News Article

Daniel Light Quoted in Report on Digital Teaching Tools

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Collaborative websites like blogs and open-source wiki documents can enhance collaborative learning in the "virtual classroom" model. But, while often grouped together, the two aren't the same, and both are often more about student communication than teacher communication.

Wikis are sometimes more research-oriented than blogs, according to research stemming from observations of 30 teachers across the nation, published in June by the Education Development Center's Center for Children and Technology, based in New York City. Blog entries are published chronologically and thus may be more aligned with teacher-led instruction, while wikis that can be edited by anyone at any time could be better suited for collaborative projects. And wikis that record who is adding what content help online teachers know which students are engaged.

... [T]he Center for Children and Technology's research found blogs were used mostly to foster discussion and elicit prior knowledge, with a teacher posting questions or prompting discussions for students to leave comments about. They were also occasionally used for writing submissions.

Daniel Light, a research scientist for the center, cautions that any use of blogs or wikis must begin early during a virtual or blended class, and it must be consistent. He points to one English teacher in the study who created a writing blog in the middle of the term. Previously, students had submitted assignments in private.

"It silenced [students'] voice," Mr. Light said. The teacher "worked so hard to create an environment where students trusted her with their work. She realized the blog was not going to work. ... You have to develop the norms to support it."

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