With regards to using newsgroups for education, I must admit I think they are a wonderful resource to seek out. I like the fact that a person can create one to suit their own needs/interests, such as the one created for this class, but can also find pre-existing ones to join. This is great for educators since it can be time consuming to create and maintain a newsgroup, and it is fairly easy to find newsgroups that could be applicable to your subject area.
What I most like about using a newsgroup is, similar to a forum, having a space on the web that a community can develop out of. It would not take long to create an applicable newsgroup for a specific subject, and depending on how you implemented its use in the classroom, the group could provide students a place to discuss things even after they are done your class. For example, if I created a newsgroup with the intent to provide an online space for students to post and discuss their written assignments, what’s to stop them from posting work that was not specifically an assignment?
I think it would be great to see students taking an active approach to building a community of writers, with this particular example, and having them know they can post personal written work to be open for viewing and critiques; in addition to class required submissions. Not every student is necessarily going to want to post works they have done in their spare time, but I definitely believe that having that option available to them is important. For those students wanting to share additional work, a classes newsgroup could be their jumping off point for feeling comfortable sharing their work online to a larger audience.
As opposed to just making a blog or other site to post their work, and running the risk of being “trolled” by random strangers, students could post it on a newsgroup and get feedback from peers they have already received feedback from on school based work. By posting in the classes newsgroup, it not only makes keeping the “trolls” at bay easier, but it also gives a chance for a teacher to see the kinds of work produced by a student outside of a classroom setting. That would be really cool, in my opinion, since often times students seem a bit reluctant to share personal work with a teacher, but a newsgroup setting could change that initial apprehension.
Why would that be beneficial? Because, as a teacher, you would get a chance to offer insight and a guiding hand in something a student might otherwise keep to themselves! I remember when I was in elementary school and one of my teachers discovered a friend and I were selling home-made bookmarks. I recall feeling almost embarrassed initially when my teacher asked what we had in the box we were toting about the playground secretly; then, feeling a great sense of accomplishment when we were given compliments on our work and being so sales-savvy.
Although this might not be the best parallel, the point is: my friend and I did not think we were necessarily going to do that great with our enterprise. Furthermore, we definitely did not think our teacher was going to be overly supportive of it, but when we heard those kind words come from her, we really went to task with our little business. Now couldn’t a student reading a positive critique on a poem they wrote for fun, that was posted on the example newsgroup I mentioned, further push them to keep writing outside of the classroom? I think it would.
So beyond using a newsgroup to teach curriculum, it can also be utilized to build your classroom community. It does not have to just be used for assignments etc., but as another way for you to connect with your students on a personal level. Thus, I give newsgroups a thumbs up!