Thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions on “What can you do with 2.0?“.
I have two goals for the new term: 1.) to get a better feel for new technologies and 2.) the way each will best add to my teaching–if they can add anything at all. Here’s my list.
Expand collaborative note-taking using wikis. I liked the way the Frankenstein wiki worked out; I just need to solidify the practice and open it up to my other grades.
Trial: I’ll open this up to the other three grades, 6 to 8. I’ll also spend a few classes–more with the Grade 6s, fewer with the 8s–working over revising and editing posts.
Biggest problem: The Grade 6 class. They don’t quite have the maturity to be self-policing when working online. 2.) After 5 years of schooling they are so competitive for marks it’s frightening; getting them to work collaboratively will take considerable coaching.
Try Twitter. (from John Dumbrille & Bob Cotter). Why would I want to do that? My students have been intrigued byt the way IM and wikis capture and store conversations and ideas. Twitter seems to bridge the immediate and fleeting conversations of IM and the permanent record of notes in a wiki. Maybe we can capture those. But, I’ll ask again, why would we want to do that? What sort of conversation takes place in that space? That I’ll have to see.
Trial: I think this will have to be linked to the WikiEducator project somehow. That means I’d run it with just a small group of eight students. We’ll ow what we’re Twittering about once we settle on content for wikiEducator.
Biggest problem: It won’t do to set up a private microblogging network because that is a closed space and takes away any advantage of Twittering. (For that reason, Edmodo seems like a dud.) So, we’ll need a parent-education program to go along.
Bring parents into the 2.0 converstation. When I set up Google Apps in the school I gave families–not students–the accounts with the understanding that the students are the primary users. First of all, I think the students’ edcuation comes from a collaboration between students, their families and their teachers, so everyone needs to be using the same tools. Secondly, and more to the point here, if students are going to be properly equipped to work in a socially networked world, they need to actually work in a socially networked world. We can’t hamstring their experience with security controls so tight that they actual change the experience. This means that parents will need to be on board and helping students to use social networking tools responsibly and safely. I’m reminded here of the work of Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School and author of In a a great video on TED, he talks about our drive to overprotect our children.
Trial: Host a couple parent information nights. We did this very successfully when we launched a new assessment practice for the school. That gave us great buy in from families.
Biggest problem: Managing the risks, or perceived risks, that come with working on the open web.
Try blogging. Posterous now offers group blogging and that looks like it will get us around one of our security concerns, namely having to create new IDs for students every time we set up a new service. But, as with Twittering, my question is, What will we blog about?
Trial: I think we have to set up a blogging project with another group of kids outside our school. We may explore this in our WikiEducator project. I’d really like to set up a joint project with First Nations students from the Squamish and Lil’wat nations here in Howe Sound as part of my Master’s thesis. More on this later, but the idea would be to mashup Google maps etc. to rename, redraw, retell the Howe Sound story so it reflects a collective understanding of both cultures.
Biggest problem: I like the idea of having my students engage with people from all over the planet, but getting enough people outside the school actually to engage with them to make blogging significantly different from a classroom conversation will not be easy. Building a blog and driving traffic to it is a lot of work, work that I think takes away from the business of middle school education.
Experiment with tagging web content. The work that Peter Rawsthorne and John Dumbrille
are doing on tagging web content has tweaked my interest as a teacher. I really like the way this is not platform dependent and would be easily transferred to work on a cell phone–which is where I think things are going to go in the classroom. This may transcend things such as Delicious and Diigo.
Trial: The WikiEducator project.
Biggest problem: Tagging needs Twitter.
Buy a cell phone. No kidding–I don’t have one; I worry that if I do, people will start calling me. But, I love some of the things Rob De Lorenzo is doing over at his blog, The Mobile Learner:
When I taught grades 7 and 8, we […] kept running into the problem of students not using their agendas. This may have been due to the fact that it is not always convenient or practical to walk around with ones school agenda everywhere one went and the agenda is really useless if one doesn’t constantly look at it. Paper agendas are static devices that don’t actively work with individuals to remember to get things done. Cell phones, however, are different. Kids keep their phones with them all the time and keeping an agenda within their phone’s calendar is not asking kids to change their habits too much as they already use their phones for many other things other than for voice communication. However, the most important benefit in my eyes is the ability to allow kids to set reminders when things are due. This common feature has the powerful ability communicate back to students in a way that is impossible with a paper agenda.
Then there are the calculators built into cell phones. Why do we encourage students, especially those in elementary, to spend money on purchasing a calculator when they already have them built in to their phones?
In addition, to be able to take notes on a cell phones is very powerful. While on any sort of excursion, students can record their observation right from a device that they carry with them and easily collect those digital notes and make them accessible on a computer. […] Many cell phones that kids are carrying around have bluetooth and cameras as well. Using these devices, students can take photographs of observations on a field trip or science experiment, and collaborate with other students by sharing their content (photographs and notes) by sending them to group partners via bluetooth.
Toni Twiss has a great paper, Ubiquitous Information: An eFellow report on the use of mobile phones
in classrooms to foster information literacy skills, she’ll send to you if you email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trial: I’ll try calendaring with the Grade 8s or Grade 9s, assuming they all have cells with SMS. Even if some don’t, I may do it anyway as a way of building a case for a bigger trial either in the last term or next year.
Biggest problem: Cost. Data plans in Canada are not cheap–about $70 month.