Exploring Education Blogs

I am new to blogging.  I visited several educational-related blogs recently, hoping to find two I would find helpful.  My first foray into this wide-open world of blogging was both overwhelming and humbling.  The first blog I visited was related to eLearning.  It had a short ‘about’ section.  I did all right reading about the author’s educational background but when she delved into her areas of experience, I had no clue about the things she listed.  Her blog was quite extensive and I decided to keep looking.  My preference is to not take a crash course in eLearning when I am just beginning to explore blogging.  However, I know I have my work cut out for me if I truly believe in leveraging technology in education. The two blogs I chose to dig deeper into were Open Thinking authored by Dr. Alec Couros and Let’s Play Math authored by Denise Gaskins.

Open Thinking captured my interest because Dr. Alec Couros, a professor of educational technology and media, created the blog while he explored the educational uses with blogging and podcasting, much as I am now.  In the About section, Dr. Couros explains his purpose for his blog, “This space is a growing collection of personal reflections and resources related to teaching and learning, democratic media, critical media literacy, digital citizenship, openness, and social justice” (Couros, n.d.).  I read a few blog entries focused on a concept Dr. Couros calls ‘open teaching’, a timely encounter for me because my class (in education technology) has been discussing many of the same issues he addresses in his blog and in his practice.

Specifically, Dr. Couros advocates an “open knowledge society” where “learning experiences are open, transparent, collaborative, and social” (2009).  The concept of open teaching leads headfirst into the issues around copyright material and fair use.  Indeed, many of the web comments to his blog post were around the piracy and creative commons licensing.  As a practitioner of open teaching, Dr. Couros licenses his educational creations through Creative Commons using the non commercial, attribution, share alike designation so that his work may be shared.  Although he shares his creations freely, he feels he can because as a university professor he is paid to create and publish, Dr. Couros also respects copyright protection for those creators who create to earn a living.  Some of the web comments challenge Dr. Couros’ respect for copyright and advocate a system where all material created can be used as public domain, freely and without restriction.  The discourse around public good and private interest related to creative materials is interesting and paralleled a very similar discussion my education technology class engaged in just last week.

In another web post, Dr. Couros shows himself as a practitioner of open teaching (2010).   The blog was a call to his readers to become mentors for his students in a course on social media and open teaching.  The mentors would follow the students on various eLearning tools (i.e., blogs, tweets, Skype) and provide critical feedback on entries and offer guidance on how to use various tools.  This particular blog was useful to me because he included many resources for online collaboration.  Also, his blog posting is an excellent template for any teacher hoping to leverage experienced users with students in a collaborative endeavor.  Dr. Couros also provides links to explain critical terms or links to instructions about specific, online tools.

The final section of Dr. Couros’ blog posting (2010) discusses communication.  Dr. Couros class communications are distributed, meaning he had not planned to offer a central location or repository of class communications.  This approach is purposeful in that Dr. Couros envisioned students choosing the forum they felt fit them best resulting in multiple forums for learning and discussing.  The class began in early September and now that it is late October, my question is how the distributed communications is working out?  Dr. Couros noted that if students needed a centralized forum, he would consider setting something up.  I wonder if that has happened.

The second blogging site I explored was Let’s Play Math.  Interestingly, the site had a short blurb regarding copyright and the author’s request that her copyrighted material be respected.  But that is not what interested me in the site.  I navigated to Let’s Play Math because, well, it is about ‘learning, teaching, and playing aourd with K-12 mathematics” (Gaskin, 2008).  Although the site is oriented towards homeschooling, I think the resources she provides are wonderful tools for any teacher.

One particularly useful blog was about teaching math to a student that hates math.  The blog posting provides several books to use rather than the ‘big name’ textbook suggested by others, links to online workbook resources, and links to various math games.  All of these tools can easily be incorporated into any curriculum to vary the materials used in teaching basic arithmetic.

I found Let’s Play Math to be full of resources for teaching math, all levels of math, including hundreds of links to various other sites.  I was thinking about what question I might have to reflect on relative to the site and found it difficult since the site was such a useful resource.  I gravitated back to the copyright notice on the about page.  The author wants her materials to be used in the classroom and to be mentioned to other people, yet respect the her copyrights.  What isn’t as clear to me is how to offer that ‘respect’.  Is it just a matter of not redistributing the materials or pretending that you created them?  Or is there more to it?

References

Couros, A. (n.d.). About. [Blog about section]. Retrieved from http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/about.

Couros, A. (2009, February 19). Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching. Retrieved from http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/1335.

Couros, A. (2010, September 27). Call for Network Mentors – Follow-Up. Retrieved from http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/.

Gaskins, D. (2008, May 6). How to Teach Math to a Struggling Student. Retrieved from http://letsplaymath.net/2008/05/06/struggling-math-student/

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