Before I get started, I would just like to say that Richardson’s (2009) book is a delightful read. His casual writing style, personalized manner and thoughtful explanations took the edge off of what at first glance seemed quite daunting to me. He makes Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts seem very simple and easy to use. I feel that I have a much better handle on the content of this course after reading these first four chapters. I had an “AHA” moment. I actually know a lot more than I thought I did and I get what he is saying. Thanks largely to a natural fascination with technology, osmosis from using the web and teaching computer applications for 12 years during the late 80’s and 90’s, I seem to know a lot more than I thought I did. These technologies are not that foreign to me. After all, one of the courses I used to teach was HTML Web design.
1. What are some of the changes we must make in our education system to expand the classroom walls?
Education has traditionally been very slow to react and adjust to changing times. Teaching to the test has become the standard in many classrooms in the USA and Canada due to the ongoing push for government accountability and standardization. Students are much more in tune with technologies than most of their teachers. The teacher’s role is changing in scope the shift is more to the teacher as a facilitator of learning. Educators can fill this role by teaching the skills student need to become master user of technology and the internet. The educational system has to adapt to our clients.
Yes, I said clients. Teachers must see students as their clients and personalize course materials and content to meet the challenges faced in the informational age. Text books are outdated before they even make it to the classroom. Use of the internet, can help mitigate this dilemma through appropriate use of blogs and wikis. Accessing and teaching learners how to use the Read/Write Web is a necessity that cannot be stopped or put off. Attitudes have to change. Richardson (2009) points out that “….today’s students may not be well suited to the more linear progression of learning that most educational systems employ.” (p. 7). Expanding the walls of the classrooms means that technology must be promoted and embraced by teachers and the education system.
2. The web 2.0 is pushing us to remember that learning is a social construct. The saying “I think, therefore I am”, is being replaced with “We think, therefore we are”. However, many educators still operate in a more linear progression of learning. How can we encage our students in a more non-linear, collaborative, participatory learning environment?
First we must change the way we do things as educators. Richardson (2009) states this very eloquently speaking about the Read/Write Web in the following excerpt: “It wasn’t until I fully understood how these technologies can facilitate global connections and conversations around my own passions that I was able to see what needed to change in terms of my curriculum and my teaching.” (p. 8). Teachers have the opportunity in these changing times to not just put their course materials into digital format but to actually make use of the technologies available to guide students through the journey of life-long learning. I particularly like the use of wikis and weblogs for this process. The tools are all there we as educators just have to use them.
3. What is the difference between a blog and a wiki?
Richardson (2009) defines a Blog as “easily created, easily updateable Websites that allow an author (or authors) to publish instantly to the Internet from any Internet connection.” (p. 9). Blogs can be interactive allowing students and teachers the chance to dialog through comments on posts.
Wikis on the other hand are “a collaborative Webspace where anyone can add content and anyone can edit content that has already been published” (Richardson (2009) p. 9).
4. What are some of the ethical and safety considerations educators must consider when developing web-based learning opportunities?
Safety considerations include identity protection by not publishing children’s names, location and pictures on the internet. This can be accomplished by use of first names only and vigilant monitoring of content before publication. Coaching students by use of classroom discussion about inappropriate language and content is another teachable skill. Making parents, administrators and colleagues aware is also extremely important. Most schools have policies in place for internet use and there is legislation to filter content that is accessible on the internet as well. Richardson (2009) provides an example of a letter to send home to families at the end of chapter 1 (p. 14-16). Checking out any web quests before you assign it is a good rule of thumb as well and as always monitor student work. Make sure that all computer screens are visible to you so you can keep an eye on what students are looking at.
Other ethical considerations include authentication of sources. This can be accomplished through educating students on proper validation of resource material and how to accomplish that. Again facilitating critical thinking is a teachable skill. Wikis usually have further reading sources and references.
CHAPTER 2 AND 3
1. What are some of the educational advantages of weblog vs. a website?
Richardson (2009) states that “… what really distinguishes a blog from your run-of-the-mill Website is much more than process; it’s what you’ll find there. Weblogs are not built on static chunks of content. Instead they are comprised of reflections and conversations that in many cases are updated every day…” (p. 17). Websites are not usually updated on a daily basis and there is not the opportunity for the ongoing dialogue and interactivity available through blogs. Blogs allow for ongoing reflection and discussion of content. Interaction with the author opens the door of the classroom and gives student access to information from experts in their field of study. Blogs are much more personal allowing learners to ask questions and receive answers and the opportunity to participate in the sharing of the knowledge constructed.
2. List some of the pros/cons of the potential use for Weblogs Richardson mentions, i.e., E-Portfolio, Online Filing Cabinet, Collaborative Space, Journals, etc.
• Communicates curriculum, syllabus, class rules, assignments, rubrics, handouts, and presentations to parents, students, other teachers, and administrators.
• Can make the classroom virtually paperless
• Not all participants have internet access.
• Not all classrooms have enough computers for student use.
• Unauthorized access by outsiders.
Online Filing Cabinet
• Students can always find their work
• Work is well organized and easy to access
• Opportunities for sharing with others
• Can be made into an artifact to track growth
• Not all participants have access from home.
• Usually not enough computers in the classroom
• Many teachers do not know how to use these technologies
• Unwanted access by outsiders after publication
• A collection of Student’s which can be cross curricular
• Students can keep an ongoing record of progress
• Data can be transferred to CD for portability when class is over and can be
followed on from class to class creating an archive of present, past and future
• Not all teachers a student may have know how to use the technology required
• Not enough computers in the classroom in many cases
• Not all homes have internet access
• Data can be lost sometimes due to poor management
• Unwanted access by outsiders.
• Opportunities for collaboration with the global community
• Same drawbacks as listed above.
3. What are some of the ways weblogs can enhance writing activities? What are some of the ways weblogs can be used across curriculum?
Weblogs are a new form of Writing Genre. In January, I started a blog to use as a journal and from what I have just read I can see how the opportunities are endless for collaborative connections to larger audiences. Blogs can be used for reflective writing, publication of creative writing, posting links, multimedia productions, photographs and much more. The opportunity for feedback is built into the blog as well. Blogs when properly used and maintained open up the chance for students to make connections and construct knowledge. Additionally, blogs can be used as resources for further study. I like the idea of a single piece of writing that does not end but continues on to improve over time through feedback from others like a living dialogue. Additionally, the skills of reading for research and writing all come together in this one medium.
Richardson (2009) gives examples of the use for blogs across curriculum for example: AP Calculus, Extreme Biology, and the Write Weblog at the end of chapter 2 is a list of Classroom Uses of Weblogs (p. 33-36 & 38-39). The potential uses are endless. I can think of ways to use blogs in all subject areas from digital art portfolios to discussion of physics. I used portfolios of student work when I taught during the 80’s and 90’s, blogs open up a whole new dimension.
1. In what sense has the quote by Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder, come true?
“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we are doing.”
Personally, I use Wikipedia as a starting resource for most of my writing and research. It’s a habit. I have noticed that Wikipedia has continuously improved over the years. It not only has more posts but those posts are much better documented and in many cases provide further readings. Richardson calls it “the most important site on the web” (p. 55). I agree. Its collaborative nature has truly been gathering the “sum of human knowledge”. To again quote Richardson, “By the time you read this, the English version of Wikipedia will house over 2 million separate entries with information about everything from the Aaadonta (a type of slug) to Zzzaz (a fictional super villain from Marvel Comics) (p. 55). That’s phenomenal to me. If you can’t find what you want on Wikipedia you have the ability to research the subject and add it if you like. That’s a great concept.
2. What does the word “wiki” mean?
“The word wiki is a short form of the Hawaiian wiki-wiki, which means “quick” (p. 55).
3. In today’s digital world, students can access information, and create it, with a click. However, not all information found and created is accurate. How can we help our students become critical consumers of information?
Teach your students to be critical consumers of information. Make sure that they know how to check documentation and make follow on research. This skill is not only needed on the web but it is required for just about everything you read or hear. Check the documentation. As a teacher, you can provide credible websites and books for research as well and of course there is always the library. A good rule of thumb to teach students is that it is not a fact unless you can verify it by at least two references or different resources.
4. List some types of collaborative learning activities that can be driven and enhanced through a wiki.
a. Create an online text that you and your students can work on.
b. Make your own Wikipedia, on any topic or subject
c. Use it to follow science experiments
d. Create your own textbook
e. Publish a Wikibooks
f. Cross curricular research projects of any kind
5. How did Vicki Davis at Westwood High use a wiki to connect her students in Georgia to the world?
Richardson cites Vicki Davis project at Westwood High:
“Vicki has started to use wikis to connect her students to other learners from around the world, and her “Flat Classroom” project wiki in 2007 is a great example (flatclassroomprojec.wikispaces.com). ……… She connected with Julie Lindsay, a teacher in Bangladesh, and together they connected their students for a two week investigation, the results of which are reported in the wiki.”(p. 63).
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press. ISBN: 9781412959728