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Before blogging we would expect hard working students to be able to read the

calculus text book. Darren expects his students to

the “book”/blog.

Indeed, Darren’s students are published around the world in real time. To be ranked number one in Google means that there are more links coming into his site than any other listing for the search term “pre cal.” A recent check using the link command in AltaVista (www.altavista.com) shows almost 900 websites linked to the class site including conferences, commentaries by leading educationalists and other mathematics teachers. (Go to AltaVista and type: link:http://pc40s.blogspot.com“ to generate today’s list.)

Darren knows the power of students who understand that their work is being referenced by almost 1,000 organizations around the world. His students are contributors to the world’s “knowledge commons.” Not only does he teach calculus, he teaches students that one of the responsibilities of global citizenship is publishing knowledge products to add value to the world.

As with all technologies there can be serious abuses. We must balance the few amazing stories of blogging with what can go very wrong. We have all heard the horror stories of what can happen when students pick up a free blog (blogspot.com, livejournal.com myspace.com, and many other free sites). Death threats to fellow classmates, inappropriate pictures by young teen girls who are looking for dates are horrible examples that are local to me.

The Pew Charitable Trust, a leading internet in Society research organization, reports that 1/5 students in the United States already have their own blogs. As with email, instant messenger, and text messaging, the question is not about whether students will be blogging. Eventually, the majority of students will have a blog. The real issue is what is the professional response to blogging? Because of abuse on the public sites that are not controlled by teachers, some schools are blocking all access to any blogging sites. The blame is on the technology and there is no opportunity for pioneering teachers to provide adult role models. (As a point of information, with the right software, all comments to a class blog can be moderated by the teacher for complete judicial control.)

There is another option. Using the medium to teach responsibility is a direction recommended by Anne Davis, an educational consultant from Georgia State University in the Instructional Technology Center, College of Education: http://anne.teachesme.com/

Anne writes, “Sometimes when I see all the stuff that is posted on blogs by teenagers I find myself wishing that someone had given them some guidance. Lots of them are just not thinking. We need to build these types of things into our discussions in our classrooms. I like to think that good teaching about responsible weblog use would help. “We will need courageous leaders who are willing to explore the strengths and weaknesses of this medium. Our students will live in a world where they will have access to increasingly more powerful communications tools. Who should teach them how to manage the power of these tools? We have come face to face with technologies that are now threatening the existing culture of teaching and learning. We will either try to defend the status quo or we will carefully analyze the risks of moving forward to provide powerful role models for our students.

Visit Alan November’s blog: www.novemberlearning.com/blogs/alannovember

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