What Makes a ClassPortal Different from a Class Blog?
Two decades of teaching have clubbed me over the head with the obvious: students yearn for learning that is Real, Rich and Relevant. The artificial kinds of classroom activities that only ever happen in schools undermine a joy for learning which is always connected to the Real world of consequence. The limitation of time, space and consciousness create a pre-digested, segmented experience where “richness” serves as a distraction or nuisance. Finally, in a culture focused on demographically pegging each individual’s whims, a passive mass production approach guarantees irrelevance.
A ClassPortal creates a purpose and shared mission that puts students and teachers together in a group endeavor that inherently promotes Real, Rich and Relevant learning. The critical attributes of a ClassPortal (as distinguished from any Class Blog) are sites that:
- Focus on one compelling topic (with all its interesting connections to others)
- Display a passionate interest of the teacher and students
- Tick along in the background of the class drawing attention when something in the real world provokes it
- Act as a platform for things like blogs, podcasts, photo galleries, data collection and wikis
- Make a contribution to learning
Like anyone who spends lots of time on the Web, I have this niggling feeling that somewhere – perhaps in a better, more noble corner of the Web – whole communities of enthusiastic teachers guide their students into deep investigation of a substantial topic that captures the imaginations of all involved, compelling further research, formation of expert opinions, construction of new insights into sophisticated relationships. Please submit the addresses for these sites.
And if they don’t exist as my searching suggests, let’s just say they don’t exist “yet.” Let’s imagine what’s so easily possible, taking a lesson from one of my favorite sites where students write about child slave labor to raise awareness. Each year a new class of students takes over the mantle and contributes their essays. The Immaculata High School Child Slave Labor News is still the exemplar of what I call a ClassAct Portal. And these are simple, text-only essays. Just imagine the power that a growing collection of podcast media campaigns or a wiki to serve as clearinghouse for real data about the plight of exploited children. Even at its low-tech present CSLN is Google’s #1 site for a search on child slave labor.