Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thing 4

Web 2.0 and classrooms of today go hand in hand. If our students are using these technology tools, we should be using them in our classrooms. Something that struck me was what Steve Hargadon said in his presentation, “We will not feel good if students are turning off their best learning when they go to school.” Sharing, socializing, collaborating are how our youth learn today. I remember a couple of years ago, I had some students who were into sharing movies/videos that they had created and posted on YouTube in their free time. I was amazed at not just how well they knew the technology to create the videos, but that some of the content of the videos actually had educational qualities to them. I remember thinking, I need to have this class create projects and let them choose to create videos as an option for an assessment. After studying about the renaissance, I gave students a list of project options, and sure enough the three young 7th graders collaborated and created a “commercial” promoting “products” or inventions of that time. With little to no guidance, they hit the mark spot on. When sharing their project, I remember the excitement from them and their peers. If I had only allowed them to write a report or just take a test, would they have “turned off their best learning?”

This year, all of the teachers in our school are using wiki spaces to create classroom websites. We are all just learning, and I don’t believe any of us have started using our classroom wikis for student collaboration on projects or assignments, but we will get there. Just getting the hang of how the wiki works, setting up student usernames and passwords, encouraging students and parents to visit the classroom wikis for information and classroom assignments has been a little challenging. I am hopeful though. With ideas that some of my colleagues and I will come away from this class with, we hope to share with the others from our school. The ideas are certainly flowing; we now need to set them into action. With all of the “free” tools of Web 2.0, the possibilities are endless!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thing 3

When I think about how the classrooms from the past compare to the classrooms of the 21st century, some things have remained the same. Our students still need to know the basics… math, reading, writing, science, social studies. But, I also see major differences.

Classrooms of the 20th century have students sitting in straight rows with a teacher in front “teaching” to the students. The teacher develops a lesson based on a fragmented curriculum. The student works on lessons that are textbook driven, independently and in isolation from their peers as they memorize facts and then regurgitate information back on tests. The teacher corrects the test and gives the student a “grade” and then move on to the next set of facts and information to be “taught” to the student. So the cycle goes…

Classrooms of the 21st century should paint a different picture. I see educators as facilitators rather than just teachers. The move in education is to guide students in their learning…taking what the student already knows and coaching them through project/research based lessons that are developed based on integrated curriculum. Rather than the student retelling information given to them, they should be discovering the information through research based projects done in collaboration with their classmates that allow for authentic learning…learning that can be taken into the real-world…learning that is assessed by their peers or a more world-wide audience.

Students should be “learning to learn.” The focus should be on the learning, not the teaching. Students need to be active learners and not like the passive learners from the past. Making school and what is learned relevant to students and connected to their interests, gives them motivation and satisfaction in doing a job that is well done. Teaching students how to work in groups collaboratively allows for our future “workers” to be able to participate in the global community that is already being established in other countries. These higher expectations give our students the tools and skills needed to compete in the workforce of the future.

How exciting to be an educator of today!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thing 2

I have had a blog since 2006. Have I blogged on it? The answer to that, sadly, is no. I set up the account on blogger for a class I was taking, and since then haven’t done anything with it. I know…kind of embarrassing since that is where technology has headed…with Web 2.0 applications, facebook, twitter, blogs…I feel like I should have already been there. I guess I better get on board!

I have read many blogs though. Doing simple searches while looking for online resources to use in my classroom, I’ve stumbled across blogs and read them. Some have been helpful with information on whatever I may have been searching for, others have been blogs of a personal nature, and still others have been classroom blogs used by students, but set up by teachers. The latter always intrigued me, but I’ve always been hesitant on setting up a tool for my students to use that seemed so public. Sharing one’s thoughts publicly can be a little scary…What will people who read my thoughts think about what I’ve said? Will I sound foolish or as if I don’t know what I’m talking about? Will anyone even care about what I have to say? But, this sharing of ideas and thoughts is exactly where our students are already at. Many of my students text message and even have Facebook accounts where feelings, social happenings, and thoughts are discussed for everyone to see. With our young people, already comfortable with this interactive social media, I feel I should be utilizing this Web 2.0 tool as a learning medium.

Having said that, I do have concerns. Will blogging be safe for my students to use? Will parents and administration be supportive? The article by Larry Magid, listed in the “Cool Cat Teacher” blog, brings up many good points about kids participating in a global community and online safety. It seems according to him and the experts, our youth are safer than ever communicating and collaborating online. Still, it seems a little scary. We definitely as educators using blogs and other online social media, must lay out the ground rules for cyber-safety and be sure that our students have safety guidelines to follow. Blog Rules for teachers and Bud the teacher's blogging rules both look like great resources to get me started!