Web 2.0 for teachers

It seems weird to me that we spend so much time learning about learning.  We constantly reflect on our teaching practices and make changes to adjust to the ever changing needs of our students.  Then why do we rarely use the same methods that work on our students when we are developing teachers?

Research tells us about differentiated instruction, multiple intelligences, student-centered and inquiry based learning.  We are all familiar with them in the context of our classrooms, but when you stop and think about it…how often do we use these techniques in teacher development in our schools or school divisions?   I spend a lot of time thinking about integration of technology and using web 2.0 tools with the students in our school.  I am not saying that I never think about how they can be used with teachers, because I do.  Most often I am trying to help teachers learn technology so that they can use it with their students, not really so they can use it for their own professional benefit.

I recently did a presentation of developing adults for one of my courses.  I tried to tie in some web 2.0 use for teacher development, but it was difficult to find research that had been done in this area.  In the May edition of Educational Leadership there is an article entitled, “Professional Learning 2.0”, that discusses the use of web 2.0 tools for teacher learning.  In the article they list 3 false assumptions about professional learning.

1.  Passing information is enough– we see this often when administrators are sent to conferences and then are expected to come back and share information with staffs usually in a condensed time session.  The staff is never given time to discuss or use the information.

2.  Insight must come from the outside– we like to think that we need to leave our buildings to find experts, when really we are often surrounded by them right where we are. Teachers can be empowered by sharing what they do well with others.

3.  Planning means learning– having a great plan does not mean that anything is learned.

The use of web 2.0 tools for collaboration and growth is inexpensive, readily available, probably takes less time and can be individualized for teacher’s needs. It is not the tools that are powerful, it is  the connections and conversations that turn information into usable knowledge. Isn’t that what we want as teachers?  We want to learn from each other and support each other in our quest to do what is best for our students.  One great example of this is classroom 2.0. There is a never ending variety of professional learning groups collaborating together as well as never ending professional development opportunities to choose from.

Web 2.0 is not only for our students to grow in their learning-we can do it too and who knows what we will learn!

Just for fun!

What is this about generations in the work place?

I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation last night about the generations in the work place.  It is a very interesting idea to think about.  I always thought that I was a young baby boomer, but I didn’t think that I fit the profile of a baby boomer. I do have the belief that I can change the world, but I don’t  think that I need to sacrifice my time with family and friends to do it.

I was relieved to find out that I am an older gen X instead and that profile makes more sense to me.  Generation X is can be described as being  independent (me to a fault), resourceful and self-sufficient.  They can also be optimistic (always!), assertive, positive and friendly.  Take a look at this video featuring Karen McMullough and how she describes me…the generation X.

I had never given much thought to generations in the work place before except to consider the net  or Y generation.  I have to admit that they scare me a little with their can do attitude and self-confidence abounding.  This is the generation that has always, and continues to, grow up using all types of technology and being comfortable with it.  Not so very long ago I read the book, Grown-Up Digital, by Don Tapscott and I came away from the reading with what I thought was a new understanding of the net generation.  I started to realize the impact this generation was having on all aspects of our lives from economy to politics to global perspectives.  I also started to realize that we were boring the “growing up digital” generation in our classrooms, by not changing our pedagogy and “sage on the stage” ideas about teaching.

Those of you who know me, will know that I have taken it upon myself to encourage the staff in my school to integrate technology into their classrooms and teaching wherever it makes sense to do so.  I have met with some resistance from some teachers who feel that technology should only be used after everything else is taught. I can’t really decide if this attitude is generational or not.   I do know these teachers  do not see technology as a vehicle for knowledge, engagement, collaboration, thinking and creating.

I have spent a great deal of time reflecting about my leadership style and skills this year in my quest to improve myself and the way I come across to people.  One of the things that I learned was I can be impatient with people when they do not understand my passions.  I can get very passionate about technology and students!  How can I share this passion with others without coming across like a bulldozer and scaring people away or making them mad?

One of the best things that I did this year was get a few teachers on board with me to try to integrate some simple technology into math for assessment purposes, both teacher and student.  I did the leg work and applied for a grant and away we went.  I tried to keep extra teacher load down to a minimum and allowed everyone freedom, with support.

Wow!  We had such a good time doing the project together and grew closer as a staff team.  One of the best things that came out of it, was exactly what I was hoping for.  The teachers involved had a very positive experience.  I think we all did.  They told other teachers what we were up to and the great things about it.  The news spread and other teachers wished they had agreed to jump on board as well.  This had more effect on the staff then all of the presentations I have made at staff meetings all year.

I am already planning to do another technology project next year, this time focusing on web 2.0 tools in middle years social studies.  I am hoping that it will have the same effect and news will spread again.  Time will tell, but I am counting on it!

What is authentic learning?

I have spent a lot of time this year reflecting on what is happening in the classrooms in my school.  Don’t get me wrong-there are countless good things going on.  I still have to wonder if some of the things we are doing would be considered authentic learning.

What is authentic learning anyway?

Research tells us that children, and adults for that matter, learn better by doing.  I think if we were to ask them, most students would tell us that they would rather learn by doing then just listening to the teacher.

I am always struggling with the idea of student engagement.  How do we get them engaged?  I listen to conversations all the time that involve the same few ideas:

1.  My students do not want to take responsibility for their own learning.

2. My students do not get their homework done, and if they do, it is sloppy and poorly completed.

3.  My students do not put any effort into their work and hand things in half done or completed with very little effort.

What I have to wonder is…

Could these problems all be solved or at least improved drastically if we were able to improve student engagement through authentic learning activities?

I have successfully applied for a grant to start in the fall.  My inquiry question is whether or not we can improve student engagement with middle years social studies by using web 2.0 tools.  I will have to get back to you on how that turns out.

I do know at this point that using the tools won’t be enough.  We will also need to make sure that we are planning  authentic learning activities and setting our students up with some rigorous questions that require more than a Google search to answer.

I am including a list of 10 ideas to consider when planning authentic learning activities in any domain.

1. Real-world relevance: Authentic activities match the real-world tasks of professionals in practice as nearly as possible. Learning rises to the level of authenticity when it asks students to work actively with abstract concepts, facts, and formulae inside a realistic—and highly social—context.
2. Ill-defined problem: Challenges cannot be solved easily by the application of an existing algorithm; instead, authentic activities are relatively undefined and open to multiple interpretations, requiring students to identify for themselves the tasks and subtasks needed to complete the major task.

3. Sustained investigation
: Problems cannot be solved in a matter of minutes or even hours. Instead, authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time, requiring significant investment of time and intellectual resources.
4. Multiple sources and perspectives: Learners are not given a list of resources. Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, using a variety of resources, and requires students to distinguish relevant from irrelevant information in the process.
5. Collaboration: Success is not achievable by an individual learner working alone. Authentic activities make collaboration integral to the task, both within the course and in the real world.

6. Reflection (metacognition)
: Authentic activities enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning, both individually and as a team or community.
7. Interdisciplinary perspective: Relevance is not confined to a single domain or subject matter specialization. Instead, authentic activities have consequences that extend beyond a particular discipline, encouraging students to adopt diverse roles and think in interdisciplinary terms.
8. Integrated assessment: Assessment is not merely summative in authentic activities but is woven seamlessly into the major task in a manner that reflects real-world evaluation processes.

9. Polished products: Conclusions are not merely exercises or substeps in preparation for something else. Authentic activities culminate in the creation of a whole product, valuable in its own right.
10. Multiple interpretations and outcomes: Rather than yielding a single correct answer obtained by the application of rules and procedures, authentic activities allow for diverse interpretations and competing solutions.

Authentic Learning for the 21 Century: An Overview, by Marilyn M. Lombardi, http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3009.pdf

As a learning support teacher, I spend time helping students one on one in tutorial type situations.  I find this very rewarding.  I do get frustrated at times when I am helping students complete long assignments without any connections to their worlds.  I am not sure what learning is taking place when they are not making any connection to what they are being asked to do.

At the same time, I feel nothing but hope for the progress we are making.  At times it may seem slow, but most teachers recognize a need for change and are moving toward those changes that are necessary for authentic, student driven learning.

So glad to be back!

I can’t believe that it has been so long since I last posted a blog.  I was making a presentation at the university last night, for another course that I am taking, on topic of teacher development and personal reflection.  I can’t imagine a better way to reflect, than on my blog.

The last few weeks have been insanely busy and I am so glad the long weekend has rolled around so I have time to actually get my feet on the ground and caught up with a few things.  I have been spending some time updating my blog and making some changes so that I can have my link posted for everyone in my new course, ECI 834, to see and read.

I am excited to be taking another on-line course because there is nothing that I would rather talk about than technology integration and authentic learning.

I am also excited to see some familiar faces in my class, as well as some new people for me to get to know.

Have a great long weekend everyone!