I’m now comfortable using blogs with my students. With blogs, each student is working independently on their own content. The next step for me is to become comfortable having students collaboratively to produce content, as with a wiki.
I also would like to learn how to use a voice thread rather than printed paper for a brochure my students will create.
In many ways, I am limited not by lack of skill with a certain tool, but by not knowing that certain tools exist, or not knowing how to use existing tools in ways that further my learning goals for my students. I usually am willing to try something new in my classroom if I know about it and it seems useful, even if I’m not exactly confident with how it works. Talking to other educators who are using technology in innovative ways is the best way for me to find out about new ideas.
I’m pleased with the progress my classes have made so far in the use of Web 2.0 – we’ve got a great start. I’m beginning to see glints of the possibilities that are out there. So far, all students have set up blogs and have created a category for Language Arts. They have responded to different prompts in our short story unit on their blogs. They have responded to each other’s blogs. It’s been amazing to see how they help each other and how excited they get about writing when they know they are communicating with each other rather than just with the teacher. They also have a creative outlet by personalizing their blogs’ appearance.
By having an RSS feed of their blogs, I am able to quickly scan through student writing in much less time than when I had to collect papers and read them all. I can quickly comment without having to manage loads of paper. I’m much more aggressive about assigning quick reflections because I know I will quickly be able to review the responses.
The next step for us is a formal story review that the students will write next week. They have not yet had to write final copy work. We will write drafts, post them to their blogs, and then the peer conferencing process will happen through the blogs. I know there will be glitches in the process, since it’s new for all of us. I am looking for a way to make these reviews more publicly available – they are already publicly viewable websites, but how do we get people to read them? I would like to send out an email to parents. What about other young readers? What about adult readers? Is this the best format, or should we be using a wiki, or a class blog, or what? I do feel that I could easily get into a rut where I only use blogs, when other tools would be more appropriate. If my goal is to have students participate in an authentic intellectual community, how do I tap that community, how do I bring that community to us?
In my professional life in 2017, my job as a teacher will be more like a coach than an expert at the front of the class, as Will Richarson suggests in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom. An observer might see my “class”, or the group of students of whom I am coach, convene in the morning to check in and set our agenda for the day. We might read the latest RSS feed indicating what our collaborators in Africa have added to our shared wiki overnight. Based on their up-to-date information about community development projects in their community, we debate whether to try out a tactic they have used in our own community. We could spend the rest of the day with some groups of students walking around town to poll people in local businesses as to whether a similar approach would be welcome in Yarmouth while other students do web-based research back at the school. These field researchers would have a tool that reports back results to the students in the classroom so that those students could tailor their research to the current findings from the field. Everyone would get together at the end of the day to compare notes and decide what approach we will take in our community. We then post our strategy on our wiki, knowing that parents and other community members will read our proposal and comment on it. We celebrate the work we have done and take some time to read independently (from actual paper books that we have chosen after reading online reviews from other 7th graders) before the school day is over.
In this version of school, all subjects are interdisciplinary. I will not meet with students for a 40 minute period, but will rather be a coach to a small group of students and call in other experts to teach skills as the need arises. I may access these experts online or I may call in a colleague to teach us some math skills to interpret our research data. As a class, we will be addressing a real-world challenge and we will learn skills as needed to implement our solution to that challenge. In the scenario I gave above, that challenge may be, for example, that the Route 1 corridor is not a pedestrian-friendly place for Yarmouth’s growing elderly population and our class is looking at ways to allow this population to remain independent and mobile. School will no longer be a place to gather skills for future use, but an action think-tank where skills are gained in the process of solving real-world problems.
I read “A Day in the Life of Web 2.0″ by David Warlick. I’m enthusiastic about the possibilities of using Web 2.0 in my teaching practice as I begin my first year of teaching 7th grade. Since I have not had my own classroom before, I don’t have a set way of doing things that I will have to modify to fit in these new tools — from the beginning, I hope to use technology to achieve my goals. In particular, I’m excited about the possibilities of using a class wiki to build community and give students ownership over their learning. I also hope to use Web 2.0 tools to minimize the amount of time that I spend doing mindless tasks and maximize my teaching, ultmately helping my students to learn more. For example, rather than posting the homework myself every day, I hope to delegate that job to a student each week by giving access to a wiki. Rather than being the only reader of my students’ work, I will have them read and comment on their classmates’ work, and perhaps involve parents and community members as well. I also hope to minimize the use of paper by posting assignments online. I’m thrilled that each student has a computer and am looking forward to learning how students already use technology and what they can teach me that will help in our classroom.
I do have some concerns about use of technology. I want to make sure that it is always serving the goals of the course rather than simply being used because it is a novelty. I also want to make sure that we are not sacrificing social interaction and face to face communication in the process of using Web 2.0. How will we use the Web to meet the needs of students with different learning styles? I’m wary of relying too much on the Web when so much of it is written; some students respond better to non-print resources. I hope that keeping my concerns in mind as I implement the curriculum will help me avoid the pitfalls of technology. I also hope to learn how other teachers have navigated these issues.
My second goal, also from the ISTE Standards, is:
Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
B. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
For our Persuasive writing unit, students will research a topic of interest to them for which they will write a persuasive piece. They will create de.lici.ous accounts to manage their internet research on their potential topics.
My first goal, taken from the ISTE Student Standards, is: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
Our first unit focuses on short stories. Students will respond to the stories using blogs. They will respond anonymously to each other’s blogs.
There’s not much here yet… stay tuned.