I’ve updated my introduction to Web 2.0 handout and wanted to share it here. Feel free to download, modify, and use it as you see fit.
We are rethinking our technology professional learning in Birdville. New courses (including online, Moodle-based classes and webinars presented through eLuminate), revisions of existing ones, and an emphasis on helping our teachers develop 21st century skills for themselves and our students are among the changes. This emphasis on 21st century skills will be the focus of this series of posts. I will try to first explain what this means, then try to share some tools that fit into the curriculum and can encourage the development of specific skills.
First of all, it should be acknowledged that some within the field of education are reluctant to even use this phrase. They assert that we are a decade into the century, therefore the term is in desperate need of a replacement. Personally, I think this is largely posturing. We have another 90 years remaining in the century, and, although the skills our students will need in the decades to come will evolve and have likely not been imagined yet, it is still a good way of communicating the need to move beyond the outdated applications of technology still apparent in many schools and far beyond the basic skills many classrooms emphasize in this NCLB world.
Two useful resources for identifying 21st century skills in their current incarnation are from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the International Society for Technology in Education. The Partnership, comprised of business leaders, educators, and policymakers, put together their Framework for 21st Century Learning, which includes descriptions of student skills as well as support systems that must be in place for their development. ISTE, in the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS are also available for teachers and administrators), outlines five categories of needed skills, including:
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:
It is no secret that creativity has taken its share of lumps in the past decade. Schools, faced with financial strain and immense pressure to perform on tests assessing only traditional subjects, slash or cut fine arts programs. This leaves teachers in traditional subjects with the responsibility for doing whatever they can to promote creativity and artistic expression. Technology programs have suffered, too, eliminating courses that have promoted higher-level applications and innovation. Fortunately, there are tools and strategies available whereby teachers can promote these skills within their curriculum. As an added benefit, these tools are relevant and highly motivating to students, leading to high levels of engagement in learning (Did I miss any buzzwords there?).
It is no secret that great ideas are usually the result of great planning (Apples falling on one’s head being an exception, certainly.) and, very often, the result of collaborative effort. The following sites offer tools for sorting out problems, brainstorming, experimenting, and communicating with other learners.
This holds a particularly dear spot in my heart, as I once dreamed of becoming an artist (or a professional bass fisherman). Expressing oneself through visual arts not only benefits those who get to enjoy the final product, it also stretches the mind and the imagination. Students need opportunities to share ideas, visions, opinions, and viewpoints in ways other than the written word. The following sites offer such opportunities to individuals or groups of students.
Music offers another means of creatively exploring our world and ourselves. Many students express themselves better through music than they ever would by writing an essay. The following are tools for encouraging and enabling students to create musical products.
The next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs may well be sitting in your classroom today. Wouldn’t it be amazing if he or she, as they stood before a breathless audience to announce their next must-have technology, said, “And I owe it all to my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, who sparked my interest in programming with that assignment to create a video game about the Civil War.” (Hopefully, this recognition would also include a substantial discount, at the very least.) Programming is seen by most of us as something beyond our capabilities. However, it is really nothing more than creating a set of instructions that tells a computer what to do. Fortunately, there are sites that offer this ability in a simplified way, allowing students to get their first taste of the possibilities.
Animation is an exciting form of digital storytelling. There is a great deal that goes into creating a good animated product, including writing a story/script, storyboard creation, and working through the actions of characters. The following are a few of the tools available for creating animated pieces.
These tools allow students to create 3-dimensional models of buildings and other objects. This is not only a good way to promote creativity and innovation, but it can also help reinforce math concepts, physics, and other important skills.
Hopefully, there are some tools listed here that have clear potential in just about any curriculum. It takes very little effort on the part of the teacher to tear up the paper test or worksheet and offer an alternative that is more engaging and in line with our modern world. There is a hint of risk-taking every time we do something new, but with risk comes reward. My next post in this series will address tools for collaboration and communication. In the meantime, realizing that this is but a tiny sampling of the tools that are out there, please join in the conversation by adding your thoughts or favorite sites.
100 Essential Web 2.0 Tools for Educators–good list of useful resources.
Collaboration Tools by Robin Good–nice collection of group collaboration links.
Cool Tools for Schools–huge assortment of Web 2.0 resources in a wide range of categories.
Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day–I swear Larry doesn’t sleep. This is one of my main go-to sites for online resources of virtually any educational application.
One concern I have heard expressed by teachers with regard to the use of video sites such as YouTube, TeacherTube, etc. in the classroom is that students tend to waste a lot of time searching for relevant (or irrelevant) content. One solution is to create a personalized channel that contains the videos which the teacher wishes to focus upon as resources. The two resources described below allow teachers to create lists of favorite videos, customize the look of the channel, and more. When working on a project or conducting research, students need only to visit the teacher’s channel to find a previewed list of useful resources to get them started.
YouTube channels offer users a wide range of tools. Visitors can view videos uploaded by the channel owner, favorited videos, or channels being followed by the owner. They can also view the owner’s profile information, “friend” the channel (if they have a YouTube account), leave comments on the channel, view recent activity, and more. To create a personalized channel, a YouTube membership is required. New accounts automatically have their own channel. The following video provides a great explanation of the general tools for customizing a YouTube channel. More information may be found on the YouTube support site.
Below is an image of my own site. The large, featured video displays my most recent upload. to the right is a list of other uploads and favorites. By clicking on the Favorites link, students can view a complete list of all of my favorite videos, the ones I want them to focus on.
YouTube is a fantastic resource for teaching and learning. However, the obvious reality is that many schools’ filtering policies do not allow students to view YouTube videos while at school. Sites such as TeacherTube, SchoolTube, and Edublogs.tv offer alternatives that are usually unrestricted. A site I just discovered that offers the ability to create a video channel using mutliple sources is Vodpod. Vodpod allows users to create customized lists of favorite videos from a multitude of sites (I successfully tried YouTube, TeacherTube, and Edublogs.tv.) as well as uploading and sharing their own videos. The interface is extremely simple, using a toolbar button to add a video from the site where it is housed. Users can tag their videos, add descriptions, and choose from six templates to customize their display. The image below is from my own new channel.
Vodpod is a powerful tool on several levels. First of all, it is an extremely easy-to-use tool for creating a database of your favorite videos. Secondly, it creates a channel that is clean and easy to navigate. It also opens videos in a popup window, rather than simply linking to the host site, meaning students are less likely to be distracted and have their attention wander. The customized site comes complete with its own, custom URL, making navigating to the site easy for students. Finally, its compatibility with school-friendly video sites makes it much more practical to many educators.
Both of these resources offer valuable benefits for the classroom teacher. These include less time off-task, better reliability of resources, and less worry about inappropriate content.
Here is the live blog listing the sites/tools shared at the TCEA Region 7 Conference last Friday.
As an advocate of free, online Web 2.0 tools, I have spent a great deal of time and effort in reading and researching, trying to keep up with the latest, greatest sites for my teachers or presentation attendees to use to transform their curriculums into the 21st century. I must admit that I’ve been neglectful of some other areas of technology, not so much because I failed to see their importance, but rather that the read/write Web has simply captured my imagination. One particular tool that I wish to gain a greater familiarity with is Moodle. Moodle is a learning management system (LMS), defined by Leonard Greenberg as “a high-level, strategic solution for planning, delivering and managing all learning events within an organization.” (2002) Among other things, Moodle is a powerful tool for creating online content and e-learning opportunities. It has become an amazing force in the education world. It is a free, open-source tool that is putting a serious dent in the sales of for-profit tools in the field, especially in the current economic climate.
Miguel Guhlin is one of the foremost advocates of Moodle in education in the state of Texas today. In his blog and numerous trade publications, Miguel offers insights into implentation of Moodle, its applications, and justifications for its use. In an article written for the magazine On Cue and cross-posted in his blog this week, Miguel gives a good, general overview of the tool and some suggestions for its implementation. One thing that caught my eye was that “Moodle comes replete with blogs, forums, RSS feeds, wikis and more that enable it to be seen as an “absolute good” that opens the door, that enables powerful ideas to slay the fears our IMHO – slay the fears that leaders hold.” I’ve been told many, many times that schools cannot utilize the tools I’ve shared because of restrictive filtering policies, so if Moodle is a step to overcoming this, I’m definitely listening.
Miguel does a great job going into more detail on some of the applications of Moodle in education, but I’ll summarize briefly what he describes.
Miguel also offers some helpful tips for overcoming administrative hesitation in implementing Moodle (and Web 2.0 tools) in schools:
I would add to this list:
I plan to be experimenting with the tool in the coming months, and I will be sharing my thoughts and experiences here. In the meantime, if anyone is curious enough, you can learn a great deal through Miguel’s writings on his blog and elsewhere. I’ve also found him to be very willing to offer insights and answer questions through Twitter (http://twitter.com/mguhlin). Additionally, Moodle has a very active community of users, and you can tap into this community through the Moodle forums at http://moodle.org/login/index.php.
I just finished watching a thought-provoking presentation by Iqbal Quadir. Iqbal asserts that technology, particularly those technologies that have facilitated communication, have been critical to the growth and success of democratic societies and the economic welfare of their citizens. He states,
“If citizens can network and make themselves more organized and productive, so that their voices are heard, so then things would improve.”
Quadir, who grew up in Bangladesh, where the ratio of people to phones was 500 to 1, also states that the telephone is a weapon against poverty, because increasing connectivity results in increased productivity. Phones act like rivers or highways, improving reliability and enabling specialization. Quadir put his ideas into action, leaving a New York banking job to set up a rural cellular network in his home country. The results have had a dramatic impact, increasing productivity, personal welfare, and the country’s GNP.
This presentation struck home with me, as I considered the general view of cellphones in schools today and a new direction being taken by Birdville, my home district. By and large, cellphones are considered to be nuisances, and, if allowed at all, they are only to be used outside of classroom hours or in the case of an emergency. Within the classroom, they are detrimental to the learning process, distracting students from the “important” matters of the curriculum. Here is a typical scenario pulled from last week’s headlines. Through a new, more progressive policy phones are allowed only in high school, and only if out of sight and turned off. Notice this statement: “Last year, 1,253 high school students were cited for violating the cell phone policy.” Clearly, there are serious discipline issues in this school (Sarcasm intended–imagine how much instructional time and effort is used wasted enforcing such policies.).
I’m truly not intending to pick on this particular district, because I do believe it is representative of the typical American school system. A technology that has the ability to facilitate communication between students, parents, teachers, scientists, researchers, astronauts, doctors, politicians, etc. is viewed as a distraction. A tool that can be used to take photos, record video/audio. and access the Internet is seen as a means for students to cheat (As if it requires a cell phone to accomplish that. Might as well ban paper and pencils, while we’re at it.). Rather than address their use in a forward-thinking, progressive manner, most schools opt for the easy route, which is, of course, to eliminate the “threat.” How sadly ironic it is that in a land where cellphones are moving toward equaling the total population (230 million subscribers by the end of 2006), where the devices are being put into the hands of students of almost all ages (My 2nd grade daughter has classmates who own them.), and in a time when the power they possess surpasses the capabilities of the computers I grew up with, we can’t find a way to leverage them in every classroom.
Imagine applying the same concepts put forth by Quadir in the classroom. Cell phones used to connect students, used to have instant access to information, used to communicate information instantly between teachers, students, parents. Is it not conceivable that the results would mirror those in Bangladesh? Might students become empowered and connected, and their productivity and power actually increase?
Next year will be the first in my own district to put this to the test. We are starting a new era of cell-phone-friendly schools, as we attempt to take advantage of their capabilities and find new ways of using them in our curriculum. It will be interesting, particularly to see how some reluctant teachers respond to the new policy. Students will have to display responsibility and discipline to make it work, as well. If teachers can adapt, and if students demonstrate as much energy, creativity, and excitement in the actual implementation as they did in our recent student technology summit, the potential impact is quite significant. I will be posting further on this as we move forward with this. I’ll also be digging for more success stories of implementation, so please share if you have any!
Cell Phone Use Exploding (2007). Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://china.usc.edu/ShowAverageDay.aspx?articleID=663&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.