The Education Blogosphere: Blogs and Wikis

by JIM HIRSCH
Two more recent technology applications on the Internet--weblogs (blogs) and wikis--have the possibility of becoming perhaps the greatest education collaboration tools introduced since the World Wide Web became known in K-12 circles in the mid-1990s.

Blogs and wikis can foster better collaboration and dialogue among students, teachers and the entire local education community. Based on the traditional term “logosphere,” which in Greek form means the world of words or the universe of discourse, “blogo-sphere” is the collective term for blogs as a community or social network.

A weblog is a time-stamped series of writings contained on a common web page. Many weblogs allow visitors to leave public comments while others are non-interactive. The term weblog, typically shortened today to simply blog, first emerged in December 1997, but it’s relatively recent in terms of its wider use and acceptance. A wiki is a web application that allows users to add content in a fashion similar to Internet message boards, but also allows anyone to edit the content. The term wiki was introduced in 1995 (as in WikiWikiWeb, a take-off on the World Wide Web), but like weblog has only gained wider use and acceptance recently.

Opposite Roles
Blogs and wikis typically play opposite roles. Blogs are based on an individual voice. A blog is akin to a personal broadcasting system. Wikis, because they give people the chance to edit each other’s words, are designed to blend many voices.

Good examples of educational use of blogs are being brought into exist-ence each day. A couple of the more familiar ones include The Education Wonks at educationwonk.blogspot.com and Bud the Teacher at budtheteacher.typepad.com both of which give you a good sense of possible value in blogging for both students and teachers.

Weblogs could allow teachers and students to keep track of their ideas over time. Certain sections could be open for public discussion while others are kept private. Ultimately, blogs can become a living journal with hyperlinks to important resources embedded throughout the writing to keep a web of information available at all times.

Wikis go a step further than blogs and enable students and teachers to create web pages on the fly (so to speak) with built-in editing capability at the site. Again, there are good examples of wikis being used by students and teachers. In fact, at the Bud the Teacher wiki, the students are helping to create the ground rules used to govern their blog. You can check out the results at budtheteacher.jot.com. It may seem circular, but you can see the frameworks being built that allow these powerful technologies to have a positive impact on the school experience for these students.

The most well-known wiki project is the open-access encyclopedia Wikipedia at en.wikipedia.org. This free encyclopedia has entries in 10 languages with over 530,000 articles in English alone.

You can investigate the use of blogs and wikis for your schools without spending any software money since open source versions of the applications are widely available. Go online and visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki_software and www.asymptomatic.net/blogbreakdown.htm for more information.