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Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

As part of the wrap-up for this course, we’re looking back at some of the first things we wrote in June (Introduction to WebTools, Setting the Stage, and Guiding Principles for Tech Use in the Classroom).

I don’t know that my thinking/philosophy on using technology has changed dramatically in the past two and a half months. I was on-board with tech use in the classroom with the goal of improved learning and connection, and I was excited to try out some new tools and learn from a new and diverse group of educators. I still am. I do have a clearer picture of some specific tools that I’d like to implement this year in my classes, and I am happy to have made many new connections in my continually-expanding PLN. What has changed for me is a renewed focus on the idea that the best web tools allow us to do something completely new. I find myself coming back to three points from Jeff Utecht’s article “Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom”:

  • Does the technology allow students to learn from people they never would have been able to without it?
  • Does the technology allow students to interact with information in a way that is meaningful and could not have happened otherwise?
  • Does the technology allow students to create and share their knowledge with an audience they never would have had access to without technology? [my emphasis]

I’ve been focused primarily on the second bullet point (which isn’t horrible). If that’s all we do with new technology, it still represents movement in the right direction. I’ve made some progress on the third point (through student blogging), but I don’t think I’ve tapped into the full potential there. My students were very excited to keep track of their blog’s Page Views counter, and they broadened their readership by putting their new biology blog posts up on Facebook. (Which, come to think of it, is actually a pretty significant step. I wonder if they were sharing any of their history essays, Spanish translations, or math problem sets on FB?) But I want to try to find some ways to have them interact with people outside of our classroom, outside of our state and country, if possible. That’s a new goal of mine for the year.

Lastly, we should recognize that we’re going to ask our students to jump into this whole using tech in the classroom in new ways thing along with us. They’ll get their own crash courses in web tools in the coming year (in many of our classes), and they’ll be fine. They’ll learn the content (most of it, hopefully), and there will be some tools they like better than others (just like us). And all we can hope for at the end of the day is that they’re willing to try new things, that they work hard, and that they’re curious. It is science, right? What’s not to be curious about? In the process, hopefully they’ll understand more about themselves as learners. And as many have said before, the tech is not the point, it’s just a tool, but if it improves learning then we’re moving in the right direction.

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I’m pretty happy with the variety of discussion formats that we’ve used for this class: (“conversations” through the comment sections of our blogs; the teachingscience2.0 wiki, and D2L), and I’m happy that we finished out the course with the threaded conversations on D2L. They were a nice change of pace/format, and actually seemed like they were more of a conversation, if that makes any sense. Maybe because there was more back-and-forth than on blog comments, where I felt like I was chiming in every once in a while, but not actually writing to the author (even though I was).

I see three themes that came through loud and clear (and many of my classmates have commented on these already):

1. The increased confidence that comes from getting to know a few tools/skills, having had the chance to test drive them for a while. And even though this course was carried out “in public” (out there in the blogosphere for everyone to read my assignments!) it still felt pretty safe. We were collectively willing to admit that some tools were frustrating, or that we had problems loading, embedding, getting audio levels and image resolutions right. But I’m sure that each of us found websites, software, and new tech tools that we will definitely use (to good effect) in the coming year. We’ll also try some things that won’t work out as planned, and that’s okay too.

2. Students will have similar range of reactions to the new technology, and they’ll need some time to practice and get comfortable with new tools as well. I’m not entirely convinced that all kids take to technology as quickly as we (as teachers/adults) think they do. I’m skeptical of lumping all students in any category (especially one as broad as general as “digital natives“) just because they’ve been around computers since they were born. They’ve been around food since they’ve been born, and some are still picky eaters.

3. The chance to connect with new teachers and expand our personal learning networks has been invaluable, and will continue to be a useful resource. We come from all kinds of schools, we teach different age levels, and we teach various subjects (within the broad heading of science). But we are all interested in making science education better, and we have found new colleagues with whom to share information. I’m happy to have made some new connections, and I look forward to hearing about your classes through the coming year.

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I tweeted this a few days ago, but thought I’d repost here since it relates to so many of our final WebTools projects and could be pretty useful. This a great article with a wealth of information on blogging (in and out of the classroom). “Wealth of information” doesn’t even do it justice (I think I counted 38 links to different sites with information for teachers, students, and anyone else that blogs).

The Best Sources Of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers by Larry Ferlazzo. Read it, consider following Larry on Twitter.

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update 7/18/11 Broken link fixed.

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