Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Last week seemed to get away from me; in part it was general work pressure, but also because I didn't relate well to the question being asked about creating our own tools. I understand the question only too well because I teach in the asynchronous online environment, and I am always searching to find what is available  to satisfy the needs of my particular students. Nearly four years ago, I started using blogging technology (I use that term because these are not traditional blogs) with my students (ESL and Writing) to help them to practice and gadually integrate some of the concepts in these courses while providing them with a rudimentary SN possibility to reduce the isolation of online/distance learners. It seems to be an oxymoron to call them non-traditional blogs. I currently have a proposal in for the Electronic Village Online Fair for the TESOL conference in New Orleans next year called When is a blog not a blog? The most successful of these blogs is the one with the largest number of students registered in that particular course; there's nothing too surprising there.

I guess this all leads to a question of my own. Isn't this adaptation of tools for our own particular situations the way that most of us work? I think of the many innovative ways that language teachers from around the world use blogs in their own particular teaching situations; we all borrow from each other--we repurpose what is already out there. Most people innovate one small step at a time.

When it comes to our own PLEs aren't we going to do much the same thing? A course such as #PLENK2010 provides us with another forum to discuss some of our ideas and to see how other people are approaching the same or similar issues. We can then take the ideas and think about how we can repurpose them for own own particular learning needs.

Part of the discussion last week was about "uber-sites" that host a wide variety of SN functions. I'm very familiar with the AU Landing using elgg, and I also see the various possibilities within moodle. The bottom line, however, always seems to be that these more general sites cannot have the same functionality within specific functions as exists in single concept sites. For instance, I've been hoping to host my blogging activities for students within the moodle course site, but the blog functionality on moodle right now cannot compare with that of Blogger. As a learner, I find having things in one place is much easier, but to some extent we can overcome the multiplicity of sites issues by using aggregators. Nevertheless, kudos to those fellow PLENKERS who are developing sites with a mutliplicity of uses. I seem to keep flip-flopping between the needs of students and my needs as a learner--are they two sides of the same coin?

1 comment:

  1. I also think that specialized tools make the best building blocks for a PLE. Wordpress is always going to provide a better institutional blogging platform than Elgg can.

    Something that George said in one of the discussions struck me. He was talking about pre-internet office tools. It took Microsoft to create Office and then several generations before the tools in Office became sufficiently seamless to make the user interface intuitive across the suite. The problem with the internet is that no such unifying principle exists (except at the basic level of HTML) and with the new disruptive effect of the mobile app, this fragmentation is only going to get worse.

    In this circumstance, an uber-tool has some attraction if only because the unification it offers, provides a lagoon of relative calm in a ocean of chaos.