Blogs vs. wikis vs. podcasts – why schools like wikis & podcasts

At TCEA 2008, I heard a number of teachers say that they are able to use wikis or make podcasts at their schools, whereas blogs were discouraged or blocked. My initial reaction was that it was simply a knee jerk reaction based on popular uses of each. Blogs = MySpace = pedophiles, while podcasts seem safe and wikis are associated with Wikipedia, which at least sounds educational.

But as I thought more about it, I don’t think it’s that simple. I think it reflects a larger issue of assessment and comfort with the status quo. In most schools, curriculum focuses on student product rather than process.

A wiki is a means to collaboratively get to an end product, something a teacher can look at, assess, and grade. It’s easier to adapt existing curriculum to use a wiki, since most curriculum is also product focused. While wikis may offer some terrific efficiencies for group work, and does provide some support for the collaborative process (like a history of changes,) the strength of a wiki is that at the end of the day, it stands as a completed product.

Podcasts are also a product. Student podcasts can be substituted for the traditional report as the culminating product of a unit. Podcasts created by teachers or other experts are simply a lecture. While there is certainly a lot to learn as a student creates a podcast, the end result is a comfortable, known quantity.

But blogs reflect the process of learning, of going through a learning experience that may not result in a final product. Where’s the report, the culminating evidence of mastery, the final draft? How do you grade a student who might be changing over time? How do you not be involved in the conversation? It almost seems like cheating, after all, you don’t sit down with a student while they are taking a test and discuss their answers halfway through so they can try again.

In this light, wikis and podcasts represent an updated and more efficient way to do traditional classroom assessment, while blogs challenge the status quo. Traditional = more comfortable, challenge = change = discomfort.


3 Replies to “Blogs vs. wikis vs. podcasts – why schools like wikis & podcasts”

  1. Good points. It might also be about time. Teachers like projects. You make a podcast and you move onto the next thing whereas blog writing/commenting is ongoing and would require a different way of teaching.

  2. It’s also about control. Blogs can be criticized by anyone on the internet, including parents, administrators, other teachers, other students. With moderated comments, you could control anything inappropriate, but it also opens up people to critique on a wider scale- students and teachers.

    However, the digital ocean is all about giving up a sense of total control. As Educon showed us, giving students a meaningful say and voice in a school doesn’t lead to chaos- it leads to community, ownership and involvement. Responsibility. Great power (or freedom) requires a judicious exercise of self-control and responsibility, and I think teachers need to learn to trust kids more often than not. Dr Bob Brooks encourages parents to ask their kids for a job review- why couldn’t teachers do the same?

  3. I think blogs are more visible, that may discourage some teachers. The possibility of losing control may be discouraging too.
    But most of all, as you say, wikis and podcasts fit any curriculum. If you set your class to blogging certainly have to leave your comfort zone. And this might be a challenge for some people and an obstacle for others.

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