Sunday, July 20, 2008

What does it take to join the Web2.0 education community ?

On Friday night, I spent about three hours with a teacher from a neighbouring school who asked me to help her set up a class blog and individual blogs for her students. I feel really excited for her as she walked away feeling on top of the moon and so excited about the possibilities. It made me think about what it was that made the encounter so successful and why I think that she will continue with her students on this exciting and new journey.

Here are the reasons why I think it worked.
1. Consider firstly what you want to achieve.
When Susan contacted me to help her we first had an email conversation and discussed what she wanted to achieve with her students. Initially it was for her students to publish their poetry. She wanted them to have an audience and to feel that they were doing more with their poetry than just writing them for themselves and their teacher.
2. Consider what is available on the web to achieve that goal.
We discussed the different tools she might use and I shared with her my thoughts about some simple tools that she might use.
If she wanted her students to create a website where they could all write and publish to the one space with equal publishing rights; where she and the students could see what each person contributed; where all entires were date stamped; where others could contribute via a forum or discussion, then she might choose a wiki.
If she wanted the students to be a bit more reflective; write in a more linear way; have others comment to a particular entry or post, the she might choose a blog.
If she wanted each student to have their own page, have students join interest groups within a safe environment, create forums for discussion then she might choose a ning.
3. Check out other examples.
In the week before we got together I sent Susan some examples of how I have used blogs and wikis (didn't consider nings at this point) and also a few other examples of great blogs and wikis that I have seem recently so that she could be a little more informed about the way they are being used all over the world . I tried to make sure that the ones I sent her were active and really good educationally sound example. Personally I want to set the bar high and try to encourage educators to not only think about using online tools but ensure that in their design they are challenging our students to use higher order thinking skills and skills that we know they will have to have to function in the 21stC.

4. Consider what network you want to use.
I suggested to Susan that she use Global Teacher for her own blog and Global Student for her class and student blogs. Mainly because this network is the research brain child of the Victorian Education Channel and the School Libarary Association of Victoria. They manage and provide quality online resources for Victorian teachers and students. This environment has been created to provide a supported online environment, or digital playground, for teachers to explore weblogging and then introduce it to their students.
It's a fantastic environment for teachers just starting out on the blogging journey as there is a great support network as well as excellent examples of how teachers and students are creating and publishing through their blogs.

5. Consider how you are going to set up a support network and learn how to create and manage your project.
Susan settled on creating a class blog and individual blogs for her students as they suited the purpose of the activity. So we sat down together and worked through the process by firstly setting up a class blog in and one student blog.
In our three hours these are some of the things we did:
She wrote one post on the class blog
she changed the design
we added one comment so that she could experience the moderation of comments
we added a couple of widgets to the class blog
we talked about what she does as an administrator and made a decision about the settings for the students. She decided on contributors at this stage.

She is now going to set up her class using the user and blog creator.

6. Consider how you are going to remain active
Susan has also decided to set up her own personal blog in globalteachers and we talked about what she would do with that blog. She wants to be able to reflect and discuss with colleagues her teaching experiences as she is in a small school and the only Grade 5/6 teacher. She is so excited about is all and I feel certain that she is going to ‘fly’.
She is looking at it from the point of view of her students and her own professional practice.

While we worked together over the three hours we also talked about and visited a few other places on the web that would help her in her professional journey.
I shared with her the tools that I now use in my daily professional life that keep me informed and connected in such a powerful way.
Twitter, nings, (Classroom 2.0 is a great place to start) RSS feeds, wikis, (I love wikispaces for teachers) teachertube, Diigo, vokis, Animoto education are but a few of the places she is going to hopefully visit and learn from over the next few weeks

I have been actively working and learning in this environment since around 2007 and I still get really excited about all the possibilities and connections that I make every day I came away from our meeting feeling very excited for her.
I think she has caught the bug :)


Lauren OGrady said...

Hi Anne,
I am really interested in what made your friend interested in the first place, what made her step out into the unknown? I think that that is where we need to be looking for our conversations is outside our own circles and begin talking mainstream on entry points for others. Would love to chat further about it

Anne said...

It's an interesting thought isn't it Lauren. As you and I know while the online education network is growing really rapidly there are still thousands of teachers here in Aust who don't have any idea of this environment. What is even more worrying I think, is that they don't really have any idea of the online life that their students have except from the media which tends to only report on the bad, sensationalist things. Next time I speak to her I'll ask. Better still , hopefully she'll post a response on this blog.

Lucy Barrow said...

Hi Anne and well done on your latest post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about what made your PD session so successful - preparation, finding out the teacher's needs, high quality examples to get people enthused. There is a great deal of excellent information here for both the ICT Trainer and the teachers who are interested in pursuing this exciting field of Web 2.0.
You are spot on re the fact that some teachers have absolutely no idea about learning in this way. I agree, it is very worrying indeed. I guess that's one of the reasons why I feel very fortunate to have a role where I can make teachers aware of the wonderful opportunities available to them and their students.
All I can say is, thank goodness for delicious! I have yet another wonderful blog post to add to my account. Thank goodness there is one aspect of my life that is organised!
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.
Lucy :)

susan1965 said...

Hi Anne,
Oh wow, that was amazing, reading about our work online, I nearly feel famous!!! You wrote about it so eloquently, as I read it, I was reliving that experience exactly,(which is great for my memory)as well as learning something new about myslef and about even more on line tools that I can try.Thank you very much for adding our PD to your blog becuase now I can go back to it and reread it.
Lauren in a comment asked what made me take a 'step out into the unknown'? Well the thing is, I already knew about blogs and wikis through the Leading Schools Manager's role, so it's not unfamiliar. But what I have not done is used on line tools very much in the classroom because I need to have a reason to do something that is different to the teaching strategies that I already use. Being a reflective teacher means I am always thinking of other ways to engage the students and I guess a few things have happened in the last month that have really inspired me. One source of inspiration was the ALEA national conference that focussed on digital stories. I saw some fantastic work done by primary children using on line tools and my own class are absolutley crazy about 'club penguin'. They access it in their IT lessons and they have been telling me about it. Also some of the students are not very keen on writing and I want to use blogs as a tool to inspire them because they know that they will be 'real' publishers in an environment they are comfortable with.
Also I knew that I would be able to set up blogs/wikis etc in a supported way because I knew that you would be able to give me asistance. Yes I am well aware of how much our students are engaging in the on line world, my two teenage children use Web 2.0 constantly. Yes, we teachers need to be engaged in it too BUT teachers will only do so if they can see a reason to (that's the challenge I think).

Anonymous said...

Hi Anne, Oh wow, I nearly feel famous!! What an amazing thing to be able to read on the Web about our PD. I relived it all again, which is great when your memory is fading a bit!!
I read Lauren's comment and here is the answer to her question; I already knew about Web 2.0 through the Leading Schools Manager's role but I had not previously seen a way to use it with my students. Then last month 2 things happpened. The students told me how they love 'club penguin' and I went to the national ALEA conference in Adelaide on digital story telling. Both of these events got me thinking about using on line tools more often. I think using web 2.0 will be great for my less enthusiastic learners who are so keen on 'club penguin'. I did not really step into 'the unknown'. It was more a series of events that made the ideas appear. Plus I knew that I would be able to ask you for some support! I spend a lot of time reflecting on what happens in my classroom and I now want to make greater use of on line tools to enhance the teaching and learning. I am using my own blog for the reflectiion part of the process of teaching. One day I would love to be able to share my reflections with other upper primary teachers who add their comments to my blog. Ultimately, teachers need to see a reason for using a resource.

susan1965 said...

Hi Anne, just checking if it's working

Anne said...

Susan I can tell by the enthusiasm in your 'voice' that you really are catching the blogging bug. Don't forget to let others know where your blog is (remind me too as I would love to read it) so that you can feel the buzz of having others read and comment on your blog. It takes a little while and there are more and more teachers who are taking up blogging. But it's the ones who persist and write about interesting questions and experiences who get people coming back time and again to read their posts. So keep up the good work. Good luck and keep in touch.

Anne said...

Hi Lucy and Lauren
I think you can see from Susan's comments that she has begun an exciting journey that began with some quality conference pd and continued with lots of reflection and understanding of the value and purpose of blogs. It is great to see that she has made the connection between what is what was presented to her at a conference and what was possible in the classroom and in her own personal learning. I'm going to follow her progress with interest and I hope our students at Wedderburn will be able to join in the journey.

Anonymous said...

HI Anne, Thankyou for sharing your experience. It is a fantastic resource for other teachers. I have been meaning to catch up with you as I have heard about all the fantastic things you do. I often refer to you in my ICT coaching role in Bendigo. The work you are doing is inspiring. thanks again. One day we'll meet

Anne said...

@Jillian. Hello, how lovely to hear from you. I hope we do catch up IRL soon. I'd love to hear all about what you are doing in Bendigo. This is why I love the online community so much. Even though there might be physical distance between us all, it really doesn't matter when we are all online. regards Anne