On Wednesday I attended a workshop at the institution where I will be employed full-time this coming year. The workshop was a Blackboardtraining, focused specifically on some new additions that CSR has purchased for this software (though these additions were purchased from a different company—Learning Optics (?)): “journals” and “team sites.” “Team sites” are supposed to be the equivalent of wikis, and “journals” are supposed to emulate blogs.
While I am philosophically opposed to using proprietary software, I have been using Blackboard and WebCT over the past few semesters, because with teaching four courses/semester and working toward exams, I had little time to construct an alternative. This coming semester I want to begin having students blog and assumed I would use wordpress or blogger for this purpose, but thought I should check out this workshop anyway. Unfortunately, the lure of using Blackboard is strong once again—the “journals” option is so eeeaasyyy. There is very little “set-up” time involved. No teaching students how to use RSS feeds in order to easily read each other’s blogs. Etc.
Here is what I am wondering/thinking about: If the students don’t know the difference between keeping their blogs on blogger versus keeping their “journals” on blackboard, does it really make a difference in terms of where they keep them? The way this question is worded is kind of a cop-out—a kind of “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” concept. I guess the more important question should then be—do we make explicit our choice and explain the difference to them?
Overall, I believe all of this sounds a bit weak on my part—like I am trying to rationalize the easier route. I’m not. I just want to know a bit more about how or if we should involve—in a pedagogical way—the debate around proprietary vs. open source/free source/open knowledge. And also to get the views of others on the differences between using University sanctioned (but closed/privatized) software and other open/free versions.
In other news...
Yesterday: did 31.3 miles on the bike--Lake George, NY