What are the differences among blogs, forums and wikis? We use all three at UHS, the forums most often, wikis second, and blogs a distant third. Dave Warlick compares the three technologies more eloquently than I could:
Discussion boards [a.k.a. forums] are about collaborative idea building. It is a conversation where the goal is to build new knowledge by stacking student ideas, insights, and perspectives on top of each other.
Blogging is about idea publishing. It certainly has the idea building, conversation element. However, what is central to the activity is for a person to write a well thought out (with the exception of my blogs), compellingly constructed document. It’s about publishing. However, the interaction, commenting, and cross-blogging all happen and are instructive in exactly the same way as discussion board.
Wikis are about collaborative document building. A group of students work together to construct an effective study guide for their next test, as an example.
Both our discussion forums and wikis took off on their own, with minimal adult involvement. I put the technologies out there and the students just started using them. Critical mass, the number of students needed to make the technology function well, developed naturally.
Why haven’t the UHS blogs taken off in the same way? Partly, it’s the timing. With the dominance of social networking sites on the Internet, students have so many outlets for online interaction that even our vaunted forums have recently suffered from a lack of participation.
It’s also the technology. Blogs are at first blush individual tools, and we have situated them within a school community context. Forums and wikis are by their nature collaborative, community tools. Also, a blogging community required more investment than a forum or wiki community. More students have to spend more time thinking and writing in order to build a blog community, and your blog won’t even get noticed until you have written powerfully and long enough to make an impact on other people. Most students are more strongly oriented toward social chatter than individual proselytizing.
UHS Blogs are brand-new — I will give them at least a year before declaring them DOA!