Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"New" Technologies - Blogging

Blogging is just public journal writing. I've had friends who have been doing this "online" since the BBSs in the late 80s. Journaling (with simple paper/pen/scissors/glue technology) has been an educational technique for much longer and a very solid one.

Dr. Marshall Fishwick, during his Popular Culture class at Virginia Tech in the early 90s, gave the best example of an educational journal assignment. Figuring that his students were in tune with the current zeitgeist, he asked us to keep a daily journal with pictures and media clippings. We had to find events in our day-to-day life that directly related to the week’s topic. He had us turn in sections a few times that semester, just to make sure that we were doing the assignment. Admittedly, this led to a frantic evening before turn-in dates hacking up magazines and taking pictures of my drunken friends on more than one occasion. The end-product was a large notebook chronicling the culture of the time and, in retrospect, my own evolution. Because we didn’t share these journals with anyone other than Dr. Fishwick, they became private conversations between the student and professor.

I was fortunate to take the Popular Culture class with one of the founders of that academic movement and its best early practitioner. Most people will never be lucky enough to have direct, face-to-face access to experts at that level.

The public nature of blogging is its strength. The professor can easily check daily progress on the journal and comment quickly on each posting’s relevance. Fellow students can share ideas and resources. Most importantly, it is easier to collaborate with experts around the world. Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve been amazed at the caliber of the professionals who have contacted me as a result of a post.

We have so much access to information and to each other. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it for education.

I don’t know if Dr. Fishwick had his students create early blogs before he retired in 2003. I suspect that if he was alive and teaching today, his journal assignment would have evolved into a blogging assignment. With pictures and video, of course.

Rest in peace Dr. Fishwick, and thank you.

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