When I read the criteria for our final blog post, I didn’t know where to start. I sat and reflected about what I had learned and the implications of what I had learned. In a form true to my learning style, I started making a list. I quickly filled up a page and then stopped. How was I possibly going to describe not only everything I had learned in EDES 501 but also the implications of this learning on my future practice. My wondering caused me to chunk my knowledge into categories. Here is my attempt to summarize my plethora of thoughts.
I decided that my learning has taken place on three levels. I had 1) definitely increased my knowledge of Web tools, 2) I had many epiphanies about the impact of using Web tools in schools and 3) I was beginning to see that the structure of schools today may not be as effective as it could be.
1. I learned the basics about several new web tools available through free online software accessible anytime anywhere. I read about them, experimented with them, as well as, brainstormed ways to use them both personally and professionally. I found many new resources (all of the information about my particular personal learning journey can be accessed in previous posts) promoting the use of Web tools in the classroom but most of all I found that I could learn as much from my colleagues’ efforts in their blogs as I did from my own individual efforts. (The beauty of a PLN.) As I read my classmates blogs, the interesting thing was that we all took different routes with the same tool. We explored different pieces of software used for the same purpose or discovered variations of the same software. I realized, with sadistic pleasure, that other students in the class were as fearful of the newness of the tools as I was. Through our collective journey we have become familiar with not only the tools but also reflected on the process of learning. I know that I will now use many of these tools in my teaching and my Professional Development. As well, I will be an advocate for the use of web tools by other staff in my building. It was Bruce who wisely said that integrating all web tools is not possible, practical nor desirable but as teachers preparing students for 21st century life we do need to expose students to the tools. Students can then choose the tool that works best for them. This experience has also been a reminder to me of the intimidation that students feel on a daily basis and how we as educators can make learning engaging, unpleasant or mind-numbing.
2. My classmates and I reflected on not just the practice of using web tools (how to’s) but the implications of using Web tools on teaching and learning. Throughout the course our readings, research, discussions and blog posts caused us to reflect on why we would want to use a particular tool or web tools in general. How was 21st century learning different? How was using these tools going to make a difference to my students? I will try to capture some of my learning about the implications of the use of Web tools but I know that every time I read this post I think of something new. I believe that this is a testament to the richness of the learning in this course.
Douglas Rushkoff states that we now have a “society of authorship where every teacher and every student has the ability to contribute ideas and experiences to the larger body of knowledge known as the Internet” (Rushkoff as cited in Richardson, 2009). This potential for students to be authors and publish their work online for anyone in the world to see is motivating for students. The idea of creating real products for real audiences causes students to be more engaged in the creative process and contributes to a higher standard in their work. Students who use Web tools have a purposeful end to their work beyond the classroom (Lafer, 1997). However, the increase in amateur authorship brings about two issues. One is that people using sources from the Internet need to assess credibility and reliability of those sources even more than may have been necessary in the past and 2) when students are writing they need to ensure that they are writing in a credible and reliable manner. Everyone in my group addressed the issue of reliability and credibility at some time during their discussions or blog posts. I agree with my classmates that we need to teach students to read critically online (Alec Couros, 2002). Students need to understand that information found online may not have gone through editors or a publishing house and the author may not have any credentials. We need to teach students to assess the information for relevance, credibility of the source, validity of the information and reliability of the site. Many authors such as Wathen and Burkell (2002) give guidelines for assessing credibility of on-line publications. Students must check the credibility of their sources as well as write in a credible fashion. This means checking their sources and not falling into the trap described by Allan November (2000) in Teaching Zack To Think where a 14 year old boy falls for the Holocaust conspiracy theory.
As well, students must be taught to respect the intellectual property of all authors. Jackie pointed out that more than ever we need to teach students to reference, cite and use the multitude of available online resources properly. One of these discussions will be copyright issues. Students need to realize that the use of text, music, art and photos is protected by copyright and these sources can not be used unless this data is in the public domain. Creative Commons is helping to increase the resources in the public domain (Richardson, 2009) but students need to understand how to distinguish which resources they can copy, how they can use them and when it is appropriate to do so.
Corey also points out that teachers will need to teach the ethics of being online. The discussion of ethics turns quickly to the pros and cons of using Social Networking Systems in schools. Will Richardson (2009) talks about using Social Networking Systems in schools because we need to teach students how to respectfully use these resources. Richardson (2009) feels that if teachers do not teach students SNS skills some students will not learn SNS skills anywhere else. One of the skills of using SNS is developing an online persona. Jackie writes about the need for a “balance” between our public and personal persona. The question is how do you divulge some information about yourself, enough to create a bond with others, and yet not compromise your personal life?
Along with the issue of ethical use comes safety of being online. Berson (2000) writes that children are naïve regarding the dangers of cyberspace, and parents often lack the knowledge to address these issues. Consequently, educators must address Internet safety with students teaching them that they have a responsibility to behave appropriately as well as protect themselves from other people that will abuse the use of the Internet.
We have learned that Web tools will promote the creative use of knowledge as described by Will Richardson (2009). The taking of two pieces of art or literature and amalgamating them using a 21st century tool is one of the goals of the creative use of the Web (Richardson, 2009). This creativity will increase the motivation and engagement of learners. Another motivating factor is the collaboration created through the process of online work. Corey defined collaboration as when “learners are interacting and building upon one another’s ideas.” I agree with his definition and feel that the true benefits of web tools are derived when teachers and students use the tools to continually add to and refine their work as it contributes to society’s working knowledge (Richardson, 2009). Chris Gerben (2009) phrased it well when he said, “the heart of our current cutting edge technologies is the interaction and conversation that we’re having with each other.”
As students create feedback to things posted online the feedback creates further reflection and new knowledge creation (Richardson, 2009). The promotion of online feedback, that these tools invites, can stimulate deeper thinking and engagement. This feedback can either be shallow and provoke little reflection on the part of the author or it can be deeper causing real thought for the author and lead to reflection, refinement of thought and a more sophisticated use of the tool. It depends upon the context of the feedback.
It was Bruce who talked about the use of Web tools being on a continuum. A teacher can use a web tool for a knowledge based activity and use the same tool at another point in time to create more reflective analytical work. I believe that everyone can be involved in the use of Web tools just at different levels dependant upon their age and skill level. It is a matter of choosing the right tool for the assignment, for the author and for the audience.
Just as it is important to select the right tool for the purpose of the assignment it is also important to allow students some choice in the method which they choose to demonstrate their learning. Pam summed up the conversation by saying that teachers need to realize that different students may choose different tools dependant upon their learning style. Authors Johnathon Ross and Robert Schultz (1999) write about the need to capitalize on the Web’s power to highlight many learning styles. They discuss how the Web not only encompasses auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning but also pioneers the idea of social learning. Davies and Merchant (2009) describe the idea of participatory (social) learning where meaning is constructed through interaction and negotiation.
There are many questions to ask and things to consider when determining how and why to use Web tools. However, it is the answers that are important. The answers provide the context for the decisions and each individual needs to decide what works best for them.
3. The most puzzling part of the course was struggling to see a way to create a constructivist atmosphere within our current educational environment of accountability. I feel that a constructivist learning environment is necessary to utilize the Web tools to their fullest capability. The comment was made by Will Richardson at the Leading and Learning conference (2009) that to fully utilize these tools a person needs to reinvent school as we know it. Richardson (2009) believes that we need to alter the physical structure of the K -12 system. The factory mode of compartmentalizing education needs to be re-examined. I agree that we need to create an environment that allows students to be involved in truly meaningful learning at the student’s own pace. We need a system that will allow students to explore areas and advance at their own pace with their own agendas. I agree with Catherine Gewertz (2007) who quotes Lehmann as saying, “to change requires understanding that we do not have all of the answers anymore.”
Changing the whole structure of schooling is a very lofty ideal and will take great insight to accomplish. However, it causes educators in the trenches to look at the structuring of their own classrooms and the assignments that they are creating. Teachers need to ask themselves are they creating compliance assignments or are they truly engaging students to think critically about the intended outcomes. Are the students truly engaged in their learning and is each and every student progressing? Teachers need to remember how it feels to be a student learning something new. We need to create a constructivist learning environment where students know the expectations, are prepared with learning tools to complete the work, challenged with reflective thinking opportunities and have the freedom to make the learning fit their unique personalities.
Now that I have shared my learning about some Web tools, discussed the impact of Web tools on teaching and learning and looked at the possible restructuring of the education system I need to decide how this information is going to directly affect my practice. My new knowledge will affect how I:
1. design student learning in my classrooms.
The wealth of knowledge of Web tools will give me a larger tool box to choose from and rationale for using Web tools. The choice of tools will need to be based on what is best for the students’ learning not what is easiest or most expedient for me? What is the best tool for the job and for my students? What will the students gain the most from? What am I aiming for, product or process? How does this goal influence my assessment practices? How can I structure the learning so as to move the student’s thinking forward? For as Palloff and Pratt (1999) said, “technology does not teach students, effective teachers do.”
2. facilitate the technology growth of all students in my school.
I want to implement a school wide technology plan. I want to see the whole school modeling and implementing appropriate Web tools throughout all subject areas. This implementation will allow students to acquire technology skills at an early age. Students will build familiarity with the tools in the early grades so that in their later years higher order thinking can be facilitated.
3. enhance Home/School Communications.
I will facilitate the staffs’ and office’s use of online publishing to enhance the school’s communication with the homes of our students. This will involve having the office set up a wiki that will have a homepage to provide up to date information about the philosophy, upcoming events, as well as having each teacher have a page where they can provide important dates specific to their class, links to student work, current outcomes being studied, homework, dates of assessments, etc.
4. promote staff PD about web tools using web tools.
I believe the best way to facilitate student growth is to facilitate teacher growth. Engaging staff in activities using web tools will teach them the skills that will transfer into the use of web tools in the classroom. Teachers need to be exposed to different types of Web tools, as well as, shown the wealth of knowledge and resources that can be acquired when a person gets involved in a Professional Learning Network. I will be able to facilitate the acquisition of web tool knowledge and the development of a PLN through the collaboration time provided to teachers by the funding of AISI. [I just happen to coordinate our Learning Cycle (AISI) project.]
5. use Web tools in my personal life.
I have gone from a skeptic to a believer and I will not turn back when this course is finished. I have seen the power of using Web tools not only at school but in my personal life and I will continue to join the 21st century learners. I believe that our practices are continually changing as a result of our learning and that as a life long learner my learning will only stop when my breathing stops.
The work in this course has taught me about many Web tools to use, the benefits of using Web tools and caused me to question my belief in the education system as it now exists. One of the major lessons I have learned has been the necessity of keeping up with change. But as I am wanting to keep up with the speed of change I need to remember two things: 1) for myself, my staff and my students: one step forward at a time. 2) the people who will understand the potential of the web the most are just being born (Dan Gillmor, as cited in Richardson, 2009).
Berson, Michael J. (2000). Lessons Learned about Schools and Their Responsibility to
Foster Safety Online. As retrieved on Dec. 3, 2009 from http://188.8.131.52/scholar?q=cache:E_HCbDtHFpEJ:scholar.google.com/+teaching+internet+safety+in+schools&hl=en&as_sdt=2000
Couros, Alec. (2002). Critical Thinking: The Value and Teaching of This Objective in the Information Age. As retrieved on Dec. 3, 2009 from http://www.educationaltechnology.ca/couros/publication_files/unpublishedpapers/paper-criticalthinking-journal.pdf
Davies, Julia. Merchant, Guy. (2009). Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation. New York, NY: Peter Lang
Gerben, Chris. (2009). Putting 2.0 and Two Together: What Web 2.0 Can Teach Composition About Collaborative Learning. As retrieved Dec. 3, 2009 from
Gerwetz, Catherine. (2007). Outside Interests. As retrieved on Dec. 5, 2009 from http://www.edweek.org/login.html?source=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/03/29/30tcstudent.h26.html&destination=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/03/29/30tcstudent.h26.html&levelId=2100
November, Alan. (2000). Teaching Zack to Think. As retrieved Dec. 4, 2009 from http://edpt200.mcgill.ca/newreadings/teaching%20Zak%20to%20think.pdf
Palloff, Rena and Pratt, Keith. (1999) As retrieved Dec. 3, 2009 from http://macqunilearners.pbworks.com/f/Building+Learning+Communities+In+Cyberspace.doc.
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
Richardson, Will. (Nov. 21, 2009) Leading and Learning Conference in Red Deer, Alberta
Ross, Johnathon and Schulz, Robert. (1999) Using the World Wide Web to Accommodate Diverse Learning Styles. As retrieved Dec. 3, 2009 from http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=LcyQJGQbBrNnLRGBhkMGllFl5tv5ZTT8FqHs5yQF6LSlgwhvQJ27!394742080!1596534185?docId=95164414
Wathen, Nadine and Burkell, Jacqelyn. (2002). Believe It or Not: Factors Influencing Credibility. As retrieved on Dec. 5, 2009 from http://scholar.google.ca/scholar?hl=en&q=web+sources+credibility&as_sdt=2000&as_ylo=&as_vis=0
on the Web
Classmates discussions and blog posts throughout the course