I Hate Blackboard!
I hear that refrain a lot around our overly-large school district. All of our teachers are required to have a Blackboard site for their classes, even though very few actually teach online.
Some people in our central offices also use it to distribute materials (not searchable!) and as a portal to other resources.
So, while Blackboard was designed to deliver online instruction (and, for that purpose, it does a pretty ok job), that’s not how we use it.
Content management system, teacher web publishing, portal. Oh, and online high school for a very small number of kids.
And now comes the plan to wedge in a couple of modules that allow teachers to create blogs and wikis for their classes.
Our IT leaders want to brand this project as providing “web 2.0 tools” but these additions are missing several important elements from that concept.
RSS for one thing. It’s available but our IT folks won’t turn it on for security reasons. Mainly, they’re worried about having no control of what goes out in the feed.
The bigger problem for me, however, is the total lack of flexibility in these tools.
While defining web 2.0 is a pretty fluid exercise, one of the hallmarks of the concept is the ability of the user to adapt the functionality, mixing and matching the tools to fit their needs.
In this case, something called a “blog” or a “wikis” gets stuck into the Blackboard interface, becoming just as clunky, rigid, confusing, and closed as the rest of the system.
Basically, the result will be that our teachers will getting web 2.0 with training wheels permanently installed.
So, maybe in the end I don’t really hate Blackboard.
I guess my problem is with the way our district is taking that system, which was designed for one specific purpose, and trying to warp it into being an all-purpose tool for anything related to web publishing.
And creating a mediocre mess in the process.