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Learning with Web 2.0

In this post I’m just going to share the different Web 2.0 tools I currently use in the learning processes in my classes.

  1. Wikispaces . The class wiki for each of my classes is the center of our online learning environment. The students get almost all class information and due dates here; they complete class activities and discuss various topics; they collaborate with partners to achieve goals for projects; they share and comment on information provided by me and other students, and they embed and link to work here from other Web 2.0 sites. Links to my class wikis: Asian Studies, All grade 9 Asian Studies, IB ITGS.
  2. Diigo and Delicious. These social bookmarking sites are used to collate resources for my classes. I bookmark sources relevant to the different content we cover and tag each source with a certain tag which causes the source to appear on the class wiki through a link roll. At the moment, I do this link rolling process through Delicious. I’m in the process of moving all social bookmarking process to Diigo. In Diigo, I’ve created a group for each of my classes. The students join Diigo and become members of our class group so they can share resources with each other and collaborate in the research process. Soon, I’ll be showing the highlighting and commenting functions of Diigo that make the bookmarking and sharing process even more dynamic.
  3. Google Docs. As a collaborative writing tool that stores documents in the cloud, I use Google Docs on occasion to have students complete written activities they do in a group context. I also have them do collabortive planning here, as well. Here’s an example of a collaborative piece of writing my IB ITGS HL students did. All the assessment is done right on the document- no printing, no converting to a MS Word file.
  4. DropBox. This is a fantastic online file storing and sharing application. It looks and works just like a Documents folder on a computer. The difference is that it’s connected to and syncs through the Internet to other computers on which you have DropBox installed. Alternatively, you can access your files through the secure Dropbox website. You can also share folders and files with others who have a DropBox account. Any kind of application file can be shared. I’m doing this process with five IB extended essay students where they save all work in a shared DropBox folder. The IB coordinator is also part of each shared folder. We can view their work whenever we want, and give give feedback that the student sees as soon as we save the file. It’s a wonderful tool.
  5. Issuu. This is an online publishing tool. You can publish any kind of document here that then appears in a beautiful and easy to use viewer. Documents published to Issuu are completely searchable through web, so they can be considered officially published to the world. In my Asian Studies class, grade 9 students who had chosen to do a magazine article for an assessment had their articles collated and published through Issuu. See an example here.
  6. YouTube. I don’t need to explain what YouTube is. For the same assignment where grade 9 students were able to choose to do a magazine article published through Issue, the other students chose to do a documentary style video that was published through YouTube.
  7. Xtranormal. This is a site about which I recently learned. This is a simple video creation site (cartoon-like) where all you have to do is insert some text, chose a character and background, and you end up with a cool little movie. I will have my grade 9 students use this site as supplement to an opinion (for/against) paper they will write on a controversial topic about which they will be studying. They will take their for/against arguments, make them sound more conversational, insert the text into the script for two different characters on Xtranormal, and create a virtual debate between the characters. Here’s an example I created for the students to view.
  8. MindMeister. This is a cool collaborative mind mapping tool. I just used it for the first time with my IB ITGS class. They used it with fellow group members to brainstorm ideas and start planning for a group project. It worked out well and allowed the students to easily complete this task outside of class since each person could access the centrally located mind map online.
  9. Gliffy. Gliffy is an online, collaborative diagram software. It allows you to create professional-looking flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, and technical drawings. As part of the same project for which ITGS students used MindMeister, they used Gliffy to show the layout of the network they are creating as part of their project. Gliffy has nice, visual icons for many different contexts. For the network layout, it provides icons for servers, computers, firewalls, hubs, etc. Here’s an example of a group’s work in Gliffy.
  10. VoiceThread. This is becoming a very popular medium for presenting work at all grade levels. VoiceThread allows you to share images, documents, PowerPoint presentations, and videos. The great thing is that you can do this collaboratively with anyone with an account anywhere in the world. Moreover, you and your partners can narrate on top of the images or slides. Here’s an example from a global collaboration project my IB ITGS students did last year with a school in Shanghai and Helsinki, Finland.
  11. SurveyMonkey. This site does exactly what its name says- surveys. I used this to do a student-teacher feedback survey I’m required to do each year. I also used it once to do a low-stakes, formative assessment quiz. It worked very well! We were able to see a summary of the class results within seconds of the last person finishing the quiz. We were then able to discuss immediately why any question was missed, thus giving immediate feedback to the students in the process.
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Leadership for Technology Integration

For my month 3 Master’s class (Emergent Technologies in a Collabortive Culture) at Full Sail, we have to read a book put out by ISTE called Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools. This has been a good review for me about pedagogical processes and considerations with Web 2.0 tools. The chapter I was particulary interested in, however, was the one on “Professional Development” (PD). Being a Technology Integration Specialist at my school, providing PD is an important part of my job description. And, in order for technology integration to become a seamless part of every educator’s practice, PD is an essential element needed to get to that point of seamless integration in a school.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, PD “will need to come from all angles- top down, bottom up, grade level to grade level, subject teacher to subject teacher, and even student to faculty.” I continued to say that “explicit support and dedication to the transformation process from administrators and school boards will be essential.” (a little aside here- I think that was the first time I’ve ever quoted myself. Weird!) I think this second point about the top down leadership angle is so important. If our administrators don’t have a vision nor provide leadership for educational transformation as a fundamental goal (with technology integration being a part of the transformation process), then it will be difficult to truly unfreeze the status quo (if we are thinking of ‘unfreezing’ in terms of Lewin’s Change Theory).

For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about how best this process could work from the top down (administrators) angle. I’ve had (and continue to have) conversations with like-minded colleagues and even with my immediate administrator about this. Ideas are generated, but we never seem to finalize a strong idea in how to proceed.

Today, however, I just came across a few great ideas in the ISTE book in how to proceed (this is specifically in regards to training for technology integration). Here’s a summary of the ideas (from p. 111):

1. Change two simple things in the teacher evaluation process- require teachers to show how they are integrating technology in one formally observed lesson; have an element of technology integration be part of each teacher’s annual goals.

2. Require teachers to attend a certain number of PD workshops each year relating to technology integration.

3. Poll teachers each year on their needs and desires and offer specially tailored PD workshops based off of the feedback.

4. Offer special designations to teachers who do a certain number PD workshops relating to technology integration and can show explicit application in the classroom of what they’ve learned.

5. Skype in experts on various elements of technology integration to provide specialized training so that costs can be cut from having to travel to PD workshops that are out of town.

All of these are excellent ideas. I especially like numbers 1, 2, and 4. I think these three processes more clearly show that there is vision and expectation of ALL faculty to be actively involved in the learning process. This learning process and, of course, the implementation of the newly found technology integration skills will help the evolution of relevant and authentic 21st century learning environments. This would be the ultimate goal.

Transformation and change isn’t easy regardless of the angle of approach. For the top down angle, we must have leaders who don’t fear change if it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

Reference:

Solomon, G and Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. Washington D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.

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