I am currently streaming a live webcast of the 2006 Edublog Awards. This online event showcases the use of educational blogs and other social software in the field of education. Although it is being hosted in an internet chat room, it is still an event that should not be underestimated. The awards ceremony has been running for three consecutive years and this year, the number of nominees has increased while encompassing a diverse range of candidates. The nominees vary from a Chilean teacher who blogs to Australian school children who produce podcasts as part of their history lessons. It is clear that the impact of blogging and related technologies has grown significantly in education.
Josie Fraser, a United Kingdom-based educational technologist who facilitated the awards, mentions that most of this year’s winners are second-generation bloggers. Many were inspired and guided by their predecessors who were pioneers of educational blogging. Fraser also points out that it was great to see blogs and projects from various nations being nominated.
The Best Teacher Blog award was awarded to "Have Fun with English! 2". This blog, which is run by Teresa Almeida d’Eça, an English teacher from Portugal, aims to help students improve their English outside of the classroom and interact with teachers and classmates globally.
Meanwhile, the Best Group Blog award was given to the "Polar Science 2006" blog. The blog is a collaborative learning space that allows teachers and students from different parts of the world to involve themselves in the research of Dr. Shane Kanatous and his Ice Team in Antarctica, as well as Canadian biophysicist Dr. Thomas Hawke and lab team in Toronto, Canada, as they study the biology of Weddell seals.
In the United Kingdom, University of Sheffield’s Cilass Blog won the Best Undergraduate Blog award. The blog, written by Cilass’s 24 student ambassadors, aims to promote inquiry-based learning among students and provide them with an opportunity to share and discuss their learning. Dr. Sabine Little, who facilitates the Student Ambassador network at the university, said that the awards encourage students by demonstrating the value of their work. For staff who are not entirely comfortable in the world of blogging, the awards also provide them with a chance to explore and gain new insights into teaching.
Terry Freedman, who was nominated for Best Post, Resource or Presentation for "Coming of Age: An Introduction to the New World Wide Web," stated that the awards prove the existence of an "edublogging community" and provide encouragement to teachers who may work alone while exploring the use of blogs and social software.
Despite the strength of the awards and the educational blogging community overall, it is clear that more support for teachers is necessary. "I think educators could benefit from more face-to-face training and internal resources," says Fraser. "The edublogging community has provided a wealth of advice and support material, but newcomers to these technologies need guidance in finding the information they require."
To conclude, the 2006 Edublog Awards have shone a spotlight on the various ways that educational blogs and other social software can revolutionize the field of education. It has demonstrated that such technologies can provide students with a global platform to communicate with and learn from their peers and teachers. Furthermore, it is clear that more support in finding resources and face-to-face guidance is necessary.