Blog qualification
February 9, 2006 8:18 AM   Subscribe

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has recently produced a new qualification on blogging [PDF] and used a wiki to produce teaching and learning material. Wikis look well-suited to this purpose. Could this be the future of curriculum development?
posted by bobbyelliott (6 comments total)
Unfortunately yes.

This is one of those things that is leaving me quite jaded about Technology in Education in general. There is too much, "hey look at this nifty new tool, how can we make a market for it?" and not enough, "here is a strong learning theory that works, what about this theory can be used in the design of instruction?"

Having said that, I'm a bit more friendly to wikis than some other technologies primarily because they were designed for collaborative educational purposes. But still, I think the field in general is in desperate need of some skepticism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:32 AM on February 9, 2006

Bit of further information: this 'Blogging' unit is at Intermediate 2 level, so is at the level of 15-16 year olds in Scotland. However, it seems to be a unit that isn't part of an actual course, which means that probably no-one in a Scottish school will ever do this unit. If anybody does it, it'll be Adult Education centres. It would have a pass/fail exam, as opposed to A,B,C etc.

The SQA tend to be pretty technology-friendly (for an exam board) - they sent out exam results by SMS to candidates in the Western Isles last year.
posted by matthewr at 8:46 AM on February 9, 2006

Could this be the future of curriculum development?
But still, I think the field in general is in desperate need of some skepticism.

The problem in much of the e-learning scene is that they'll grab hold of a technology without fully understanding either how it works or the full implications. There are a lot of tech-wise people out there - Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes and George Siemens to name three - but there's also a lot of misunderstanding and technophobia. For example, the linked wiki appears to be world-editable; I'm not sure if they're ready for the implications of that one. Just ask the LA Times.

At the same time, these tools could genuinely be really useful. Blogging, wikis, social networking, tagging - these were all developed to allow people to easily share information. Not necessarily in the e-learning scene, but they have massive user bases, have been refined over time, and could be harnessed within an educational environment relatively easy. Nonetheless, there is actually an awful lot of skepticism and resistance to the adoption of these technologies within educational environments, in part because it's hard to quantify participation (how do you give a weblog or a wiki a grade?), and in part because they tend to be orientated around students rather than institutions.

Full disclosure: I'm the technical director of a weblogging project for education. But at the same time, from a social perspective, I genuinely hope these technologies take off. Surely making it easier for people to share knowledge can only help education.
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with KJS that educationalists tend to rush to embrace new technologies without a firm idea about how to use them to create a structure within which learning might occur (my definition of curriculum).

However, I'm very intrigued by WikiJunior, a wikibooks initiative for elementary books. We in Georgia need some fairly specific resources to support the new curriculum we're beginning to implement, and it seems to me that if teachers across the state would commit to such a project, we'd have what we needed within 18 months rather than waiting for publishers to get around to doing what we need.

I'm intrigued--I would be excited if I thought anyone at the state DOE would actually act on my suggestion that we look into this.
posted by ancientgower at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2006

bwerdmuller: It's not so much the technologies that is the problem in my view. There is one thing I've learned over the last 15 years of working with technology, it's this:

Technology alone does not do squat.

If you really want to change anything, whether it be a workplace, school, or politics, you need to look at socio-technical systems. A key turning point in my disillusionment was trying to talk to a person giving a blog/wiki rah-rah presentation at a conference three years ago about social contracts and norms for participation and getting a blank stare. And then going to another presentation on a metastudy showing that high-tech low-pedagogy interventions did worse than traditional classroom instruction on tests of learning outcomes.

Technology does squat without the methodology to go with it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:28 AM on February 9, 2006

KJS: You're right, and this is true in any arena. But assuming you're going to use e-learning at all, there are two sides to the coin. You can't have the technology without knowledge of the pedagogy, and you can't have the pedagogy without knowledge of the technology. Problems arise in both cases, and ideally you've got to have (1) a team with good knowledge of both (often not the case), and (2) a willingness to explore both new technology and pedagogy as they arise. Web software is becoming more and more flexible and socially orientated, so the chances of it being able to support a solid curriculum are improving all the time.
posted by bwerdmuller at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2006

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