Reflection on EDU 651- What did I learn?
The journey which started with the invention of the punch card for a loom to the development of personal computers and the internet we use today has changed the way we communicate and learn. Technology has been a catalyst driving innovations and the way we do things in our daily lives. Every aspect of our modern life is touched by technology. My life-long quest for learning and fascination with gadgets has fostered a need to learn more about new technologies. The Web 2.0 classroom is in reach.
Thank you for this time to reflect. Working with my schoolmates during this course has been delightful, in fact I learned many new tricks and gathered new ideas from viewing other student’s works and participating in discussions (I read them all). As a newbie to Blogs, Wikis, Social Networking and Social Bookmarking tools, this course has taught me a great deal about Web 2.0 technology and its applications for teaching, learning and sharing. I enjoyed everyone’s input.
Weblogs are a new form of Writing Genre. In January, I started a blog to use as a journal and from what I have learned in the course 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. Blogs can be interactive allowing students and teachers the chance to dialog through comments on posts.
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. Blogs can be easily adapted for use as a Class Portal, Online Filing Cabinet, and as a Collaborative Space as well.
I had never actually thought much about how Wikis actually worked until this course. Wikis are fairly easy to set up and use. Their multiple applications for teaching and learning opportunities, much like blogs, foster active rather than passive learning through participation in construction of ideas and publishing. Reflecting back on what I have learned over the past few weeks can be summed up as inspiring. In a sense, Wikis represent easy collaboration for everyone in the digital commons. Probably the best know application for wikis has been Wikipedia.
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. Wikipedia 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.
Wikis can be a useful tool for online learners as long as the project is well designed and students are prepared to work in the digital commons. West & West (2009) covers setting up Wikis and project design. In addition, there are examples for projects in knowledge construction, critical thinking and contextual applications. I explored ways to avoid wiki pitfalls including unbalanced participation, a lack of progress and direction, mistrust, misunderstandings, and conflicts. There are a number of way to mitigate issues encountered by groups, most of which can be addressed through proper student preparation, good instructional design, well defined assessment measures and diligent monitoring. Student must be prepared to work and learn in the digital commons.
Richardson (2009) states that, “Nowhere is this continuous conversation becoming more obvious that the explosion of Twitter, a “micro-blogging” tool that has grown by leaps and bounds since its introduction in 2006.”(p. 86)
What about Social Networking? Let me expand on this topic and reflect on some of the applications we reviewed and I learned a bit about during the course of this class. Ning is a social site that is used to connect people who share common interests. Facebook is a social site that is used to connect friends and family. RSS feeds are an easy ways to keep up with what’s new. Twitter is used for micro blogging and has become a powerful political tool, not to mention that you can keep up on friends, classmates, your favorite blogs, or maybe even your favorite celebrities.
Professional learning communities need mention as well. I think PLC’s are the wave of the future and seem to me to be a much better way to acquire true knowledge. PLC’s allow for mentoring and new opportunities for educators, students and the world to share substantive content leading to deep understanding and true acquisition of knowledge.
What’s more you can connect all of these tools together through links and make a one stop shop for learning, collaboration and keeping up with your network or PCL, family and friends. I will continue to work on getting that shop together on my Blog, although it’s not quite finished yet. Connections to our network help us learn together. At times, all the input is simply overwhelming, but just think . . . everything is at your fingertips through links, feeds and connections with others.
We also explored the use of Social Networking tools for classroom management and my conclusion to this is that although Facebook, Ning and PB Works could be adapted to be used as a LMS they are not designed to be used in this way. I do not think any of the three would be a good choice to replace a program which is designed to be a LMS. PB Works comes closest to the criteria needed, but I found it a little hard to use. Ning is for networking with like minded people and Facebook is for networking with friends and family neither is truly suitable for a classroom management system, but can be used in other learning and networking environs.
Social bookmarking services are public websites like Furl, Simpy, and del.icio.us which were developed as tools for internet users to save, tag with “keywords” and share with users both publicly and in their own network. Social bookmarking is a new way of organizing information and categorizing resources. (Lomas (2005), p. 1) Richardson (2009) goes on to explain that “What these services do that’s social is take all of the entries that are tagged the same way and connect them, and then connect all the people who posted those links in the first place.” (p. 89) Educators and students can then share websites with each other narrowing the parameters for research down to key words used by their specific community of users. Using tags simplifies reference lists and logging into your bookmarking service makes it accessible to you anywhere you can connect. I use bookmarking religiously. I particularly like and the move from taxonomy to “folksonomy”. The tag is now everything and that works great for me. Keywords make a lot of sense and are intuitive. In addition, I love the idea of sharing bookmarks and the portability is wonderful. No more losing my bookmarks … what a relief.
When considering using web-based learning opportunities it is extremely important to take time to make sure that you and your students are safe. 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.
In conclusion, I feel that EDU651 has been a mind expanding experience for me, although a bit overwhelming. The learning curve has been huge. Web 2.0 tools can truly benefit us all as learner and teachers. I found Richardson’s book enthusiastic, passionate and very readable. Some of the things that I will take away with me include his vision of “What It all Means?” According to Richardson (2009) “… the classroom of the Read/Write Web is going to be defined by two unstoppable trend is in the use of these technologies.”(p. 129). First, is the digitization of research libraries such as the Library of Congress causing rapid expansion in content accessible to all internet users. Second is the trend toward use of collaborative tools and shared workspaces. (Richardson (2009), p.129.) New literacies and the 10 big shifts made a powerful impact on me.
”Minds on Fire” was also very inspiring and informative as well as a bit alarming. (Brown & Adler, 2008) The educational implications of a “flat world” have created a demand for a well-educated workforce that can easily access new skills at an ever increasing rate. Sir John Daniel (1996), points out a measure of this demand in his quote: “To meet this staggering demand, a major university needs to be created each week.”(p. 17). That is a huge predicament. Brown and Adler (2008) clarify the problem by stating that:
“It is unlikely that sufficient resources will be available to build enough new campuses to meet the growing global demand for higher education-at least not the sort of campuses that we have traditionally built for colleges and universities. Nor is it likely that the current methods of teaching and learning will suffice to prepare students for the lives that they will lead in the twenty-first century.” (p.18)
The statement above implies education systems need to make a drastic change in the way we teach and learn. What does this fact mean? It means that the traditional learning setting must expand its walls and make use of new technologies to meet the demand. Obviously, brick and mortar will not work here. The internet is just the right tool to use with its latest evolution to the read-write web or Web 2.0. (Brown and Adler (2008) p.18.)
Teaching and learning with the use of technology is much more accessible than it has ever been before. “In this open environment, both the content and the process by which it is created are equally visible, thereby enabling a new kind of critical reading.” (Brown and Adler (2008) p. 20).
Another thing I take away from this class is a better concept of what my web presence truly means. Teaching can be very difficult at times and conditions are not always ideal. Educators have been held to a higher standard than most because they are responsible for educating our children. An educator’s online content is no different than any other content that a professional might publish we should strive to meet that standard.
Blogs, Wikis, Social Networking and Social Bookmarking tools can be used to collaborate, teach, learn, and keep connected. Many Web 2.0 tools make it much easier to sort all the information available and categorize that same information into convenient and manageable blocks which can then become a product or construction of what we know and are passionate about. Tools like RSS feeds and social bookmarking bring information to us rather than going out to find it. Web 2.0 technology and tools makes the internet manageable in our lives, harnessing the power of the Web as a tool for learning.
Brown, J. S. & Adler, R. P. (2008, January/February). Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. EDUCAUSE Review.
Lomas (2005), 7 things you should know about…Social Bookmarking, Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved May, 2010 http://www.educause.edu/ELI/7ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutSocia/156804
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press. ISBN: 9781412959728
West J., & West M. (2009). Using Wikis for Online Collaboration. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.