Last weekend I taught a class at Portland State University about Web 2.0 in the classroom. Many of the people in the class had already experimented with fun stuff on the Web and it was interesting to hear about the variety of reactions from different school districts.
One woman gave a report about a solution both very clever and somewhat disheartening. Last year she wanted to get her students writing online but the popular blogging sites were blocked in her district. (I wonder if edublogs was blocked too.) Whatever the case, the district hadn’t blocked, amazon.com. She created alias accounts on amazon for her students and had them write their book reviews/reports there. It was the best writing they’d done all term.
On one hand I think this is brilliant. She worked around the barriers and made the students’ work more meaningful and moved beyond having them turn in some words on a dead tree. She did it in a safe manner with pseudonyms in a real world situation. On the other hand I think it isn’t great that she was forced to go to a commercial site to inspire great work. Perhaps this is naive, however, considering the world we’re operating in is largely commercial. Seeing their work on a popular website was probably part of the appeal that wouldn’t have occurred on a random blog set up by a teacher. Maybe ideally the school might have many, many blogs and feature the students’ best work on a “Best Of” blog. The environment would be safe, controlled and noncommercial. The social web with training wheels. More so than one random blog it would have increased elements of reputation and pride built in.
But alas, there are test scores to raise…