Category Archives: Web 2.0

Adopting (and interpreting) Web 2.0

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.

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All ideas and no assistance…

I’ve had some great ideas lately for projects involving the use of technology — most notably Web 2.0 technology — that I think would really engage the kids with the material. Multiple problems arise when I try to plan out these projects and implement them.

Problem #1: I’ve never worked with some of these tools before…
The Web 2.0 tools that are available are just mind-boggling. (Or should that be mind-blogging?) Blogs, Wikis, social networks, etc… the possibilities seem endless, and I think that’s where I’m running into a few problems. The possibilities do seem endless, and that’s probably making it more difficult for me to narrow down my focus and intent. There are so many things the kids can do with these different tools, it’s difficult to pick just one or two components and use those effectively. So many of the teachers in my building are either anti-technology or simply afraid to try using it, that there is very little building-level support for coming up with tech-related lessons and projects.

Problem #2: This takes a lot of setup and instruction before the kids even know how to use a Web 2.0 effectively…
At one of our last district meetings on implementing technology and 21st century literacies in the classroom, part of the discussion focused on teachers’ fears that they couldn’t use technology because the kids were already “masters” of the Internet. As “digital natives” they already knew so much more about the digital world than we (the immigrants) did. I don’t think this is true at all. The kids know of the digital world, but I don’t believe for a second that they are masters of it. I used that assumption that they were masters at the beginning of the year, but many of them, even at the 8th grade level, don’t know how to post something on a blog unless it’s MySpace. I can’t even remember how many times I told them to e-mail their essay to themselves so they could work on it at home and the response back was, “How do I do that?”

It takes a lot of setup and pre-instruction to get the students ready to use Web 2.0 tools, and my problem with that is the lack of tech support at the building level here. So far, this year, we’ve had two different tech coordinators for our building, with long periods of no tech coordinator in-between. We currently have no tech coordinator for our building. Even the ones we do get are not necessarily teachers, so when I go to conferences and hear about the LA teacher working with their building’s tech coordinator to prepare students for a Wiki project, that doesn’t seem like a reality here (at least not yet.) The district-level tech facilitators have been great, but they can’t come to your building every day to help out with something. It is nice to see people getting excited about some of the ideas I have for integrating Web 2.0 tools into the Language Arts curriculum. Most other teachers are so freaked out by words like “blog” or “moodle” that they don’t want to have anything to do with them. That’s completely understandable… when I didn’t know what they were, they confused me too.

Problem #3: I’m still new and this and I’m overwhelmed…
I know this is coming off as being a long and rambling complaint with a list of excuses… a new baby at home, increased responsibilities and a leadership role at school, family health problems… I don’t want to make excuses, but with all that’s going on in personal-life and professional-life, I don’t have time to run a one-man show with regard to coming up with lessons and projects that use 21st century tools.

If anyone has any solutions or suggestions, I am all ears (or eyes, as this is a blog and not a podcast!)