I’ve been listening regularly to Jeff Utecht’s podcast (“On Deck”: Shifting Our Schools) and I’ve been impressed with the caliber of the discussions that have come out of that forum. While I’ve always been interested in projects that connect students with others around the globe, I’ve never really heard any clear-cut and practical examples of how to do that. The great thing about their podcast is the international nature of the guests. There are teachers from the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. I highly recommend it to any teachers interested in adopting new technologies in your classroom.
The most intriguing thing about their recent discussions is something that should be obvious to teachers, but I’m afraid it’s not for most — what the students are learning and producing should be relevant outside of school. In fact, if students are not producing their writing or other projects to be shared with the outside world, it’s next to useless. I’ll turn that finger on myself, as well, and say I haven’t been encouraging that concept of student-published work as much as I should. I’m encouraged by the idea that podcasting, wikis, and blogs can do this. While I feel I’m a fairly tech-savvy person, I’m new at using this Web 2.0 technology in the classroom.
I’m trying this now with introducing blogging to my 8th graders. My plan for the next couple of years is to create a school-wide blog system in which the students can use blogs to write journals for Language Arts, lab reports for Science, etc. I want to start by getting all the Language Arts teachers on board with blogging. Not only does blogging get the students’ work “out there” and published for an audience, but it would also ease their teachers’ workload. Not everyone might agree, but I find it much easier to post a comment to a blog as a response to something a student has written, as opposed to writing up comments on a hardcopy essay. That’s not to say we should get rid of essays all together, but I think blogging could be a great way to help students establish voice in their writing and help teachers get immediate feedback to their students.
I think the big drawback, at least as most of the teachers in my building might view it, is understanding what a blog is, or a wiki… they know web sites and e-mail, but ask any one of them what moodle, twitter, or skype is and they would look at you as if you were from Mars. The first step, I think, to getting this to work is to help translate some of this for the other teachers, as well as finding one or two new applications they could really use effectively in the classroom and narrow down their options for them, to avoid overwhelming them.