“…we should be teaching skills laid on the foundations of creativity, collaboration, & critical thinking”
I ran across this line in Durff’s blog last week and I’ve been pondering about it all week and it made me think to myself, what if school was based on the 3 C’s (I’m not throwing out the 3 R’s). What would school 2.0 look like in my classroom if that were true?
Creativity: Students would be given opportunities to express themselves in ways that are creative and true to themselves. Even though I might demonstrate a technique I would NEVER expect a student to feel like they need to complete the task “my way”. I encourage individuality and applaud risk-takers and those who are willing the share their ideas and work. Students could work in a variety of medium (print, audio, visual, etc..) and also be encouraged to stretch themselves and try something new.
Collaboration: My students walk into my computer lab and are very territorial about where they sit. It’s like “this is my computer and this is my space – stay out!” First of all I want to get them out of their seats and walking over to teammates workspaces. Next, I want them to share and comment on each other’s work. This year my advanced graphic design and video students will each have individual blogs to share the process of how they created each project and show samples. Students will be broken into small groups and will be required to dialogue and comment on (at least) group member’s postings. We will also continue to use Moodle, wikis, google docs and shared bookmarks for collaboration.
Criticial thinking: This one is the most important! Computer classes are not just about “learning and doing”. AND it’s not just about the end product – it’s about the process and all the small and major decisions that were made during the project. I want to make sure that I give many opportunities for students to evaluate, research, synthesize, write, revise, create and produce meaningful work that is authentic and has value.
Teaching at a private high school I feel like I always have to battle the 3 G’s (grades, grades, grades!). Giving students opportunities to express themselves in ways that are creative and authentic and asking them to work together with classmates on challenging and interesting assignments will keep the focus on LEARNING and expressing their views in a way that is valuable and real.
My educational schooling has taught me that differentiating instruction means “creating multiple paths so that students of different abilities, interest or learning needs experience equally appropriate ways to absorb, use, develop and present concepts as a part of the daily learning process.”
Never before have I experienced this type of instruction than I have during this week at flash animation tech camp. The week-long daycamp is for 10-15 years olds – and we know how every parent stretches that a bit. The youngest boy is starting 4th grade and the oldest will be sophomore in high school – but most are around 12. Do you know the maturity difference between a 4th grader and a sophomore (ok, ok .. at times – not much) but ** WOW ** there’s a huge difference.
The students are all eager to learn flash animation – so that helps – but each comes with a different set of skills, ability to pay attention, willingness to put forth effort and unique personality. Each day I am presenting an animation that teaches a new technique and the students follow along and modify the flash project to their own liking. There is a still plenty of time for individual projects and interests. Each student is placing their flash movies on a webpage to showcase the week’s work.
At the end of the day today, the entire group went around from computer to computer to view the projects so far. The amazing thing was that they were all pretty good. Yes, some students were more artistic than others and some had mastered more advanced technical skills, but we were all able to applaud each other’s work. I believed it even sparked some new interest in some advanced techniques.
So even though maturity will always be a factor when you place groups of kids together – a common interest, like making and watching animated movies, will level the playing field and connect people of all ages.
View sample Flash Movie
My submission to the four slides contest. Not being one to follow exact rules and being confined to “slides” – here’s mine. No slant … just me.
This week I am teaching a Flash animation camp for kids 10-15 sponsored by OETC . I have spent most of the day pondering my goals and looking over the proposed curriculum that I designed last May. More than any technique or skill mastery, I want these students to be creative, to feel competent that they can succeed and have fun!! This is not school – there is no grade, no evaluation or “assignments” to do. This is summer camp and the week is all about exploring, sharing, learning from each other, laughing, having fun and making “cool” flash animations.
I am bringing out my pirate hat, disco music and my favorite flash movies. Technology is fun. Flash is “wicked sweet” (as quoted by anonymous teenager).
Let the fun begin!
In his article about Instructional scaffolding, Konrad Glogowski describes a educational scenario how Web 2.0 tools support learning:
Let’s say that the student has chosen a specific aspect of the broader topic of social justice and is in the process of collecting information and resources. In today’s world of the world wide web and information overload, the student can begin to feel lost amid all the information. This presents the teacher with a perfect opportunity to introduce RSS, for example, or a tool that can be used to aggregate video clips, such as VodPod or a YouTube account. It also presents a perfect opportunity to work with the student on specific curriculum related skills, such as summarizing. This can also be a fantastic opportunity to help the student start a research journal (on her blog, using a del.icio.us account, or a tumble log) or use mindmapping to develop a plan for further research. The point here is that once the student feels stuck, overwhelmed, or discouraged, a perfect opportunity presents itself for the teacher (or a more knowledgeable peer) to step in and offer support.
Glogowski quotes Judith A. Langer who argues “that in order to use instructional scaffolding teachers need to ensure that the students have ownership of the learning event”. Glogowski goes on to say that “once the student is engaged as a researcher/writer/thinker, the teacher can focus on conversing with the student.”
Researcher/writer/thinker. Do we view our students like that? Do we give our students the respect to initiate, plan and developing their own learning and thinking? Do we see our ourselves as “co-participants” in our student’s research or are we waiting for the final product to be finished so we can “evaluate” it.
This mind shift is critical if we are to embrace a learner-centered environment. But Glogowski also makes a second point:
The sense of partnership that developed through the initial set of instructional conversations needs to evolve in order to be of benefit to the student. Since I now know (I have seen) that my student has made progress, I need to use different tools and engage in different conversations in order to ensure that the student does not see my involvement as patronizing or intrusive. The set of competencies that developed as a result of our instructional conversations now demands that our conversations increase in sophistication.
Our responsibilites and the tools we use change as our students grow and learn. As educators we cannot sit by passively and wait for our students “to get it”. We need to constantly adapt, challenge and find new ways to engage them in the conversation so they are involved in the process. Glogowski states that “blogging in a supportive community of peers …allows for the development of higher-order cognitive operations”. He concluded with two pieces of advice:
Create “activity settings” where writing is a tool for learning and not a way of presenting acquired information.
Ensure that writing is motivated by the student’s need to communicate ideas that are important – things that he or she wants to say.
I am encouraged once again to see the discussion in the blogosphere about making sure we use Web 2.0 tools to support learning and a new pedagogy in the classroom. Chris Lehmann writes about using the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework by Wiggins and McTighe. We need to make sure we are not doing “activities” just for the sake of their newness or cool factor. With such limited time during the day, each of our assignments must be focused on student understanding and our goals and objectives. Lehmann writes:
… we owe it to ourselves and our kids to step back and ask ourselves questions like:
- How does the use of this tool contribute to a students’ understanding of the unit / project / class.
- How does the use of the tool enhance a students’ ability to communicate their ideas / refine their presentation skills?
- Does the tool change the frame or lens with with students can view their learning process?
- Does the tool powerfully expand or change students’ learning network?
- Is the tool more fun than useful? (Not that fun is bad, I like fun, but let’s also acknowledge that, in schools, our learning should be “serious fun.”)
The underlying theme is that we must design our lessons purposefully and thoughfully. I admit it – I am guilty of incorporating a new gadget or tool, or “fun” activity into my lessons just for the sake of the activity – with no real goal or purpose in mind. But after reading UbD, I see now how I could have still used those same tools – but redesigned the lesson in a way that using the tool led to learning and a better understanding of the goal in mind – AND- the students too would know WHY they were doing the activity – a key point that too often we assume they know why (ask them!).
With the school year looming a month away – it’s time for me to pull out my Understanding by Design book and reread sections so my frame of mind is properly set for lesson planning.
You might also want to check out the UbD wiki where you can post your UbD curriculum units.
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach made an important statement about Web 2.0 tools and learning:
It’s All about the Learning
Teachers like tangibles. I think the reason there is so much focus on the tools, rather than how to use the tools to support learning is because when we are learning something new we want something concrete to manipulate. Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis and podcasts give us that concrete fix. Teachers, like their students, need time to explore the tools before getting on with the learning. However, at some point in a PD 2.0 workshop the focus needs to switch from the tool itself to making the tool a seamless medium for mastery of standards-based objectives and 21st Century life skills.
I have been blogging about my favorite tools lately and I don’t want anyone to get the idea that it’s all about the tools – it’s not – it’s about how the tools support learning. I think Sheryl is right when she states that teachers like students want some time to play around with tools. My concern is always if the the learning stops when the tool is mastered -OR- does the ease of the tool now allow the focus to be whether this new tool will actually support or enhance learning or not.
Learning is social. Web 2.0 tools are social and collaborative in nature. The tools embrace the read/write/reflect nature of learning. It is critical for teachers to utilize blogs, wikis, podcasting, and other mash-up tools themselves before they bring these technologies to their classrooms. Once they have experienced this powerful medium that gives them a voice and an audience who reads, responds and reflects upon what they have said – then they will understand how this can be powerful for their own students.
Because quite frankly, their students are probably already doing it at home and if a teacher doesn’t immerse themselves into this digital world, they will most likely attempt to use Web 2.0 in a instructivist teacher-centered mode. What a shame it will then be when the teacher complains that “these tools” don’t work and throw them out.
It’s not just about the tools. It’s about embracing a student-centered environment where students have choice … are given opportunities to have their voice heard … are encouraged to be creative … and take ownership of their own learning.
Our students want this type of learning. Are we providing it?
(Note: Motivational poster made at fd’s Flickr Toys)
Thanks to a comment by Larry Ferlazzo I have been checking out the various lists of top ten favorite tools that are listed on Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day.
You can submit your top ten list of favorite tools (only 10???) and then Jane is compiling all the tools mentioned into one master list – the Top 100.
I especially enjoyed looking at the list by guest submitter Jay Cross. Hearing how and why different folks liked their chosen tools intrigued me enough to spend way too much time checking them all out.
Here are my favorite tools (in no particular order).
- Google Products:
- Gmail. I love this web based email system and the fact that I can access it from any computer. Not only do you get tons of storage but I like the way it keeps the threaded conversations together. Gmail chat is also nifty.
- Google Docs. Google docs are great for collaborating and sharing information with others. You must invite friends to participate in your documents but it’s so easy to edit ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!.
- iGoogle and Google reader. Ok, ok, so I love of all the of the Google products – but I do use them and find them easy to use. iGoogle is a personalized page (which I make as my own homepage) that you can customize with all kinds of widgets like: weather, calendar, CNN news, Google Reader (RSS), Gmail notifier, jokes, etc…
- Googlemaps, Google Earth, SketchUp …. I love ’em all!
- Del.icio.us. I can’t believe how much I depend on this social bookmarking tool to remember sites I have visited but also for sharing cool sites with my friends. Now I don’t need to be that annoying friend who always sends emails recommending websites (I can’t help myself) – if I find a site and know my friend’s del.icio.us name I can tag the site as: for:ccassinelli and then when that user goes to their del.icio.us account they can add my favorite to theirs. This is very helpful for group projects!
- Flickr. This web-based photo sharing site is awesome for uploading photos to share with friends. I like how you can create different albums and tag photos for easy sorting. I also love snooping through my friend’s albums too!
- My first RSS aggregator was Bloglines and I still use it today. I like how I can create folders for all of the ed tech blogs I read. Here are my folders: personal, ed tech bloggers, under consideration and last chance. When I stumble across a blog I might be interested in I add the feed in the under consideration folder. When I find that I enjoy the blog and read it often it moved up in rank to the ed tech bloggers folder while some of those are demoted to last chance before I decide to do away with the feed.
- Audacity. This easy to use FREE audio editing software is easy to use for podcasting and editing audio files. You will need the LAME Mp3 encoder if you want to export your audio files at MP3 instead of WAV – but it’s easy to download and install.
- Wikispaces. I’ve already mentioned my love of wikis earlier in my blog but for collaboration and easy editing – wikis are the way to go. I also love the fact that wikispaces gives FREE wikis to teachers. Thanks for the support!
- Skype. I use skype more for IM and group chatting than Internet phone calling but it’s easy to use and really catching on.
- Flock and Firefox. Both of these browsers are excellent and have cool extensions. Most browsers have built in RSS but you can also access your Flickr pics right from the Flock toolbar – kewl!
- Moodle. I started using Moodle this last year with a few of my computer classes but will use this open-source course management system with all my classes this year. It’s easy to use, has built in blogging and modules (quizzes, journals, docs) that make it easy to keep all class documents in one area.
- YouTube. YouTube is great when you need a few laughs or want to share short family video with loved ones across the country. I also love the idea of TeacherTube. Educators need a safe and secure place where our students can particpate in the social aspect of video sharing and engaging students with video responses.
So, there’s my list. I didn’t include software tools like MS Office, Dreamweaver, Inspiration, InDesign and all of those productivity tools that I use everyday.
What is your top 10?
I spent last week as a Graduate Assistant for the Pepperdine Master’s of Arts in Educational Technology [online] program in Malibu (yes, Malibu!) California. VirtCamp is a chance for the new cadre members to meet face to face and learn the communication tools for their online year ahead. The excitement in the air was contagious and as I sat there and reflected about my 13-month journey through OMET – I was struck about how much I learned this year and how my community taught me most of what I now know.
I admit – I had to hold myself back from gushing all kinds of advice like: You’ve got to learn about del.icio.us and other social bookmarking sites. If you work on multiple computers like I do you will love having all your bookmarks in one place (plus it’s fun to snoop through other people’s bookmarks!). Wikis? I love wikis. I use them all the time. Whenever my cadremates and I were discussing a situation I was always to first to suggest, “Let’s add a link to our wiki and add our ideas there”. Wikis are so great for collaboration and giving each person a voice. Oh … and you must post all of your pics on flickr and play around with flickr toys! I found myself proclaiming the wonders of blogging – even though before this program I could barely keep a diary for more than a week. Now I find that I have so much swimming around in my head that I have to write it down so I can digest it slowly, let it mull around in my brain for awhile and then come back to the idea later on and discuss the idea some more.
I was so busy during the week that I didn’t have time for much blogging and realized how much I missed it. Now that I am finally reflecting on what happened I am realizing that blogging is so much more about the process of my thinking and actions – and less about “what happened”. I definitely missed a golden opportunity – oh well – next time.
During the course of VirtCamp, class members are thrown into social learning activities where they share how they learned what they know and are asked to complete activities in groups where they are given little direction of how to complete the project. It is basically organized chaos. Some people love the open-endedness and interactions and others crave some written directions. There is no better way to reflect on your preferred learning style than to be thrown into a situation where you are challenged to grow and be a learner again. Most of the people in the program are K-12, Higher Ed or corporate trainers and I am sure they are used to being the experts and “knowing how to do it all”. Being placed back in a position of a learner is good for educators. I think it is critical to experience and remember the feelings of nervousness, fear, frustration, exhilaration, and sense of accomplishment. It will make each of use more sensitive to the learners in our environment.
My main role was to assist the new students when they needed help with communication tools, setting up blogs, designing websites or answering basic questions. The students were eager to learn and there was A LOT to learn in a short amount of time. After teaching someone how to set up a template in Dreamweaver or how to add tags to a blog entry I found myself saying to them, OK now, pay it forward. Teach this skill to at least one other class member”. I am happy to say that after two or three days I observed many new Dreamweaver templates, lots of interesting blogs and many new skills being shared with classmates.
Just think. Individually we know a lot – but what if each of us really takes on the theme of “Pay it forward”. Collectively we know so much more and we can accomplish a great deal together. The OMET program embraces social learning at it’s best. Educators can learn a great deal from each other if we take the time to share best practices and be open to learning.
Pay it forward!
I’ve been sharing some of my favorite Web 2.0 tools lately and I’ve been reflecting how my learning has changed during the past year because of these communication tools. Before I start my list I want to share about the SEOmoz Web 2.0 Awards. The site gives you the best of the best of Web 2.0 tools as voted on by 25 knowledgable users. I have to say that for the tools that I am familiar with – I mostly agree but I also learned a ton of new tools to check out. These posts will discuss the various tools I use and why. Simply put, a wiki is a very simple web page.
Wiki – I like wikispaces. It’s free for teachers and simple to use. It doesn’t have a lot of formatting features but it gets the job done. I heard a presentation given by Adam Frey (the founder of wikispaces) at NECC on EdTechLive. It’s great to hear how wikispaces is trying to meet the needs of teachers and improve their product.You use wikis for any type of document that you want several people to access and edit. I have used them with my students when groups are planning and organizing projects – that way everyone can add their comments or easily participate. Here is a simple video from The Common Craft Show that will explain the basics of how wikis work.
Wikis aren’t just for planning. They can be the platform for classroom projects too. Let’s say that each student has chosen a specific topic in class. An easy way to share information is to place each project on a wiki and have every student’s project linked on the side navigation bar. This will encourage students to view each other’s work and even add comments if the pages are open for editing (peer review). I’ve heard of other teachers using wikis for cross-class collaboration – like the Flat Classroom project.
Wikis are great for staff development. By encouraging teachers to share their knowledge by using a wiki – you are helping to foster a community of practice where sharing is the standard and knowledge management is well organized and expected. Don’t just place a lot of links – document class/school procedures, share tips, collaborate on curriculum planning, plan staff parties, outlinefor staff development and more!
Some other great wiki tools:
Frank Smith writes in his book “The Book of Learning and Forgetting” that we learn from those around us and those with whom we identify ourselves with. Simply put, you learn from the company you keep. This type of learning is natural and long-term. We learn continuously and without noticeable effort.
Any of us who have observed students learning a new video game or how to upload music to their iPod understand that today’s students are natural learners – and it all seems so effortless. They are interested, motivated, and they know who are the experts – their friends. To watch one teenager teach another how to do something is amazing – they seem to be able to explain it in a way that others understand and without much fuss.
I think that we educators can learn a lot from watching students learn in this “classic view” of learning. Our main job is to create an environment where this type of learning is encouraged and expressed – not repressed. Student-centered learning means that the focus is on the learner – not the teacher and how the material is presented. The emphasis is on how the student is learning, the choices they have for expressing their learning, and how the teacher comes to understand that the student is learning.
Technology has long been an integral component of a learner-centered environment. It’s not the “tool” of the computer that makes it work – it the communication and the authenticity of the work that makes it real. Students who use Web 2.0 tools like social networking sites, IM and video/podcasts can share their original thoughts and ideas with the world and gather real feedback and responses from interested individuals. The conversations that get started are interesting and the students are eager and motivated to respond back – it seems effortless – Smith would call it learning.
When our students look forward to communicating with their peers about what they are learning and are given opportunities to construct meaningful knowledge (that has nothing to do with answers on a standardized test) – we can be assured that this type of learning will be long-term because the learner has identified himself/herself as a learner.
It’s exciting to join the world of edtech bloggers – especially when new sites like EduBloggerWorld was created by Steve Hargadon and friends. I look forward to participating and having conversations with my fellow bloggers.
Welcome to www.EduBloggerWorld.com, an international network for educational bloggers and friends. A meeting place, as well as a coordinating location for live face-to-face and virtual events.
If you would like to join go to http://edubloggerworld.com/ and invite me to be your friend!
Will Richardson reflects in his blog about the nature of School 2.0 and the “arrival” of Web 2.0 tools. He asks the question
Through teaching them to use these tools to publish, are we also teaching them how to use these tools to continue the learning once that project is over? Can they continue to explore and reflect on the ideas that those artifacts represent regardless of who is teaching the next class? Can they connect with that audience not simply in the ways that books connect to readers (read but no write) but in the ways that allow them to engage and explore more deeply with an ongoing, growing community of learners? Isn’t that the real literacy here?
He goes on to state the the Read/Write web really is the Read/Write/Connect/Reflect Web and we need to continue the discussion not so much about the tools – but how knowledge is about connections through individuals.
I appreciate his reflection on using Web 2.0 tools and learning. Many educators get excited about learning new tools and immediately want to integrate them into their curriculum. What I hear Will saying is that we need to stop and think why we are doing this and does this really represent learning (as oppose to just doing). Frank Smith said in “The Book of Learning and Forgetting” that you learn from the company you keep. Educators everywhere need to create a student-centered environment where learners have opportunities to create, interact, discuss, reflect, build, etc … and if that involves Web 2.0 tools – great. But if educators are only using Web 2.0 tools as an digital version of a worksheet or because it is the latest and greatest thing to hit Education 2.0 – then they are missing the mark.
I’ve been scavenging the blogosphere for great resources for podcasting. I’ve bookmarked a few good sites on my del.icio.us page . I saw that Vicki Davis at Cool Cat Teacher Blog had bookmarked Podcasting Toolbox and I found it to be a pretty comprehensive listing of: podcast creation guides, podcast hosting, podcast advertising, audio tours, video podcasting, mobile podcasting, text to podcasts, podcasts to text, podcast directories, live podcasting, podcast hosting (premium), podcast search, podcast forums, podcast creation software (offline), podcast creation software (online), and miscellaneous podcast tools. Besides the heavy advertising on the site, this looks like a great reference page to give to newbie podcasters out there.
I recently make a simple video for my faculty to introduce them to the basics of podcasting and placed it on YouTube . Enjoy and feel free to use the video anytime!
Tonight our OMET Pepperdine cadre hosted a “Give Education a Second Life” event at the NMC Campus on Teaching2 in Second Life. The event began with a keynote address by Melissa Anderson. Then a video that discusses the theme of choice was shown. Next, we listened to an interview between edtech blogger, Steve Hargadon and Gary Stager. The “Give Education a Second Life” website URL was shared as well as the contest requirements to win an iPod. The two evenings ended with lively discussion among participants.
My favorite quote of the evening was by Gary Stager: “I would suggest that without choice there is no ownership; without ownership there is no engagement; and without engagement there is no learning.” To me this quote speaks directly to what I have been trying to accomplish in my computer classes all year – engage students to increase learning. Another thing Stager mentioned was that we need to give kids more varied, deeper, richer, and more personally meaningful long-term sustained experiences. It is through these experiences that students construct knowledge – not through access to information or “interaction with the content”.
Both evenings challenged me to articulate my vision of choice and why I believe it is essential to create a learner-centered environment. Thanks to all who attended.