Blog Your Way Through School
Students tend to work better on collaborative projects and to this end, European researchers have developed software that serves to link social software tools like student blogs with the learning environment. This is a three-year project which is backed by the European Union and is called iCamp (Intercultural Learning Campus). The main idea behind the project is to enable students and teachers to work together no matter where they are or what type of social networking systems they employ.
iCAMP project coordinator Barbara Kieslinger of the Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna, Austria says that if iCAMP catches on, the program will lead to a democratization of learning institutions. Kieslinger's team had the aim of keeping the structure of the classroom but changing it from a rigid environment to one which uses the same type of social networking software students like to use in their free time, for instance, messaging, blogs, feeds, and other types of social networking utilities. “We found a mismatch between what younger people were using in their leisure time, software that is easy to use and control by themselves, compared to centralised systems that are controlled by the organisation,” said Kiesling.
The researchers involved with the creation of iCAMP had the working theory that there was a need for constructivism in which students work with others on self-directed projects rather than work on their own in projects created by and run by teachers. Kiesling believes that this approach aids students with their future ability to work with others inside the workplace, as well as teaching them how to adapt to technological advances.
Researchers knew from the start that blogs could be a mainstay of their project. Blogs are easy to use and people enjoy both writing and reading them. Kiesling felt they had the potential to be used in many different ways within the learning environment. Blogs are not interoperable, so one of iCAMP's goals was to create software to enable more interaction between blogs so that students might use them to network.
A system called FeedBack was developed to provide a solution whereby bloggers might communicate with each other through feeds and updates without any hitches. Another tool was created to help students find resources and set goals for their learning. This software program was named iLOGUE. One function of iLOGUE is to help the students make self-assessments of their progress.
Trials have thus far been conducted with a total of 136 students plus 19 facilitators in 10 European Member States. “We got some really positive feedback from the students. Even though it was more work for them, they liked the new techniques and getting to work with students from other countries,” says Kiesling.