Friday, May 22, 2009

Blog Squad

Part 3 of 3
Sorry, Rick. I got you fired up over the prospect of a Web-Design club at school. I had visions of a service group of talented and curious design students who would learn about web design and then help groups in school where some still think p.r is tacking up a couple of posters in the hall and or setting out a stack of books at Open House.

Well, I circulated my idea and got tepid responses from a couple of teachers and four students. No administrative response to my emails. But the deal-breaker for me was my assignment for next year which does not build in any tech-specific time for staff development, school wide programs and the like . So all we have to show for my scheme is the neat logo you made.

However, I am certainly not going to let the limited imaginations of others keep us from pushing forward. At MHS each teacher has an obligation to be involved with an extra-curricular. And as I indicated in Part 2 , the little technical issues that arise during a major web project can be overwhelming. So I have dumped the club I was moderating and proposed the following to our principal and our dean of students:

What I would like to establish is something like a "Blog Squad" which would offer message board help to students who are having specific challenges with wikis, web sites, podcasts, blogs in our classes. Believe me, tons of little issues arise with projects using Web 2.0 apps, and they occur when class is not in session. Usually the problems are easy to solve and do not warrant tying up valuable tech department or class time. I envision that the "club" would initially recruit kids who are adept at Audacity, WikiSpaces, Google Sites, and/or Blogger and give them "genius" (apologies to Apple) status as problem solvers. Trust me, these geniuses are often not the same kids who make all the honor societies. This would be a service activity but it would not physically meet as a group. I would, however, want to hold a brainstorming session with interested parties like Tom J., Rick Strobl (who has terrific design skills), participating teachers, representative kids to try to figure out the best online vehicle for the message board (possibly a Ning?). At this time next year I would reevaluate. Perhaps we could expand to offer broader services, workshops, include school-wide help. Fran, Lynn, Alison, and I are generating a large pool of veteran wiki users. Ann's, Steve's and my students move on from our courses as veteran bloggers. Thus, the pool of helpers is growing.

On the other hand, I am also not afraid to declare that I have failed. The plan will die a quick death if a critical mass of users is not achieved by mid-semester. Final note: If this brain storm does not count as my "extra-curricular" at least I've just written a blog post for Larry's Opinion Drive-thru. Perhaps someone out there in the distant reaches of cyberspace will pick up on the idea and run with it in their school!

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"Web Warrior" logo posted to my Facebook wall by Rick Strobl. Rick will guest blog on Monday with a terrific computing check list for the student who is going off to college. This is one that you will want to pass along to friends and family

8 comments:

aml said...

Did I respond about the web design club, or was that only in my head? It's a super idea, and I'll be sorry if it goes by the wayside. When we chose a high school for my son, who had designed his grade school website, one of the deciding factors was the opportunity to do more such work in high school. It was a "class" in which he and other students just worked on the school site for twenty minutes a day. He went on to design and/or maintain numerous sites in college, one of which was actually a paying job.

As for the current proposal, I have to sheepishly admit that I am experimenting now, but the blogging part has not yet transferred to the classroom. So, no veteran bloggers here. But I am very much in favor of your new proposal. We have to expand the opportunities for the girls as much as we can. Get the kids who are excited and who are talented involved. And the more we do these kinds of projects in classes, the more help students and teachers will need. Sounds like win-win to me.

Larry Baker said...

I'm very excited about learning networks, because I have experienced their benefits first hand. So I am trying to shift the idea of a "club" to a network of co-learners. As you report, all kinds of unforeseen benefits may come from noodling with others on the Web.

But unsurprisingly, this goes very counter to a school culture which is conditioned to viewing extra-curriculars as hierarchical with moderators and officers who direct an official membership. I'm overgeneralizing, but administrators, teachers, and even students aren't inclined to embrace a "flat", virtual activity which is more like Facebook than the Canine Club.

Rick said...

To tell you the truth, a "virtual" after-school club would prove more valuable in the long run. Your ideas and enthusiasm should span further than the walls of Mercy. My vision of the "Web Warriors" is to create a series of on-line Baker "demos" for students all over North America. And an area where others can share ideas is essential. I'm not surprised at your administration's response. I've seen it in other schools. Web 2.0 and tech skills are scary!

Larry Baker said...

There is great ambivalence towards technology at schools. Teachers express amazement and anxiety over the alleged wizardry of students. Administrators scold about teachers failing to get on with 21st century technology but are better at talking the talk than walking the walk.

But here's the deal: As Mark Pesce says, "We are all participating in a broadly-based cultural transformation. The forces unleashed can not simply be dammed up; thus far they have swept aside every attempt to contain them."

Lynn Waldsmith said...

Count me in Larry. Whether it's a club or a network or some other name, it doesn't matter. I am interested in participating/learning anything I can because the more I learn the more I realize how much there is to know. Who knows, maybe I'll be a Jing veteran by next semester . . . One can only hope.

Larry Baker said...

That's wonderful, Lynn. Your Catcher sites were really cool and you have given some 9th graders experience with wikis. Maybe they can help next year's frosh through the blog squad.

Katy Koskela said...

Actually, I think this might work better that a regular "club" that meets only 4 times during the year. My experience is that the kids that are really interested will maintain that interest only if there is something to keep them involved...something with accountability. A specific task or challenge seems to help. I got very disheartened this year with the GREEN Club responses inbetween meeting dates. I'm not sure if it was my lack of "stewardship" of the group, or their unwillingness to "Walk the Walk" of their talk. Your idea would indeed take the load off of individual staff members, create a helping network, & provide opportunitties for some kids that otherwise might not be heard. I think it's the basic organization of any group like this that is the most challenge...I know it is for me! You have my support, and I'm sure that of my colleagues in the M.C.

Larry Baker said...

I hear you Katy. If the club does not have "mandatory" meetings or have an adult moderator who runs the club, it is going against the grain. I'd love to see the Blog Squad operate as a co op and serve as a new model (in our school) for sharing infrmation and mutual interests.

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