I’m recycling a couple of videos that I have posted in the past, mostly because I believe that they’re worth watching again. These videos – the original higher ed version of “A Vision of Students Today” by Mike Wesch, the spin-off , called “A Vision of K-12 Students Today”, and “The Networked Student”, created by Wendy Drexler‘s high school students – bring to mind many thoughts that I find both challenging and encouraging. Hopefully you will, too.
Students are moving forward, in terms of technology, and they are finding limitless opportunities to explore and create on-line. Are we making sure that we teach them how to do this wisely? Are we building on these innate interests and talents? Are we harnessing the power of technology to optimize their educational experience?
A Vision of Students Today (higher-ed)
A Vision of K-12 Students Today
Networked Student (by students)
Here’s a follow-up to an earlier Weebly post:
There have been increasing numbers of educators who find that a classroom website is a good way to stay organized. Here are some basic, very useful functions:
- Class Calendar
- Homework Assignments
- Supply Lists
- Post Student Work
- Parent Involvement/Volunteer Opportunities
- Classroom Rules and Policies
- Your Bio and Contact Info
A website is more informative, while a blog, ning or wiki is more interactive because they allow students to contribute. I actually suggest having both. But because blogs, nings and wikis require constant maintenance, it’s nice to have a website that is super-easy to build and edit.
I suggest using Weebly for this. It’s free and extremely user-friendly.
Here are some classroom websites built on Weebly:
If you have a Weebly website, or plan to get one, please share your URL in the comments!
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve already begun building your personal learning network.
Here is a clever video called The Networked Student about how students are doing it these days, and how this new approach to learning will enhance their 21st century skills. Highlights include using iPods to listen to college lectures posted on iTunesU and videoconferencing with experts for research projects. It was created by Wendy Drexler‘s high school students (!), inspired by a course on Connectivism offered by Stephen Downes and George Siemens this fall.
It sums up the role of the teacher as this: a learning architect, a modeler, learning concierge, connected learning incubator, network sherpa, synthesizer, and a change agent. Educators will be solely enablers of searching and discovering, creating life-long learners who will be invested in their own learning. Every small step you take in your classroom to encourage exploration and collaboration brings us all one step closer to this goal.
As a former teacher, I know how hesitant we can all be when trying new things in the classroom. There’s always someone telling you why (shiny new object) is going to “improve” things even when, 9 times out of 10, those new things ended up creating more problems than they solved.
Not in the case of Web 2.0.
The power that certain tools like wikis, social networking sites, and group presentation software can give to teachers and their students is still unknown. Up until now, applications have already been created for ease-of-use, so some of them might *actually* make your life easier.
Here are some ideas for integrating some specific tools to promote collaboration, and some links to others who have good ideas or have even tried this integration already:
- Using a wiki: this can serve as a good ‘homepage’ for a course, but it can do so much more, too! I suggest creating assignments that will require students to add and review others’ work. The highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is evaluation, and this is a very easy way to hit that mark and get students to think more deeply and broadly about what they’re learning.
- Using YouTube: have students post videos – skits, conversations, creative representaions of the material that they’re synthesizing, as well as post response videos and comments.
- Using Facebook: go beyond just creating a group for your class if it’s available; use a community-building application such as Courses or Schools.
- Yammer is a great tool for keeping members of a smaller group up-to-date on the progress of projects. Students can use this to delegate roles and ask each other question as they go.
- There are hundreds, if not thousands, of free tools out there – find what YOU feel comfortable using.
Here are some links to….um….links:
- – Larry Ferlazzo’s “101 Free Learning Tools”
- – Vicky Davis is finding new, cool things almost daily.
- – Rober Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog
And here are some teachers who are reporting on their results:
– check out Fred Stutzman’s manuscript on how the ‘integration’ went in his class
– Dean Groom offers some tips for teachers who are ready to ‘jump in’ and reports on how integrating on-line tools helped the collaborative efforts for a group project.
Here are a few ideas about how to move closer to the goal of smoothly integrating web 2.0 with education:
- We need to reach a point where students don’t separate “academic” and “social” – the most powerful results will come from making education a social experience. If we can get students to really collaborate and engage themselves with others, without physical boundaries, they will have a much richer experience. (see Part1 below) Stutzman’s results are telling us something: we need a solid model for how we can fit these two worlds together seamlessly.
- We should approach a class full of learners as a community – sometimes this is obvious, in the case of small classes with intimate discussions, but even a lecture hall with 200 students has the potential to function as a collaborative effort.
- We need to use web 2.0 tools as they’re meant to be used – if you put an application on course management on Facebook, it might feel like “school” rather than socializing, and it might fail. If, instead, you put a community-building application up there, you may create a community of learners.
- Ideally, more educators will give this a shot, like Fred Stutzman. And, hopefully, they will be sharing their results. If we can work together (ahhh…web 2.0) to find a model where we get the results we’re looking for, we can harness the potential of these tools to revolutionize the way that our students learn and the skills and knowledge that they acquire over the course of their education.
Here’s a guy who’s trying great things:
Fred Stutzman, a teaching fellow at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, is on the cutting edge of realizing the potential for integrating web 2.0 into instruction. He recently taught two semesters of “Online Social Networks”, a grad class where “students spent the semester using online social networks as a lens through which to examine social computing, computer-mediated communication, digital identity and representation, and human-computer interaction”.
His approach was to employ a Facebook group, YouTube videos for enrichment, a wiki for the course, and a Del.icio.us tag unique to the course to share bookmarks. At the end of the second semester, he compiled the results of the success of using these tools from reflection and from student surveys. Some of the findings were expected, but others were somewhat unforseen:
- The wiki: successfully used as a homepage for the course, but Stutzman was expecting more student input. In the end, he was basically the only one editing it.
- Del.icio.us: bookmarking websites to share with classmates was not used widely, but it was successful in that they compiled a list of 250 relevant links in just one semester.
- YouTube: as expected, the videos served as a good source of enrichment, but not much else.
- Facebook group: the mandatory participation in group discussions resulted in rich and high-quality dialogue, but there seemed to be a few issues with the actual integration of this social space with its academic application:
Stutzman realized that the students viewed the discussion board as an academic space, not a social space, and that they almost had to remind themselves to visit it once a week. Obviously, it would be ideal to have students doing this more regularly, out of interest and engagement – how can we make this happen?
Also, some of the students seemed to begrudge using a personal/social space for academic purposes – why do some students insist on separating the two spheres?
p. s. This semester, Stutzman is offering “Technologies of Friendship,” where the focus is on “historical perspectives, theoretical concepts, internet relationships and group dynamics”. You can keep up with the course wiki, in-progress, here.