The purpose of this project is to design and implement a model that would facilitate the process of evaluating the role of blogs in education. The methods we used to gather information about the role of blogging are described below. Many of these methods not only provided data that helped an educational community assess the role blogs might play in our community, but they also provided part of the model that would emerge as an outcome of this project.

1. Review of current examples, research and writings related to blog tools and blogging.

During this phase, I stumbled across the concept of Furling, (www.furl.net)( a social bookmarking tool). Upon examining it further it became evident that this tool emerged from blogging, and provided a valuable way for organizing the research on blogging, while also providing an authentic experience in the power of social software. Five themes emerged, and I transferred all the bookmarks into a Furl Site into the following categories (adding clippings,comments, and ratings when possible

• Blogging - Tools, Tips, and Tricks
• Blogging in Education (including sample uses and discussion)
• Blogging - Safety, Security, and Other Concerns
• Blogging as Professional Development for Educators
• Blogging as Curricular Content
• Blogging Culture

It soon became evident what was meant by “social bookmarking”. As I “furled” sites in the most appropriate category, I noted that for most sites that I furled, Furl.net offered me a list of other sites Furled by others who furled the site I just furled. This allowed me to discover sites that were very useful in this part of the project. I found myself taking care to add comments or highlight clippings that would make my Furling useful to others and part of the collective knowledge of “kindred spirits” who might be interested in the same topics I was interested in. Experiencing social software’s power so authentically caused me to post a reflection on it called “the transformation”.

2. Training Sessions, Focus Groups, and Awareness Raising Sessions about blogging for various stakeholders

o Vermont Fest 2005 Hands-on session on Creating Blogs
o Vermont Fest 2005 – Getting on Board With Blogging
Presentation and Q & A with 50 conference attendees
o Northwest Regional Vita-Learn Meeting Focus Group on Blogging in Education
o FCSU District Tech Meeting – Focus Group on Blogging
o St. Albans City School Middle School Teachers Focus Group on Blogging & Survey
o PTO Awareness Raising on Blogging
o Middle School Students Awareness Session and Survey
o High School Students Awareness Session and Survey
o FCSU Administrators Focus Group and Survey

3. Surveys of Preconceptions about Blogs and Education (from various stakeholders)

The project used several methods to gather information about the awareness, preconceptions, concerns, and questions about blogging, depending on the venue. The methods included

4. Surveys of Stakeholders perceptions on blogs and blogs in education

1. Administrators
2. Teachers
3. Tech Savvy staff / early adopters
4. Parents

It is the goal of this project to continue to work until the desired sampling is achieved, and disaggregate the results by group. With the current sample size of 20 total participants, it seemed better choice combine them as one group.

5. Student Dialogues and Survey

High school and Middle school students participated in a brief awareness session about blogging and participated in an online survey polling them about their blogging practices and perceptions. Both groups were from rural areas of Vermont with limited access to high speed Internet. Sample size was over 150 students.

6. Hands on experience with Blogging and Related Technical Tools and analysis of the data provided by the social features of these tools.

Whenever possible blogs were used to organize, present instructions and resources, and lead focus groups related to the project. This created practice and examples of how blogs can be used for many different purposes. It allowed quick update and modifications to the project design. Here are two examples

To Blog or Not to Blog
Instructions and required links for Focus Groups, Participating in Surveys, and Involving Students

Getting on Board With Blogging
Vermont Fest Presentation Presented as a Blog (http://vtfest.blogspot.com)

Social bookmarking was used to organize and share resources about blogging to participants. Analysis of any data generated from social participation features of this collection was included in the outcome data.

The Furl collection also created a feed to the Weblog used to present the resources during focus group. Click on any of the themes in the collection at
and note that the list here is formatted to look like its part of the web site, but is actually a direct feed from the Furl collection. This had several advantages over providing the viewers a direct link to the Furl collection. .

1. It kept the collection of Resources on the Web Site current, updated with new finds. The order of presentation was controlled with the “Rating” value.

2. It kept the user browsing the resources from wandering away from the suggested resources (as would have happened if we had simply given them the Furl link).

3. It made for a seamless presentation of the resources for a controlled group of participants. We were able to analyze where our controlled group clicked, using a click tracking tools called (My Web Log). This provided more data about what topics that interested those who attended the focus group.

4. Finally it provided practice and exposure in an authentic application of integrating social bookmarking with blogging tools.

Click tracking using My Web Log

This tool provided data in 2 ways. It provided daily reports of which resources were clicked or (viewed). Combining with this information about which focus groups were held that day, provided information about the type of interest, questions, concerns a group of stakeholders had about blogging. The premium version of the hyperlink was purchased for a month to allow of more extensive reporting. This also allowed participants to see social software at work in another venue. Depending on the feature that was turned on, the tool can display information to the viewers of the web sites about which sites were most popular amongst previous viewers. This was turned off after a focus group so as not to influence our subjects choice of links, but the statistics were available for analysis when logged into mybloglog.com.

Three surveys were designed for this project and administered using Surveymonkey.com. Contact Lucie for access to these surveys.

1. Student survey used to collect data for almost 120 middle and high school students about role of blogging in schools

2. Pre-Survey to collect preconceptions about blogging

3. Post-Survey to collect reflections about blogging and education

This tool also allows reporting or sharing of results via the web in a variety of ways, including

1) bringing the participant to the results immediately after he/she takes the survey (we did not use this feature, but it would be classified as a social software feature if turned on)
2) providing reports of the data to stakeholders via the web
(either with password or without)
3) allowing the results to be filtered (ie. High school students vs. middle school students) allowing for disaggregating of data

7. Mapping of ISTE Standards for Administrators, Teachers, and Students to Examples of Blogging, Blog Tools, Social software tool, or related literature..

Analysis of the blog resources, and information gathered from focus groups and surveys, provides an overwhelming amount of data on potential uses of blog tools and and blogging in education. Analyzing this information and organizing in a way that aligns to ISTE standard would provide a schematic to users that would provide give the users a view of blogging resources related to technology standard that most interest them. This part of the project was not complete by due date, but I have plans to finish working on this as I believe it will be a valuable outcome.

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