Archive for August, 2009

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The beginning to the end is the beginning

August 17, 2009

A short 6 weeks ago, this blog was started as a result of course requirements for a university course I am taking.  While the course has been demanding in terms of the amount of time it has taken, the learning has been invaluable.

What I have found more interesting than anything though is that all ( like 90%) of the learning that took place was on my own.  I didn’t have a professor sharing his thoughts on a particular topic, I didn’t have a long list of articles to read (there was a text, but it was fairly easy reading), in fact, other than my fellow classmates giving me information in the form of comments or their blogs, the rest of the content that I learned was through readings that I discovered myself and the knowledge I gained experientially through using the tools I was learning about.

I am sure that our instructor, Jenn, had a relative goal in mind for where we should be now.  Unlike the archery target that has a bulls-eye, a specific location to hit, the learning that my fellow classmates and I experienced was lead by our interests, our own goals, and our experiences through the course.  For me, much of my attention was focused on K-12 education and how teachers can use web2.0 tools in the classroom and develop their own skills through professional development.  For others in my class, their focus was much different.  Heather looked at how these tools can be used in a post secondary environment and specifically looked at how they can be used in cooperative education programs, such as the one Heather works directly with.  Gerta is an instructor of adult students and was looking to see how she could incorporate her learning into an adult learning environments.  Each one of us had a different target, but through our own discoveries and learning, we have come close to our bulls-eye, even if it is not at the center of the target.

Of all of the topics that we learned about the past six weeks, the one that I was not as keen on was the virtual library information.  I fully understand that this course is being offered as part of the MLIS and that content related to libraries is part of the course, but this was way outside of my area of interest or expertise.  What it did get me to do, however, is look at the school library system that we have.  Our school librarian, who is awesome, always talks about it, but it is one of the things that I put on the back burner.  Now that I have had a chance to see it, I think I need to ensure that I remind my students about it.  It is programmed by Follett and the school library site can be found here.   The system is very easy to use with its graphic interface and I am sure that students would be able to find resources quickly.  There is a book catalog component, but the best feature is the links to appropriate websites for the students.  All of the websites have been moderated.  This ensures the safety of students when they are using the Internet and doing research.

When I reflect upon the six week journey I have been on, I keep coming back to blogging as my favourite part.  While I didn’t enjoy the deadlines, I enjoyed the process.  The free flowing nature of the writing was a breath of fresh air.  My fingers seemed to dance across the keyboard as the words I was thinking appeared on the screen.  I was writing about topics that interested me and I was able to turn the readings I had read and the musings floating in my head into tangible thoughts and ideas that could be implemented in the classroom when I head back to school in just a few short weeks.

I recently read a blog posting by Avinash Kaushik on the benefits of blogging.  Kaushik (2008) described 8 benefits to blogging.  I will describe a couple that I think relate well to educators in general.  Kaushik describes that he gained “friends” from his blog.  I am comfortable with the friends that I have, but what is more important is that you are developing a network of like minded individuals.  By blogging and sharing my thoughts with other teachers who are interested in technology, I am able to learn from these teachers as well.

A second benefit of blogging that Kaushik identifies is the ability to influence others.  Influence is not really a measurable quantity, but as a blogger, your ideas are going out to a larger audience.  The people reading your blog may be challenged by the words on the screen.  For me, I am excited about the chance to share my opinions and am not concerned with whether or not anyone actually agrees with me or is moved by what I am writing.  Over time, however, I am sure that I would be very proud of myself to have people who I have never met comment on my blog with phrases such as, “I totally agree with what you are saying and I will have to try that in my classroom.”  To have a teacher change their practice for the benefit of students because of my blog would be a great accomplishment.

The final benefit of Kaushik’s that I would like to share is the idea of creating a legacy.  I have 3 little girls and taking my masters and and trying to be the best teacher I can be takes time away from them.  I want them to grow up and be whatever they want to.  But, I would love for them to be able to read my writing and get to know Dad a little bit better.  I want them to see that I didn’t just do all of this for a better paycheck or to get a better job, rather I did it to improve myself and become a better teacher for my students.

Now what?

With all of the learning that has occurred in the last 6 weeks, I am not the same person.  I have the desire and need to share the ideas and knowledge that I have gained with others.  I hope that my colleagues at school know what they are in for, if they don’t, they soon will.  The last couple of weeks, more than the first four, I have started tagging websites, videos, and other content on the net.  As I tag it, I think to myself, “that would be good for Joclyn”, “that would be good for Amy”, “that would be good for Shara” amongst all of the other teachers at school that I have found cool resources for.  I feel that it is almost on obligation on my part to share the weird and wonderful things that I have learned.  What is comforting to know, for myself, is that I work with a fantastic group of teachers and teaching assistants and they will be very excited to take the information that I share with them and put it into practice.  For every time I say, “that would be good for…”, they have a student in mind, “that would be good for”.

I envision myself helping my colleagues use web2.0 tools to enhance their teaching.  As I expressed in my previous post, using a tool such as Ning can be a benefit for teachers and students.  This one tool could have a big impact on student learning, engagement, and achievement.

How my fellow classmates have taught me…

The first thing I know I have learned from my fellow classmates is that I can be a stronger writer.  I read Shirley’s blog and I am amazed at her ability to develop a theme related to what we are learning and thread her ideas and opinions into it.  Not only does Shirley develop themes, but she shares herself in her writing.  Through her writing I have come to know a lot more about her personal life and her likes.  As a result, I can relate to the words she is putting on the screen.

From Heather, I saw her passion come through on the page.  Knowing Heather from our time together in Undergraduate Student Services and taking another class together, it was awesome to see her love of her new position with the U of A and how she was trying to better herself and the program she works within.  I continually need to share my passion for teaching and technology with my students and staff mates.  It is easy to get into a rut and simply teach from the text.  The text is old, the text is boring, and the text is not the be all and end all.  As a teacher, I can inspire and with the use of technology, I can engage, and I can be a phenomenal teacher with phenomenal students.  When I am feeling down or not quite excited to spend 3 or 4 hours online planning a lesson or activity that involves technology, I will remember Heather’s commitment to her students and will Google my way across the Internet and blogs in search of ideas that will engage my students in the classroom.

As I wrote about at the beginning of this blog posting, the learning that took place was highly independent.  The Trailfire sites gave us direction, the Richardson text gave us background and insight, but the real learning occurred through the reading that each student did on their own.  From the websites, blogs, videos, slide shares, articles, reports, and all of the other content available online, I have developed a tool box of web2.0 that I will be taking to school with me in September.  This course was demanding in terms of the time it took to complete the blogging (the word blogging was word number 18,701), but I honestly think this course will have as much affect on my teaching as my two field experience courses that I took as part of my undergraduate degree.

To all of my classmates and to Jennifer, thank you for sharing in my learning.  Please continue to keep track of this blog, it will be morphing I am sure into a blog that is more reflective of the teaching I am doing and what I see occurring in education related to educational technology.  I may change the internet location of the blog, will have one final post to share the new location if that happens.

I can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=747316141 – please be my friend.

I can be found on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dancoles/ – please follow me.

Thank you all again so much for all of the learning and sharing.

Here is a video – cheesy, I know! but we did talk about video sharing!

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NetworkING in a school community

August 13, 2009

Change is a slow process in the field of education.  There are active users of educational technology, but for the most part, teachers are not readily accepting of technology.  If teachers do choose to integrate technology, it is initially used as a tool for presenting content as opposed to a tool that is integrated with the curriculum for the benefit of students.

The video below, created by Jon Leister (n.d) describes three phases of technology integration into the classroom:

From the video, you will see that there are three phases of technology integration.  Leister’s website, which explains the three phases indicates that the first two phases include dynamically presenting information from a variety of resources in a multimedia situation (presenting notes using PowerPoint or presenting a science lab on an interactive whiteboard) and the second phase includes accessing information using technology (using search engines, tracking stocks, completing web quests).

It is Leister’s third phase where technology really begins to re-shape what is occurring in the classroom.  In the the third phase, students are asked to engage in the creation or production of an end product (movie, discussion with students from another location, podcast, vidcast, writing in a blog).

I am going to use Leister’s third phase as a framework for introducing a new technology to my colleagues at the school that I teach at.  As part of the EDES 501 course that I am taking at the University of Alberta, I have been asked to blog about the tool I would introduce to the staff I work with that would help to support technology integration in my school.  The item that I have chosen to introduce to my school staff is the social networking tool Ning.

Why choose Ning?

I chose to present Ning because it has a number of features that Ning possesses.  The specific features that lead me to want to present Ning include:

  • Blog feature – third phase tool
  • Forum – third phase tool
  • Video sharing – second phase tool
  • Photo sharing – second phase tool
  • Event posting – possible third phase tool

The video below is a quick overview of Ning and some of the features it has.

For more tutorial type videos, see the YouTube user Kristi Gott.  She has numerous tutorial videos on using Ning.

It is my personal belief that when professional development occurs for teachers two things have to happen:

  1. Teachers need to participate in an activity that is related to the learning they are doing.  For example, if I am learning about using Notebook software for the SmartBoard, I need to be able to sit down and practice the skills as I am learning them.
  2. When teachers have completed a PD session, it can not stop there.  There must be some sort of follow up activity that will allow the teacher to continue to be engaged, continue to learn, and to have support for their learning.

With these two beliefs in mind, a Ning is a tool that will help teachers to engage their students in technology in the classroom and continue to receive support through a Ning that is developed for teachers to share their experiences and continue to be engaged in learning.

The Learning Process

The first step I would take with teachers is to present Ning.  I would conduct a presentation of Ning in our computer lab and walk teachers through the process of developing a Ning.  This would include:

  • Creating an account
  • Creating a Ning
  • Developing layout for Ning
  • Choosing applications (photo sharing, video sharing, blog, forum, etc.)
  • Using specific applications (uploading video, uploading photos, writing a blog, etc.)
  • Changing security profile

Once the initial learning had taken place, I would introduce the teachers to the Ning that I had created for them.  The HR Teachers Technology Network is a Ning that allows the teachers in my school to share their successes, continue their learning about Ning, and begin to learn about other technology applications that can benefit learning in the classroom.

HR Teacher’s Technology Network

I have placed some information on the HRTech Ning to show how it could be used by and for teachers to help in their learning.  I will identify the information I have added and will indicate how it could be used.

Discussion Forums

I have included 5 discussion forums to start the Ning.  Each one is an opportunity for teachers to share links and resources with each other.  As an added request, in each post, teachers are asked to indicate the grade level, subject area, and if the link or resource has been used in the classroom and with what sort of success.  There is also a forum for the sharing and uploading of Notebook files.  This will allow for further integration of our SmartBoard technology which was recently introduced into our school.

Another discussion post is an academic reading post.  Here, teachers are encouraged to post articles related to educational technology that are written for academic journals and not only as online content.  Journal articles often have more weight in discussion because they are peer reviewed.

The final discussion topic that I have included is a Twitter address posting.  I have found Twitter to be such a wonderful tool to get new ideas, share ideas, and create a network of like minded individuals.  In the past few weeks, I have gained so many rich ideas and #edtech resources, all because of Twitter.  So, while I am not discussing the merits of Twitter in this blog posting, I think it is something that my colleagues could definitely benefit from.

Teaching is an extremely busy profession and is often done in isolation from the other staff in the building.  This discussion forum creates an opportunity for collaboration and sharing of resources.

Teachers are, of course, encouraged to add their own disucssion forums.  I would want the site to become the property of each and every teacher in the school.  Therefore, I would ensure that they felt comfortable enough in adding content that they wanted to see or asking questions that they are looking for answers to.  I envision a discussion on successes and areas for improvement in order to further the sharing that exists.

Blog

I have included the blog feature to the Ning site in order to share tips, commentary, opinion, and to challenge teachers to respond to educational technology discussion.

One of the blogs that I have put up as an example is a blog on the use of #hashtags in Twitter.  Hashtags are a great way to organize information on Twitter and to search content.

I would continue to blog to this Ning in order to keep up the momentum of the site and as a way to encourage teachers to continue to be involved with the network and as a reminder of the positive work they are doing in their classrooms.  I would also highly encourage teachers to add their own blog postings to the Ning.  This would be a great first step in them creating their own blogs outside of the Ning.  In fact, I would challenge each teacher in the school to post a blog a month.  When there is a goal and some expectation placed upon a teacher they are more likely to follow through.  This is one of the problems that I see with traditional PD practices.  Once the PD session is complete, it is very easy for teachers (due to the demands of teaching) to close the notebook on the PD and try to get back to it when things are a little less busy, which of course they never are.  By getting teachers to blog at least once a month, they are continuing the PD and practicing skills that will benefit them in the classroom.

Video Sharing / Picture Posting

I have included the video uploading and picture uploading to the Ning.  There is wonderful content on the Internet that is in the form of video.  There are tutorials, explanations, walk-thrus, and content videos that will enhance teaching in the classroom and professional development for the teacher.

I have uploaded a few videos to give an idea of the sort of videos that could be uploaded.

The photo uploading section is a way to share some funny comics or pictures that will serve as a point of discussion.

Events

The final area of the Ning which was added is the events section.  This allows for events to be shared with select members or all members of the Ning.  This is a great way to advertise internal and external PD opportunities.  Events such as in-house tutorial sessions on Twitter, podcasting, multimedia-sharing, and the like as well as external PD opportunities such as those offered by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium.

Conclusion

Technology is not going anywhere.  There are increased demands by school systems, parents, and students to introduce technology into the learning process.  Technology will not replace the teacher, but the teacher and students will be left behind if technology is not used to enhance the learning of 21st century learners.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, change in education is slow, but in trying to affect some change in a school, that change can not happen at warp speed, there has to be a balance.  I think that the use of Ning can help to create that balance.  Teachers need not venture all over the Internet for resources, ideas, and support.  Rather, they are gaining information and support from the people who work across the hall or in the other wing.  That support is simply moving from the staff room to the Internet where conversations are sometimes easier, due to the demands placed on teachers.

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TechTips: #hashtags

August 12, 2009

Twitter has blown up recently!  If you are not on Twitter you are not up-to-date on the latest and greatest that is happening in the world around us.  Twitter is a micro-bloggin site that allows users to answer the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 characters.

“Tweets” the messages that users post to Twitter are sent to followers of the individual sending the tweet.

As Twitter has become more involved and communities of users have evolved, the language of Twitter has evolved as well.  One of the ways in whcih Twitter has evolved is the use of hashtags.  A hashtags will appear in a tweet like this: #yeg, #teaching, #edtech.  Each of these represents a different category or subject.

#yeg = Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

#teaching = teaching

#edtech = educational technology

Obviously some of the hashtags are easy to understand, others are not as intuitive.  The more tweets you begin to receive and read, the easier it is to understand what the hashtags mean.

You may be wondering why hashtags would even be used and that is a good question.  Because there are so many tweets on so many subjects, hashtags allow for the ability to search Twitter tweets.  One such search engine is the website http://www.icerocket.com.  I learned of this site through a tweet from Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Maverick’s and technology entrepeneur.

IceRocket allows you to search hashtags and text that appear in a tweet.  Click here to see a search of #edtech.

The results will show you when the tweet was made, who made the tweet, how many people follow the person who made the tweet, the tweet, and will give you the ability to reply to the poster or retweet the tweet.

Other websites that allow you to search Twitter content:

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I have a new identity…

August 12, 2009

Just wanted to share my new identity with you.  It is an avatar that I created using FaceYourManga.  My avatar is wearing a slightly work brown sport jacket, you know, the kind that is just so comfortable you can’t throw it out, and it can be worn during any occassion so it is a classic and a must keep.  I have decided to sport a green t-shirt and matching ball cap.  Green is currently my favourite colour.  The ball cap is being worn to show the sporty side of me.

The new manga me

The new manga me

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You wanna do what for PD: Blogging AS and FOR professional development

August 10, 2009

Teachers rarely get to self-select learning opportunities, pursue professional passions, or engage in meaningful, ongoing conversations about instruction.

-Ferriter (2009)

Blogs can be the tool that helps to change this statement.  I would argue that blogs can be used AS a PD tool to help teachers learning and FOR a PD tool to help teachers learning.

AS

There are numerous blogs about learning and teaching that exist on the internet.  In a Google search of education and blogs, there were 273 million results.  Not all of these were blogs, some were listings for blogs, other were blogs about education blogs, but the vast majority were blogs written by educators for educators.

Topics in the field of education vary.  Technology education is a topic of many education blogs, but there are blogs related to special education, art education, and many others.  The amount of knowledge that the authors of these blogs posses is unfathomable.  From James Hollis who publishes a SmartBoard blog, to Vicki A. Davis who post a general educational technology blog, there are numerous blogs that will satisfy the thirst for knowledge for teachers.  Check out the Davis site as it has an “edublog roll” of other education related blogs.  Be sure to check it out.

How do you find the time to read all of the quality information that exists in educational blogs?  The answer to this question is through the use of an RSS reader or RSS aggregator.  An RSS reader is a free tool that checks out websites that you have subscribed to and will download new content.

RSS Feed Icon

RSS Feed Icon

The icon to the left is an icon that appears on most blogs.  There are a few other versions of the icon, but they all do the same thing.  When the icon is clicked on, it begins the process of subscribing to the “RSS feed” for the website.  In plain english, your RSS reader will now pull in any new content that is publihsed to that website/blog.  As a user of the RSS feed, the next time you go to the reader, there will be an update of all of the blogs that you subscribe to.  There are various RSS readers.  One of the most popular is the Google Reader.  Personally, I have set up my RSS feeds into my Microsoft Outlook.  When there is new content, the title of the feed turns to bold and I know that there is new content waiting for me.

Much like my travels through the internet, I quickly scan the titles of the blogs to see if there is anything that interests me.  I now see how extremely important it is for me to have a blog title that is catchy (more on this later).   With ten minutes before I have to be out the door to take my girls to gymnastics camp, I read 2 or 3 blog postings.  I have learned a bit about what a Twitter Panel is and will have to do some more research if I find the time.

There is a blog for everything education related.  My best piece of advice is to find a half dozen to a dozen blogs that you find interesting.  They may be interesting because of the style of writing (see a fellow classmates blog) or perhaps the content is just really really good.  You could spend all day reading blog postings, but you would never actually get on with the rest of your life.  There has to be a balance.  So,

  • find the ones that you get the most out of
  • find a certain amount of time each day to read them
  • engage with the author and other readers of the blog
  • and start your own blog – see next section

FOR

mrcoles.wordpress.com – my fingers have memorized the sequence and location of the letters as I have typed this address into the address bar of my browser so many times in the past 5 weeks.  This is not abad thing, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences blogging and hope to continue once this course comes to a close.

Blogging allows the everyday person to be a writer and a publisher.  Whether it is at the kitchen table, the computer desk, or from a cozy bed, with the covers pulled up, anyone can publish their thoughts and opinions for the world to see.  I have always been under the impression that my ideas were amateurish.  I didn’t have a book deal, a publisher, or an editor.  I would never see my name and face on the inside cover of a book.  I still don’t think I will ever see my name and face on the inside cover of a book and I won’t have an editor (other than my wife Meghan), but I can be a published author.  My ideas have value and I am sure there is someone (maybe only one) who will be interested in my thoughts and opinions on topics that interest me.

To blog is to be reflective in practice.  From the time I was in university, reflective practice was something that was preached.  As we went to out into the real world of teaching we were supposed to bring our reflective journals with us.  In theory this is a great idea, in reality this is not likely to happen.  The act of teaching (and marking, and coaching, and meeting, and …) takes up too much time.

Who was going to read the reflection anyway?  I wasn’t going to, I wrote it, why would I read or re-read it?  The co-operating teacher and University Facilitator might, but only until the field experience was over, then who would read it?  There wasn’t an audience, there wasn’t someone to give you feed back.  The exercise lost it’s meaning because it was a one way conversation.

This is where the professional learning blog comes in.  There are teachers out there who will communicate, who will share, who will comment, who will reciprocate the one way discussion into a two way discussion and give the act of writing one’s thoughts and ideas more meaning.  I fully plan to have two PD goals this year.  The first is to have continued work on my masters.  That is an easy one.  The second will be to have a blog on technology education as it relates to my use of it.  I may include information on the newest web2.0 technology to come out and how it can be used within the classroom, but I primarily want to discuss my abilities to use technology in the classroom and the success or lack of success that I have.  I hope that I can develop a community of people who will read and respond to my blog.  The response will give me feedback, ideas, and support so that I can continue my journey of education technology integration.  With support comes improved teaching for myself and improved learning (I hope) for my students.  Is this not the goal of a professional growth plan.  It is not a piece of paper that you make two copies of (one for you, one for your administrator) so that you can say you completed it.  The growth plan is designed to help the teacher grow and I feel that active blogging and reflecting will help me to do that.  I also believe that the readers of the blog can see grwoth as well.  They will be gaining in their knowledge, but they will be encouraged to try new things, learn more, do more, and teach better as a result.

References:

Ferriter, B. (2009) Learning with blogs and wikis.  Educational Leadership, 66(5), p. 34 – 38. Retrieved August 9, 2009 from CBCA Education Database.

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Bringing the classroom to the real worldng tea

August 10, 2009

Lombardi (2007) states, “Learning-by-doing is generally considered the most effective way to learn. The Internet and a variety of emerging communication, visualization, and simulation technologies now make it possible to offer students authentic learning experiences ranging from experimentation to real-world problem solving.”  The act of blogging makes Lombardi’s statement a reality for students who are engaged in the process.

I know, that I know more about web2.0 tools today then I did at the beginning of the course.  With 21 blog posts under my belt, I have had to research, analyze, and create an abundance of information to share with my fellow classmates amongst others.

I received a comment on my blog from Jeff O’Hara the other day. He is one of the co-founders of the website Edmodo.com, a educational micro-blogging site that is designed for use in schools due to its high level of security. I e-mailed Jeff to see how he found my blog and I did not receive a response, but did see in my blog statistics that words used to find my blog included Edmodo and Jeff O’Hara.

I thought it was so amazing that a real live tech person who is responsible for a web2.0 tool communicated with me about something I had written.  I was over the top with excitement, so much so, I showed my wife the comment (she didn’t think it was as cools as I did).  This is but a small example of the impact that a blog can have upon a student.  I can only imagine the thrill that a student would experience receiving a comment or feedback from an expert in a field, an author, or a parent, to share ideas and provide support and encouragement.  To have one’s knowledge and ideas given recognition is an experience of  an ‘academic high’.  I am sure this would be such an encouraging experience that students would be apt to continue the process.

I mentioned earlier that I had created an abundance of information that I shared on my blog.  I must be honest, the creating that took place was done late at night after my three girls were in bed and I was often quite tired, but it was invigorating to be creating something that I knew others would be looking at.  I thoroughly enjoyed looking at my statistics to see how many people had visited my blog and seeing if anyone had commented.  Knowing that I was contributing to a body of knowledge, or at least my opinions on a topic was a riveting experience.

These experiences can take many different forms.  From the insight blogging that my classmates and I were creating in which we discussed the various web2.0 technologies to life blogging where events in the author’s life are shared, there are many different ways or styles to write a blog.  The fact that there is such a variety to the style of and purpose for writing a blog means that individuals who are looking to blog can find a style that is just right for them.

Using a blog in the classroom

There are a couple of ways that I plan on using blogs in my classroom this upcoming school year (which, by my count, is three weeks away, yikes!!!).

  1. I plan to have the blog as a primary tool of communication for my grade 8 students this upcoming year.
  2. I plan to have my students blog about their learning.  Similar to Twitter’s question of “What are you doing?” they will answer via their blog, “What have you learned this week.”

The blog as communication tool

At this point, I have set up a second blog to my WordPress account.  It can be found at http://hrgrade8.wordpress.com.  I have added information to the about section and have made a first post.  In a quick amount of time, I am able to communicate information.  This is much more efficient for parents than waiting for a newsletter from the school or notes home from teachers.

As a teacher, I think this tool could be highly effective.  Parents and students will get information almost instantly and there is an archived record of it.  By including a tag for each day such as mondayaugust31 and including the calendar feature, the parent also has a search feature to help them locate a specific blog posting if they so desire.

At first, I see this blog as a one way method of communication with the information flow from the teacher to the students and parents.  I do envision, however, the comments feature allowing for discussion to begin and the learning and information exchange that happens in the classroom to begin to occur outside of the classroom after the day is done.

The blog as learning tool

I want to make a slight change to the Twitter question: “What are you doing?” and I want to give my students a few more characters than 140 (although some might prefer only 140 characters), perhaps 140 words.  The question I want them to answer is, “What have I learned this week?”

As a method of getting the students to blog, I want to have them answer this question with very little restriction upon them.  Blogging, for me at least, is a free flowing activity where I simply sit at the computer and type.  For this course, I have had to stop and plan a bit more, but I want students to have an opportunity to just write about what they have learned.  The blogs they create can go so many places in answering that question.  Blog entries on learning can vary:

  • Forgetting your lunch is a bad thing
  • Pythagoras’ theorem is …
  • Romeo and Juliet is an awesome love story
  • Mean people suck
  • Lying is never a good thing

With students answering one question a week, they will have an opportunity to develop their writing skills, but also their critical analysis and self reflection skills.

Once students have begin to understand the blog writing process, the topics of writing can become more in-depth and focused.  For example, the blog can be be used for students to discuss their learning in particular subjects.  I would use it in science to have students write out their lab write-ups.  Using the comment feature, students could give each other feedback.  The author could then make changes in order to make it better.  In physical education, a blog could be maintained in order to track eating habits and physical activity levels.  With the inclusion of commentary on the information, the blog would become a very highly reflective piece of work.

Conclusion:

Blogging provides students with an opportunity to share their ideas in a format that is meeting with their 21st century learning style.  They can share and exchange opinions with their classmates in a digital format in any one fo the 24 hours in a day.  For me as the teacher, the blog provides an effective communication tool from the classroom to the parent or student.  The days of, “I didn’t know it was due” will be almost over as students will have the information they require at their finger tips.

Next post: In my next post, I will look at Blogging for the purpose of professional development.

References:

Lombardi, M. (2007). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. Boulder, CO: Educause. Retrieved August 10, 2009, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3009.pdf

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140 characters of web2.0

August 6, 2009

This blog is going to be created in 140 or less character tweets.

Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that allows the user to update their status in 140 character posts.

Twitter is currently a highly popular web2.0 tool that is becoming more and more popular amongst internet users including celebrities.

I have recently joined the twitterverse by creating a twitter account under the name dancoles.  To date I am currently following 57 tweeple. [twoosh]

I decided to follow individuals that had similar interests to me.  This included adding some sports media and teachers and edtech people.

My initial thoughts were that twitter was a bit dumb.  I would use twitter.com and check it a couple of times a day.   Why was this dumb?

Only checking it a couple of times a day meant that there were tons of tweets updated and I had trouble going through them all.

I have since added TweetDeck and now I get a notification when there is a new update.  Now I can see all of the tweets.

This means of course that I need to be very selective in who I add to follow, I want quality tweets, not random ones that will take my attn. [twoosh]

Ok – typing sentences in 140 characters is tough and probably annoying to read.  The process was quite interesting though.  I needed to be very succinct in what I was typing and could not ramble.  I could add another tweet, but not go on and on and on in one tweet.

According to Wikipedia Twitter was originally released in July 2006 for public consumption.  The initial idea of Twitter was as a status update using 140 characters, the number of characters you are allowed to use in a SMS text message.

I have to be honest, my first thoughts when I heard about Twitter were, “How silly is this?” and I certainly thought that Twitter had no place in an educational setting.  But, as I did more research into it, I discovered that micro-blogging could have a role in a school setting.

Laura Walker, a teacher and director of e-learning from the UK suggests nine different ways teacher should be using Twitter.  I will list them here, but please see Laura’s blog for more details:

  1. Together, we are better – …”twitter is like a virtual staffroom…”
  2. Global or local, you choose – great way to network with teachers from other parts of the world.
  3. Self-awareness and reflective practice – “Teachers on Twitter share these reflections and both challenge and support each other.”
  4. Ideas workshop and sounding board – “Twitter is a great medium for sharing ideas and getting instant feedback.”
  5. Newsroom and innovation showcase – “Twitter helps…stay up to date on news and current affairs, as well as on the latest developments in… areas of interest”
  6. Professional development and critical friends – Twitter allows for a network of colleagues who are in the same industry.
  7. Quality-assured searching – With a properly designed network, asking a question will get you a better answer from your network than a general internet search.
  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Twitter allows for concise to the point messages.
  9. Getting with the times has never been so easy! – Twitter is an easy web2.0 tool to use.

Another blog post I was able to find belongs to Carol Cooper-Taylor, who has 50 suggestions for using Twitter.  The fact that the information for this blog is coming from blogs is very important, I think.  This technology is so new, there isn’t much in the way of academic writing on the topic.  I did a Google search and a Google scholar search on the term “micro-blogging and education”  The Google search produced 13384 times more results with most of the results on the first page being blog articles.  I think this shows the nature of the medium, it is cutting edge and academia has not had the time to research this fully.  I believe this is where a lack of acceptance from education administration comes from.  It is not a proven entity, it is not tested, there is too much fear about the risks, and not enough risk taking to support the benefits.  I do think that teachers are being responsible about web2.0 tools such as Twitter.

Laura Walker’s reasons for Twitter focused on the teacher and I think this is appropriate.  The setting that I teach in, grade 7 – 9, in my opinion, would not be the best for student access to Twitter at all times of the day.  Students would have access to all of Twitter which has content that may not be appropriate for a school setting.  As well, the infrastructure of our school isn’t set up for it either.  We do not yet have wireless access to the internet, but it is coming.  And, while there may be a high percentage of kids with the technology to post Twitter comments, not all of them do.  Some have cell phones that are internet capable or have laptops with WLAN capabilities, not all do.  I don’t think web2.0 technologies can be a some, but not all type of technology.  Until schools can ensure 100% possession of the hardware associated with web2.0 tools, they can not be mandated.

I do think that there certainly useful applications for Twitter for teachers.  I think it would be great for teachers within a school or a school district to tweet about what they are doing in their classroom.  Far too often, we are isolated in our classroom with our thoughts on what do I have to do in 5 minutes, what do I have to do in an hour, what do I have to do tomorrow.  By sharing with colleagues what you are working on, teachers can provide support, advice, resources, and perhaps even a shoulder to cry on.  One of the comments I hear from teachers, even within a small school, such as the one I teach in, is the fact they don’t know what is going on in other classrooms.  If teachers are sharing on Twitter, the chances for collaboration and mutual support are increased, for the benefit of teachers and students within the school.

I am really excited about my own personal Twitter account.  I have added some extremely smart people to my Twitter account.  They are active professionals in the educational technology realm and I look forward to learning more about the things they are doing and getting help and advice from them.  There is this thought that teachers are bad sharers and what’s theirs is theirs.  This is not true of teachers on Twitter and the like.  Teachers who are engaged in web2.0 are willing to share, willing to help, and willing to give advice and time.  This is the defining characteristic of web2.0; individuals working together in collaboration towards a goal.

Other Options

There are other options to Twitter in the classroom if a teacher is going to use a micro-blogging software in the classroom.  One tool is called Edmodo.  Edmodo is a a educational tool that has micro-blogging functions as well as file sharing, assignment submission, and class calendar features.  The benefit to a tool like this is that it is completely private.  Nothing can leave the site without the group administrator allowing it.  The standard security features are set to private.

My final resource for those of you who are interested in Twitter is wiki all about Twitter for teachers.  Check it out: http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com/

All the best and see you in Twitterville.  I can be found under dancoles.

Dan