Now into their fourth year, the 2007 Edublog awards were more ambitious than ever. There were more than 500 nominations in 14 categories, including new additions such as “best educational use of a virtual world”. Appropriately, there was also a change in venue. The text-based chatroom used for last year's ceremony was out, and in its place attendees, or rather their avatars, gathered on the Island of Jokaydia in the virtual world of Second Life.
Josephine Fraser, a UK-based educational technologist who helped organise the awards, says the changes reflect changes in educational blogging and in teachers' internet use. “There's been a huge amount of research going on in Second Life, looking at the educational potential of virtual worlds, and our new category and use of Second Life reflect this.”
The virtual world category winner went to Suffern middle school in Second Life, a project to document the development of a virtual presence in Teen Second Life by 8th grade students (13- to 14-year-olds) from the US. Another important addition this year was a social networking category reflecting teachers' response to the rise in popularity of sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace.
“Anyone working at compulsory level knows that most of their students meet up with their friends in the evenings over at Bebo, MySpace, RuneQuest or one of the other sites that allow you to connect with friends online,” says Fraser. “So obviously they are looking to explore how to make sure their students can use these sites safely, and to explore the educational opportunities they offer.”
The award for best educational use of a social networking service went to Classroom 2.0, a social network for educators interested in using new web technologies.
Steve Hargadon, a US-based educational technology consultant who set up the site, says he was delighted to win the award because it recognises the value of social networking in education. He sees it as “the combination of different web 2.0 tools to help build a community. While Facebook and MySpace are often the scary examples of social networking, there is great value in the technology for education.”
Audio and video-based nominations multiplied this year. “So many people are working in this field now – producing podcasts, posting videos to YouTube – these things are easy to do and are commonplace,” says Fraser.
The SmartBoard Lessons Podcast, designed to share ideas on the use of interactive whiteboards, won the best educational use of audio category. Joan Badger and Ben Hazzard, the podcast's Canadian hosts, say they were honoured to receive the award, “especially since it is voted on by our peers within the educational technology community”.
As well as giving recognition to the broad range of work that educators are doing (often unpaid and unsupported), the awards leave an important legacy by producing a resource that everyone can use “whether they're new to the idea of using forms of social software in education, or old hands,” says Fraser.
Winner of this year's best new blog was US-based maths teacher Dan Meyer who began blogging to share classroom ideas with his peers. “My four years' teaching have been marked by a lot of failure and, only recently, some success,” he says. “By writing about successful classroom management, lesson design and general practice, I hope others will find success sooner.”
For next year's awards, organiser Josephine Fraser says she will be seeking funding “to encourage more entries from all over the world”.
Edubloggers: Roll of honour
Best educational use of a virtual world
Suffern middle school in Second Life: rampoislands.blogspot.com
Best educational use of a social networking service
Classroom 2.0: www.classroom20.com