos/videos
    6) We include only student Christian names in photos/videos
    7) We name students only if approval is explicitly given in writing by student and parent.

    Many other issues still to be worked through, but that’s a start. It’s a balance between respect for the person, administrative burden and making the most of the potential of the technology. What do you think?

  20. Don’t envy you your task, John. here are some random thoughts. Certainly parents need to be informed when children’s images, with or without names are used in a Web2.0 application. General permission at enrolment, with regular reminders about advising the school if that has changed, similar to duty of care notices many primary school put into their newsletter, is a good start. Point 2 takes the excitement out of it and limits the scope of the material you put up as often facial expressions speak louder than words. Use of names needs to be thought through as student created material would use names in the credits, and if it were to be a school event that was being recorded, and students full names were used, e.g. prize giving assembly, then perhaps parents could be made aware of that prior to the event and objections lodged cut out before ap loading. No procedures will cover all eventualities. Too many procedures will styme its use. Engaging parents in both developing and viewing the material, ensuring effective publicising of this and keeping it at the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, will fill the holes left in policy.

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