Well, I know that CultureCat has been experiencing difficulties off and on this week. Clancy has moved to a new host and is doing a little site setup. Those that miss her can catch her at http://culturecat.net/.
Pat over at HomoLudens seems to have taken exception to my neglect of Manila in Will Blogs Grow Class Management Wings?. Now, I'll agree with Pat. Manila does seem a much more suitable tool than MT and other blogging tools as a platform for classroom use. And I am impressed by the implementation of Manila at eBN and elsewhere.
- The ability to set expiration times on the nodes (otherwise, the database would quickly grow out of control if all items in RSS feeds were permanently added).
- An option to allow commenting on specific feed items.
- Categorization of feeds using the taxomony system.
- And most important, the option of having a specific feed promoted to the front page, giving Kairosnews the ability to be a blog hub.
One of the things that I like to do with my class is have them read a piece by Meg Hourihan about weblogs and visit weblogs.com (see the assignment). I used this assignment this summer and have felt like it has been a success. However, I was excited to see in the course website referrers this week for my current class that two of the weblogs linked to by students -- Jen Speaks and MedicMom -- have discovered the posts and have blogged about them.
In Blogs as Course Management Systems: Is their biggest advantage also their achille's heel?, John Kruper calls into question the extent to which weblogs can act as course management systems, concluding wih the question "Will blogs grow class management wings?" Kruper seems not to think so. And, in my opinion, Kruper gets it right. Weblogs, as many people know them, are not going to be subsitutes for course management systems.
If we are looking for a solution as to how we can use weblogs effectively in the classrooms and eliminate the need for proprietary course management system, I want to segue from Kruper's observation about the importance of course management administrative tools. I think it's important that we begin to recognize a difference between the popular weblog applications that many people use--MovableType, Blogger, Bloxsom, Live Journal, etc.--and open source content management systems--Drupal, PostNuke, and Plone, to name a few. The distinction is important because a weblog is a simple web publishing system. Granted, many now have sophisticated content management capabilities built in, such as comment boards, categorization of posts, rss feeds, and various user permissions. But a weblog site built on MT or Live Journal is a weblog site, and I imagine we'll find it difficult to configure it as an effective course management system, even given some of the administrative tools that Kruper describes.
Looks like the Americans For Dean group are going to do some great stuff in extending Drupal. Note that their design will easily allow a teacher to maintain a personal Drupal site and send posts to a class site. This is very useful since class sites are, in my mind, temporary spaces. Maintaining multiple class sites on a server is extra work. With this model, the teacher can build syllabus, course materials, etc. on their own site, and thus keep them permanently, even after the class site is taken down.