Monday, December 17, 2007

Not the Edublog Award Winners

This is a list of sites that should be recognized but which, for one reason or another, were overlooked by the Edublog Awards. Sites that probably should have been nominated, and could even have won, but weren't, and obviously, didn't.

Let me note that this is not a criticism of the Awards or the nomination process. It could have been perfect, and I would still have been able to find worthy sites. This post is intended only to shine some light on some people who really deserve some praise and wider notice. Think of it as my personal 'honourable mention' category.

Best educational use of a virtual world: Media Grid Immersive Education

Immersive Education is an award-winning learning platform that combines interactive 3D graphics, commercial game and simulation technology, virtual reality, voice chat (Voice over IP/VoIP), Web cameras (webcams) and rich digital media with collaborative online course environments and classrooms."

What I like about this initiative is that it is not bound to a single platform, that it is actively contributing to specifications and technologies that help virtual worlds together, and that it is actively exploring ways in which immersive technologies can be used to support learning.

Best educational use of a social networking service: OU Course Profiles on Facebook

What makes this different from the typical use of a social networking service is that it is substantiall about using a social network service to support learning, rather than simply using it to connect the same old group of people together. What I mean by this is that it is intended for students and that it inserts a useful educational service into the social network application (in this case Facebook). Here's a slide show and more description of the app.

Best educational wiki: WikiEducator

Numerous educational wikis could have taken the podium here - Curriki, Wikiversity, more. WikiEducator is chosen as the most (apparently) active of these initiatives. "WikiEducator is a dynamic and exciting community of educators who believe passionately that learning materials should be free and open to all." Be sure to check out WikiEducator's definition of libre knowledge.

Best educational use of video / visual: Civilization III and World History

This is a 10 minute video describing how Civilization III, a computer game, is used in history classes at Kimball Union Academy, featuring Lyn Lord. This video, one of the highest rated and most viewed on the popular TeacherTube educational video hosting site, mixes screen captures and commentaries showing how the popular video game can support learning.

Best educational use of audio: iTunes University

This was probably the most publicized of the educational podcast initiatives of 2007 and certainly the most influential. The service launched in 2005 with a series of podcasts from Stanford and spread to a number of other universities. The Best of iTunes University site shows just how pervasive this initiative has become.

Some people (including myself) have criticized the initiative for being commercial and proprietary. Which it is. But it is worth noting that there is (to my knowledge ) no comparable free (libre?) and open audio content available from any other collection of universities. Although educational podcasting will already remain a niche market (it's hard to compete with Radiohead) but remains nonetheless important for thousands of people.

Best elearning / corporate education blog: Off Course-On Target

Wayne Hodgins has been around forever, but blogging is a new medium for him, as most of his work has been done in standards committees and academic papers dev eloping and advocating the concept of learning objects. Whatever your views of this persepective on online learning, his blog posts are consistently the most original and informative coming fromthe corporate perspective (and make no mistake - the corporate perspective these days is overwhelmingly the world of SCORM, learning objects, and metadata standards).

Best educational tech support blog: Computer Science Teacher

Alfred Thompson is rooted in the world of Microsoft products, a fact that irks me every time I read one of his posts. But I do read one of his posts because of the steady and consistent stream of practical advice being handed out on his blog. Though aimed ostensibly at computer science teachers, the blog is a constant source of technial advice for any teacher using computers (um, and Windows).

Thompson is (for me) the representative read from an entirely different blogging community from the one we're used to reading. He works for Microsoft and has a direct connection not only to computer science teachers but also the Microsoft developers' network. This gives him a unique perspective and an informed view.

Best library / librarian blog: ACRLog

This has been one of the most consistent high-quality blogs of any type, and I must admit to having been astonished to see it skipped over in the nominations for the Edublogs. It is probably because the blog owners resist efforts to rank it and reward it - probably the best attitude to take. Certainl a lot more dignified than shameless campaigning.

Writes one of the authors (theirs is a group blog): "I suggest that if we want to acknowlege our community’s bloggers who are doing really good work (high quality writing, regular postings, originality of ideas and topics, innovative suggestions, etc.) let’s all contribute to an annual listing - not numeric rankings - but a collection of ten blogs worthy of our praise." I concur, and that's what I'm doing in this post.

Best teacher blog: The Open Classroom

Though this category saw by far the most nominations, it still managed to overlook consistently strong entries from Clarence Fisher, Chris Sessums and Heather Ross. I was tempted to opt for a Canadian in this category, but opted to highlight Australian nglish teacher Jo McLeay, who has been writing consistently and quietly for several years now. She also practices what she preaches, linking to a number of her classroom blogs. She uses many of the Web 2.0 tools and is plugged in to the Australian edublogging community.

Most influential blog post: Death threats against bloggers are NOT 'protected speech'

Though Kathy Sierra was widely read in the blogging community at large, she was arguably an edublogger - certainly, her work was widely cited in our community and I suspect that had she not stopped blogging shortly after posting this bombshell she would have certainly shown up in the Edublog Awards in severl categories. Sierra combined an intuitive sense of design with a deep knowledge of online communication to create posts that were memorable and wity.

And yet, because of the events described in this post, I refer to her work in the past tense. She abruptly withdraw from the blogging scene after a series of harassing and blatantly sexist attacks. Her experience was hardly unique; since then I have read numerous other accounts of gender-based online abuse, and of course you can find it if you look in almos any YouTube or Digg comment stream. What these tell us about the current state of our society is disturbing. But at least - to judge both from the hit and link counts in Edu_RSS and the 1165 comments on her website, Kathy Sierra's message has certainly hit home.

Best resource sharing blog: Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day

It was nice to be nominated in this category myself, for OLDaily, but to be honest, I expected to compete against - and lose to - Jane Hart's incredibly useful contribution to the field. Hart has a wealth of experience in the field, having most recently co-founded the consulting firm Waller Hart Learning Architects. In the meantime, her daily resource offers sites, services and tools that are invariably of interest and frequently of direct practica impact.

Best new blog: Helge Scherlund's eLearning news blog

It's hard not to want to give the nod to Sue Waters, but she was nominated, and anyways, Helge Scherlund burst onto the scene with a fresh and informative weblog summarizing resources, websites, and journal articles. She would also have been a wonderful candidate in the best resource-sharing blog category. Scherlund is summarizing - and making accessible - resources that mostly do not grace other edubloggers' pages, making her work well worth reading, especially by those now limiting their reading to a smaller circle of writers treading more familiar territory. She brings an academic edge into what is often a non-academic field, and for that should be recognized.

Best group blog: The Pulse

Hosted by District Administration magazine, the Pulse is one of those blogs that you at one wish would publish more and more and wish would cease and desist. With opinions ranging from insightful to infuriating, with a literate and experienced writing staff, the Pulse distinguishes itself with quality writing, informed opinions, and more controversy than you can shake a stick at. It is a site definitely deserving of wider attention.

I also want to add as an honorable mention in this category the ongoing dialogue between and Deb in Bridging Differences. The debate covers most of the controversial issues in education over the last 15 years, framed by two people who were at the centre of those debates. It is continually interesting to see their views at once shift and at the same time hold fast to basic convictions. Again, what makes this blog work for me is the literate and informed quality of the writing.

Best individual blog: Cool Cat Teacher Blog

This was probably the best nominated of the categories. I would have added Doug Noon, Artichoke, Christopher Sessums, Seb Schmoller and Scott Wilson. But the writer who most deserved a nomination - and didn't get one - was in my opinion Vicki Davis. A teacher from Georgia who writes with a consistently hopeful and uplifting tone, Davis is unquestionably one of the major thought leaders in the American K-12 blogosphere and certainly one of their most articulate representatives. I don't always agree with davis - and to be honest, sometimes roll my eyes - but her popularity both in my Edu_RSS statistics and the wider web at large do not lie.


Regarding my Edu_RSS statistics: I don't have anything to release because these stats are very partial and in some ways very misleading. Edu_RSS ran for only about 6 months of 2007 (and isn't running at the moment while I tune up its efficiency). I do hope to have better statistics available for next year.