A Thousand Flowers
Before the month is out, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the visit of my colleague Mike Palmquist of Colorado State to the U.C. Irvine campus to argue for a smart software alternative to proprietary course management tools like Blackboard. Mike claims that traditional course management tools only reinforce the hierarchical pedagogy of the conventional lecture hall -- combined with mindless skill and drill online testing -- and do not take adequate advantage of the learner-oriented possibilities of digital communication. Mike is one of the creators of The Writing Studio, which allows teachers to direct college students to create better writing portfolios, blogs, scholarly annotations, and group projects. With their decentralized model, apparently you can start your own "co-op" at your own institution of higher learning without paying onerous fees to a publishing giant. Of course, I was a bit taken aback by the copyright disclaimer of the Studio, but I can be more choosy than most since I'm fortunate enough to teach at a Blackboard-free campus that in 1999 hosted an idealistic international conference about building university electronic educational environments on the not-for-profit model.