Information Update - Spring 2008

Using Web 2.0 in the Classroom: Blogs, Wikis and Facebook

Blogging has been traditionally used as a means for expressing personal statements, exchanging information, fostering a social environment, entertainment or a political platform, instruction, or, as I began, for project management. My initial attempt at blogging was an exercise in managing communication between a committee that is scattered throughout Northeast Pennsylvania to alleviate the volume of email for planning a workshop. I confess to mixed results and enthusiasm by that committee, who noted that it was just another thing to check. Little did they know then that in just a few short years we would be checking not just email but blogs, wikis, book marking sites (del.icio.us, Digg, Google bookmarks), RSS readers (Bloglines, Feedburner), Twitter, online picture albums and videos (Flickr and YouTube), social software (Facebook and MySpace) and the new alternative e-lifestyle options (Second Life).
 
Once bitten and infected I began creating blogs for individual information literacy content instruction sessions and presentations. Blogs and Wikis are versatile tools that can be used in lieu of PowerPoint or other media as a presentation tool, for communication, project management and teaching. I have set up several blogs for classroom instruction. The classroom blog has its applications and will require a certain amount of market savvy to convince students and faculty of the medium's merit for participation. A sample classroom blog can be viewed at http://edlaw-scranton.blogspot.com/.
 
The general difference between blogs and wikis is the  layout and means of adding information. Although there are cookie cutter versions, the tech savvy can edit the options or even create the format. Blogs generally are chronological in style with the most current post appearing at the top with links for archives of past posts available. Most platforms have options that the designer can choose in personalizing the blog or wiki. Wikis are a bit more dynamic with edit options much like a word processing program so that the users and editors have greater control of content, making it a more versatile tool for project management and collaboration. See the library resource guide for Occupational Therapy as an example for content collaboration at http://otresearchguide.pbwiki.com/. Often the fear is that everything is out and open for all to edit and see. The level of visibility and capacity to edit is entirely the choice of the designer.
 
Angel has applications for blogs and wikis limited by the login of courseware, current students only, and access to Angel. Tools created outside the Angel box have a longevity and greater capacity for collaboration and information sharing. The appeal of using a classroom teaching blog for library instruction is the permanence, adaptability and option to add and edit as necessary class to class.
Facebook and MySpace also have blog applications built into the program. The social software environment is just that, primarily social. Libraries are joining this community in an effort to reach the readers where they already spend time. There are companies out there creating MySpace type learning environs as teaching tools, but for now I think that will garner the initial reaction of my workshop committee by students -- another thing to check.

Clara Hudson

Pride, Passion, Promise: Experience Our Jesuit Tradition