Berkeley offers Blogging Class

According to Wired, the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism will offer a class in blogging next fall. The class will be taught by John Batelle, who co-founded Wired magazine, and Paul Grabowicz, the school’s new media program director.

This of course, intrigues me mightily. It also gives me hope that I can manage something similar at UCLA. There’s one particular faculty member I know of who I really must get to take a look at blogging. It’s got such enormous potential for composition, in English or in other languages, or writing in general.

Weblogs, Outlines, and Writing

Dave Winer has posted aboout a new tool he’s working on, his Weblog Outliner.

I want this.

I think the ability to outline and post has enormous potential for not only blogging and writing, but for teaching writing. I don’t require students to turn in or use an outline, but I do require them to use any of a variety of pre-writing tools and techniques before they start. List-making and outlines are two that students seem particularly drawn to.

The virtue of doing the outline/listing publicly over the net are:

  • Public writing, shared writing, is taken seriously. Students are eager to revise.
  • If the writing is by its nature public within the defined community, then the temptation to plagiarize is less, since the source will be known to others of the community.
  •  I can help and interact with students “on the fly.” They can help and learn from each other.
  •  Structure, of piece of writing, and of individual paragraphs and sentences, is one of the hardest things to explain to students. Outlines and lists help make the structures of an essay and of individual paragraphs much easier to understand and manipulate.
  •  The web and good technology are intriguing, and fun, and their use in writing can help seduce students to write, and to find that they enjoy writing and communicating in and of itself.
  •   Having students post the final version in a non outline form, publishing their essays on the web, of course shares many of these virtues. Web log tools can make that much easier.

The problem is that Radio as it stands is too unfinished, too arcane and poorly designed in terms of UI to use widely in education. It’s too hard for consumers to set up and use, the documentation is awful, the Mac UI violates several basic Mac standards, and is needlessly arcane. OPML has potential, but it needs to be freed from Radio Userland’s bowels and set free so professional developers can employ it as a standard. Left to Userland’s developers, it will languish and choke.

E-Portfolios

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “More and more institutions are encouraging—or even requiring—students to create “electronic portfolios” that highlight their academic work and help them reflect on their campus experiences.” The article goes on to say “This month, Indiana University – Perdue University at Indianapolis and the University of California at Los Angeles formed a consortium to develop e-portfolio software”—at 10,000.00 an institution.

As much as I’ve encouraged, even evangelized, the creation of digital portfolios for graduate students, I think the consortium idea, and the price, is a bit daft. Frankly, I’d use some of the excellent blog tools that are already out there. Although BloggerPro doesn’t seem to have a license option, either Manilla or Moveable Type look possible to me as portfolio creation,management and hosting solutions. A school would create a couple of portfolio templates, make them available, add some custom locally written documentation and tutorials, encourage the interested students and faculty to learn the ten basic tags of HTML, and there you are!

More Popular Press and Web Logs in Education

There’s a John Dvorak article on blogs here; he misses the potential, I think, but read it anyway. And thanks to David-Carter Tod, here’s Weblog Ed a blog on web logs in education, from Will Richardson. And yesterday I found another free blog hosting site, one that’s primarily emphasizing community; Grok Soup.

I’m on vacation, sort of, attending Apple’s QuickTime Live conference. Lots of interesting stuff, with several sessions targeting QuickTime in higher ed.

More Open Source for Education

Yes, I’m still looking. I’ve found a couple more sites that are collecting information about open source projects of interest to education. There’s an article in NewsForge about SchoolForge, but the stuff that looks viable to me is mostly at the more traditional sites like Fresh Meat, or CPAN, the mother lode of Perl modules. Which reminds me, there’s now a well organized site at perl.org, for learners.

Software doesn’t have to be New to be Good

Lately I’ve been talking to others in IT who are, like me, interested in solid products with good interfaces,and are taking advantage of stable but geeky standard protocols and unix tools and applications but putting a web front end on them.

I’ve been thinking about doing this with an NNTP server. Network News Transport Protocol is what makes UseNet newsgroups work, from a server perspective. Most of the discussion board products are monolingual; UseNet News is not, and readers are designed to support pretty much any language someone would post to UseNet in. News is threaded, and there are a number of ways to integrate HTML front ends. Why not use News as a discussion bard?

There are scads of News servers, but I keep hearing about DNews News Server, which runs on Macs, among other platforms. It’s particularly interesting since user authorization controls allow read and/or post access to be restricted for particular users or newsgroups; NetWin, the developer, also offers dBabble, chat server and webNews, a .cgi for a web front end to a news server. NewsRunner is a neat Mac application you can point to your News Server, and it will convert posts to HTML, text, digest form, email, or database and archive them. We were early adopters of Web Crossing, which supports UseNet news groups via the web or a client, email, private discussion boards with customizable templates, chat, and ssl connections.