More than Just Blogging: the 2007 EduBlog Awards
It’s that time of year again - the winners of the annual Edublog Awards have been announced. And despite the name having the word “blog” in it, the awards cover a whole range of educational projects, including wikis, social networks and even virtual reality spaces. If you’re looking for a quick scan of cool education initiatives using social media, this is a great place to get started.
The Edublog Awards, launched four years ago, is an annual tribute to the best and brightest across the educational Web 2.0 landscape. Back then, the awards focused solely on different types of blogs: library blogs, research blogs, group blogs and the like. You can still find some of those categories today, but what I find most enjoyable are the awards given to educational projects that aren’t actually blogs.
For example, there’s the category for best educational wiki. These are websites where students and teachers collaborate to produce interesting and informative content. Like any wiki, the pages can be edited by anyone involved in the project, so the depth, breadth and hopefully the quality of the content improves over time. The winner for best wiki is Welker’s Wikonomics. Created by the students of AP economics teacher Jason Welker at the Shanghai American School. Using the free wiki tool known as WetPaint, they’ve put together a multimedia collection of course materials, definitions of economic theories, and resources for other classrooms. Accepting the award, Welker said:
Welker’s Wikinomics started out as an experiment in collaborative learning less than one year ago. Thanks to my bright and enthusiastic students, it took off and quickly grew into a huge online resource for economics students and teachers, covering nearly every topic of the macro and microeconomics AP syllabus. As the months passed, more new features were dreamed up and added to the wiki, such as the “Student Thought Forum”, the “AP Econ in the News” pages, the “Test Review Center” (where we host live chats the nights before tests), and many other interactive and engaging features aimed at enhancing and extending the learning that goes on in the economics classroom at Shanghai American School.
Then there’s the SMARTBoard Lessons Podcast, which won the award for best use of audio. Created by Canadian educators Joan Badger and Ben Hazzard, the podcast includes more than 100 lessons for utilizing SMARTboards interactive whiteboards in the classroom. Being consummate podcasters, Joan and Ben decided to accept their award in the form of a podcast.
Perhaps the least surprising result of the competition this year was that best educational social network went to Steve Hargadon’s Classroom 2.0. Hargadon, who never seems to run out of really cool project ideas, used the free do-it-yourself social networking site Ning.com to create a social network dedicated to the role of Web 2.0 in education. Well over 4,000 educators have joined the group, where they can participate in discussion forums, post news and blog entries, even upload original multimedia files. Classroom 2.0 is by far one of the best examples of a do-it-yourself social network, period. And perhaps more importantly, it shows teachers how easy it is for them to create their own Web 2.0 projects, including social networking sites.
And given how much buzz there has been over the last year regarding the virtual world Second Life, it makes total sense that there would be an award for best educational use of a virtual world. This year’s award goes to Suffern Middle School’s Ramapo Island in Second Life. After being bugged by her daughter to check out the virtual world, teacher Peggy Sheehy “succumbed” to the pressure, leaving her startled and intrigued. “After a very short time, I became determined to bring my students in world to be a part of it,” she said. Since then, she’s led a team of students and other volunteers to construct a virtual island in Second Life exclusively for educational use, while documenting the whole experience on their blog. Riffing on the African proverb that it takes a village, Sheehy noted in her acceptance remarks, “It takes a metaverse.”
All of the Web 2.0 projects given awards this year are great examples of what real classroom teachers are doing to embrace social media. When you visit the award site, though, please don’t stop there - the finalists in each category are equally worthy of your attention. Taken together, they give you a vivid snapshot of the diversity of what’s going on with Web 2.0 in education - and a reminder that we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the opportunities presented to us. -andy