Friday, September 18, 2009

Storing Student Writing as Text Files

Mark Ahlness:

As of today, nine students are missing from a very long Room Twelve Alumni List, and that is the dream come true. I managed to transfer every word from their third grade blogs to their new fifth grade teacher's classroom blog. Every single blog post, comment, and conversation from their third grade writing experience is back with them, so their new teacher can to continue to facilitate and guide their growth as effective 21st century writers.

Tomorrow they finally rejoin that journey. I have dreamed about this happening for over four years, and I could not be happier.

The transfer of bodies of work like that, held in databases, referenced and hyperlinked all over the Internet, is no small feat. I held my breath as I sat next to their new, young, fifth grade teacher, each of us logged in to our classroom blogs. I went through the process of making students "orphans", making them available to their new teacher, and then watching him "adopt" them into his new classroom blog. Several came with over 50 pieces of writing. Not exactly like walking down a school hallway to offer a thick manila folder of writing samples to a cringing new teacher who may or may not ever look inside - never mind share with another person....

This transfer was unbelievably exciting - for both of us.

Back in the stone ages I advocated for blosxom-style blog engines for schools, where all posts would be stored as text files in the author's home directory on the school server. This is the right way to handle portability and archiving. Simple. Robust. Just zip up the files, take 'em wherever you need to go and unzip them when you get there. I was even briefly optimistic that this approach would gain some traction when blojsom was added to Mac OS Tiger Server.

It doesn't appear to be in Snow Leopard though, and I haven't heard much about schools going in this direction. Indeed, the buzz has moved in the opposite direction, into the cloud.

So... I dunno... this is the kind of thing which makes me less excited than I was six years ago. Technically, at least. OTOH, Mark and his kids are doing a great job.

1 comment:

Mark Ahlness said...

Tom, one of the things that encourages me most about the technical aspect of this is that it is web based and platform/server independent. I know you've not always been a fan of what I'm using, so I do appreciate the mention (in my 5th year of using it - grin). Best - Mark