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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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Storming the Educational Bastille

I have my IB ITGS students do a weekly reflection on our class wiki called ‘Your Week with Tech.’ The purpose of this reflection is for students to think about how digital technology has impacted them that week (impacts can be good or bad). They can also reflect on articles related to the course that they read independently. They’ve been reflecting for 5 weeks now and have presented many interesting experiences and thoughts. One of the most provocative came today from an HL student in my grade 11 class. Here is what she said verbatim (I didn’t  fix grammar):

“I read an article in China daily, which was very thought provoking for our generation. The article claimed that the future belonged to the people highly educated in the field of IT. This was something we could imagine, but then the interesting point of the article was that the people, who will be most successful are the one combined IT skills with highly developed social skills. First of all I thought about the IB course, which does not fully integrate IT in all subjects. Knowing that IT skills are the key to success in the future it is not acceptable that these skills are more or less neglected. I think the IB course should be made up to date regarding IT and its integration in subjects.”

Wow! Here it is, the scream for change and shift in way we do education, even at the IB level, coming from the mind of a student. Talk about an opportunity for harnessing a real grassroots movement! Imagine a mob of students storming the head of school’s or principal’s office (think of the French mob storming the Bastille; no chopping off heads though!), or protesting to their the 20th century teachers to change to the learning needs of this century, or flooding the IB with emails regarding this issue! If schools can’t listen to the students, then there is a major problem.

What’s the best way to harness this student voice and/or get them to overcome fear and advocate for this needed change? If this could happen successfully, I think the needed shift could happen much sooner. Like multiple horses pulling a stagecoach, a few hundred students advocating for meaningful and compelling technology integration in the context of learning and literacy for this century could be way more powerful then the few dedicated and enlightened teachers trying to do the same.

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