We put out a poll for Bb clients on the topic they were most interested in discussing during our Bb World ’06 Birds of a Feather sessions.  The most popular session, hands down, was “Blogs, Podcasting, RSS and Wiki” according to the votes.  It prompted me to ask: What’s the big deal with blogs, etc…? How are they important to e-learning?

I posed the question to several clients, and here’s what they had to say:

Paul Erickson, Academic Technology & Middleware Coordinator at University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

How important is collaborative content development (as enabled by wiki), to education?

Wiki technology doesn’t seem to be generating the excitement among instructors that RSS and blogging are, although collaborative writing systems are growing in popularity (like http://www.writely.com/).  My theory on that is that people really want the access control and permissions, especially during the drafting stage. 

What about more author “controlled” processes like blogging and Podcasting?
Blogging and Podcasting are important to the instructional process for several reasons, a primary reason being that they are media that our audience is familiar with and expects. 

Check out the following podcast in which Steve Sloan talks to a group of mass-communications students about why it’s important to be involved in new media

Do you see examples of this technology being used on your campus?

Podcasting classes seems to have really captured the imagination of our faculty.  Some of the buzz may stem from a recent article in the local newspaper, but I’ve been getting questions for a lot longer about how and why to podcast.  The iTunes project at Stanford is another that has gotten a lot of exposure and generated excitement, and UNL has joined this initiative. 

The Blackboard open source developer community has begun a Podcast Building Block project to develop an extension for Blackboard that would allow instructors and organization leaders to podcast from within their course or organization.  Commercial products have been surfacing to do the same thing. 

Liz Evans, Swathmore Natural Science Coordinator for Academic Computing, ITS at Swarthmore College (Liz will also be the moderator for the Birds of a Feather session)

Why do you think this technology has begun to take hold in higher education?

As a group of related technologies, we are finding that Blogs, Wiki, Podcasting and RSS open up the options for sharing information and interacting on the web. These days, a vast range of news, journal  and other content can be gathered and filtered using RSS, and it’s especially useful to bring these dynamic resources right into Blackboard along side other course materials.  Likewise, we’re finding quite a few cases where a blog or wiki format is a great match for the goals of a class assignment, since either approach can promote student creativity and dialog. 

Do you see examples of this technology being used on your campus?

Podcasting is just starting to catch on here, but is a powerful way to harness the spoken word.  Podcasts seems to be popular with students, both as creators and consumers, so I (and many others!) think there’s a lot of soon-to-be-tapped potential there.

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