Do we still need a blogging and podcasting platform as part of the Institutes suite of eLearning tools going into the future? This is the question I asked myself recently as we reviewed the future of the platform. The site had become blacklisted by the Google malware registry (a result of some comment spam on an an unattended blog linking to known a malware site), requests for new blogs were at a record low and many of the blogs on the platform had not been updated in over a year.
Some context first. The WordPress platform was set up in 2007 as part of a wider web 2.0 initiative within the institute to provide teachers with the tools to support new pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning which emphasised openness and collaborative content creation. Teachers unfettered from the LMS silo embraced the brave new world of wikis, blogs, podcasts and the plethora of free tools available on the web. At it’s height there were over 65 blogs and podcasts on the platform. After our cleanup of dormant blogs there are now less than 10, most of those being library blogs.
So what happened??
I don’t think there is a simply answer to this, rather a confluence of forces and trends which have unfolded since 2007.
Social networking. FaceBook in particular and more recently Google +. Social networking sites were blocked for staff prior to 2011 so had little attraction for teachers, however once available teachers have embraced facebook as a tool for learner engagement. Teachers and students use Facebook in their personal lives, it’s supported on mobile platforms and always on, so readily adaptable to an eLearning context. Those teachers who would have chosen a blog to engage in social learning now looked to Facebook for a solution.
The rise of Moodle. As the first wave of early adopters and innovators has given way to the wide spread adoption of eLearning by mainstream teachers and support by faculty management the uptake of Moodle has continued to grow. The “Give ‘em info, give ‘em a quiz with feedback, rinse and repeat” mode of delivery makes Moodle a platform of choice for many teachers new to eLearning.
Time. The ever increasing demands on educators beyond teaching practice makes self reflective blogging a difficult choice for time challenged teachers. Take this post for example, I have been chewing over it since 3:00 pm this afternoon, it’s now 6:00 pm :> Add to this the rise of microblogging and the short prose used in social networking, long form blogging seems to be in decline. Even Google is retiring Google reader in July much to the chagrin of old school bloggers. The networked world has moved from subscribing to following, from commenting to liking.
Video. Video is the new way to get your message across, from the flipped classroom to the ubiquity of video available for educators to use as resources video is the medium of choice for expression. Although blogs can be a great vessel for video, social networking and dedicated video services like youtube and vimeo seem the preferred option.
So where to from here?
Despite the above mentioned trends I still believe there is a place for a blogging platform in our suite of tools. There is still a need for self reflection, critical and open engagement and a blog provides this in a way no other platform does. Social networking has it’s value in expressions which are viral and trending, but beyond the moment, conversations are lost in the torrent of information flowing past every second. The permanency and openness of a blog post provides way for conversations and ideas to be threaded and connected together coherently.
WordPress is a mature and sophisticated platform which has held it’s own in the mobile era. We have freshened up the themes and added social networking functionality so users can share to the social networking spaces of their choice and added lots of mobile support.
What do you think? has blogging had it day? Do you think it has a place in a 21c teaching and learning practice?