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 :)