We held our first gathering of the "Blogging and Student Publishing" learning community last week. It was a small, informal gathering - only a handful of profs were able to make it due to summer schedules, and another handful of staff. I think the small group was actually a very good thing for a first gathering, though, as the conversation was extremely engaging and dynamic - something that may have been lost in a larger group. What I loved about this gathering, is that we were able to reproduce much of the vibe from the Social Software Salon event held a couple of years ago at UBC. I'm hoping to to much more of this kind of thing, to get faculty members together and properly caffeinated in order to get the conversations flowing.

We talked about many things, but I think the common thread was that this is really not about "blogging" or even technology. It's about what happens when students are publishing their own content, and collaborating with each other. What does that mean for assessment? How do you properly engage a class of 100 (or more?) students, having them all publish content, exploring various topics, commenting, thinking critically, and still be able to make sense of that much activity?

Since we stepped back a bit from technology, we defined student publishing more broadly, to also include such things as discussion boards and wikis.

We talked a bit about blogging as an ePortfolio activity - that it may be effective for students to publish various bits of content through their blog(s) and then to let it percolate and filter until the "best" stuff is distilled into what is essentially an ePortfolio - and maybe THAT's the artifact that gets assessed. The activity through the blogs is important, but every student will participate in a different way. Maybe it would be a valuable thing to even make blogging itself an optional thing - but those who don't participate will have had less feedback and refinement of their ePortfolio artifacts.

I gave a quick demo of the eduglu prototype site to show some of the strategies could be used to make the workload more manageable - social filtering of content within the site, organic groups based on projects and topics, etc... There was a fair amount of interest in those ideas, and I'll be refining the prototype over the summer.

We're going to be having learning community gatherings on a regular basis - I'm hoping to have more faculty come out to the August event (date TBD), and have it keep growing from there.

I'm also starting work on a learning community around mobile learning (mobile devices as a platform for teaching and learning), and another on course design (to tie in with our ISW and FTC programmes here at the TLC).

My next immediate task for the learning communities project is to polish off the community hub website - which will provide a place for coordinating the various communities, as well as providing a way for faculty and staff to identify and create their own communities.

Links discussed during the gathering: