Lately I’ve been trying to learn how to use Drupal. The motivation for this is my husband’s business that needs a web presence. I set something up in Google Sites but had a look at what some businesses had achieved with Drupal and thought that might be a better option. My problem was I have never used Drupal, knew nothing about it and needed to find out how to approach setting something up.
So what did I do? I went straight to twitter and asked people there to point me in the direction of tutorials that might help me. Did I get help? Absolutely. Links were provided, twitter names were offered as go to people and I connected with some followers who I hadn’t connected with before. So why am I telling you this?
I was in a PLP fellows meeting and we were discussing the successes and challenges we were having with teams in our cohorts. The discussion led by Sheryl and Will was centred around how we have to connect what we are trying to do to learning rather than focusing on teaching Web 2.0 tools acquisition. The idea was that it isn’t the tool that should be the focus but rather how that tool can be the effective medium for the learning possibilities for our students. Now I totally agree with this, it’s the kind of thinking I believe and it’s what I try and focus on when I discuss adoption of new ideas in my school setting. However, there is no avoiding the fact that at some point teaching the tools has to happen. Our teachers need to feel competent dealing with blogs, wikis, nings, voicethread, and any other web 2.0 app that has the ability to connect our kids with one another and the outside world. My feeling is if they don’t feel confident they will be less likely to adopt these ideas as permanent shifts in their classroom practice.
I was making the point that I could empathise with how some of our staff are feeling since I’ve started exploring drupal. I feel ‘dumb’ for want of a better word; I can’t figure out where best to start and it all seems a bit overwhelming. Similar to feelings I had just over a year or so ago when I started exploring new technologies. Will countered me by suggesting that my learning is now different. He asked “Did I go and buy a manual or did I go to my network first”? The point he was making was that I learn differently now and this is the kind of thing I need to impress upon the teachers and students I interact with. My community of learners has shaped my attitude and actions and this very powerful learning is something that our colleagues and students need to benefit from also.
There are many challenges ahead for us if we want to see systemic change happen. I need to remember that small steps are OK – they will muster support and allow us to start taking larger steps, maybe even leaps.
I’ve mentioned Phil Bradley many a time. He writes a very helpful blog, is extremely knowledgeable and has a sense of humour. I sense he does, anyway, from the way he writes. I like writers whose personality shines through, especially humour. There can’t be enough of it as far as I’m concerned! One of the things he does is maintain a site called ‘I want to’. Here’s what it’s about from its front page;
I want to:
“I want to…” or “I need to” or “How do I?” These are all questions we all ask all the time. This is a small collection of resources that will help to answer those questions. It is not complete, nor will it ever be. I will be adding to this on a regular basis, so feel free to bookmark it and come back and visit. Now listing over 1,000 applications.
Web 2.0 applications and resources to help collaborate, communicate, discover, email, laugh, generate images, podcast, use multimedia, store photographs, use RSS, internet search, shop, create start pages, store information, time management, train, teach and do things with webpages and websites.
This is a fabulous resource. Phil keeps it updated so the links are live and if something goes belly up he’ll let you know. It’s organised into categories and sub categories and a brief explanation accompanies each link so you have some idea of what the app is about. Like he says, this is one to bookmark and one to use in PD for staff. Pointing our students in the direction of this wouldn’t hurt also!
John Connell has written an excellent post about Cloud computing and the future of education and the web. He muses;
Since 2002, I have been boring anyone willing to listen to me that this would be the case one day – and the core idea behind Glow in Scotland is based on this fundamental premise – that the world of knowledge is shifting inexorably onto the Web.
John has written a very interesting and thought provoking post. I urge you to visit his blog and read it.
I posted a comment because the post spoke to thoughts I have been mulling over regarding the future of libraries. Here’s what I said;
I have been grappling with this idea for some time now and you have articulated what I have been trying to put together in my mind. I’ve been trying to picture the future of libraries. If knowledge is everywhere and accessible to everyone then what is the point of some central location. There isn’t one. What the point of libraries will be, I think, is as a meeting place for humanity to share ideas. A bit like Ancient Greece where the Sophists would meet up together to share ideas. What keeps coming to me with all of this change is that we still need human interaction and the formation of meaningful relationships to sustain us. I feel that I have found a friend in you John through this PLN, but meeting you probably cemented the friendship. I look at the school library I run and what is happening with the students at my school. Their reliance on print material has lessened greatly with their shift to the web. We may as well ditch non-fiction altogether. And yet our Library is thriving. Why? A welcoming environment. We have couches, cushions, kids can eat in there and use their phones and listen to ipods. We listen to them and we like them. We don’t force feed them books but they like the connectedness they feel there. The knowledge will be everywhere and easily accessible, but the need for human connection will be constant.
John’s post was speaking to eduation as a whole rather than the specific nature of Libraries, but I think we can draw parallels. There will still be a need for schools and teachers. I don’t think we will become obsolete. I do think the nature of learning will change; we will need to encourage and foster self directed learners and this is what I see the function of teachers will be in the future. We will need to guide and mentor our students; explicit teaching of some skills will still be necessary, but empowering our students with the ability to discover and learn off their own steam will be the essential life skills. What will be a vital role of schools and teachers will be what has been vital all along. The space where students can form relationships, the space where they can articulate ideas and glean advice and encouragement, the space where the human network forms and where they can find ways to make it grow.
I’d love to know what others think. Is this the future, has it always been this way, or is the future something else altogether?
I’m trying to get back into the swing of things now that I’m back from 3 weeks away from my networked existence. I did have a few opportunities to dip into the pool, but they were very quick forays into the shallow end. No deep immersion. Have to jump back in without checking if the water is warm.
Part of the dive back in is getting myself immersed in the ning site that supports the Powerful Learning Practice cohort my school is part of. I feel remiss for not fulfilling my end of the deal, but it was just too hard trying to update the blog for parents with the little time for the internet that we had when we had retired to our rooms (or Starbucks during the day!).
One of the forum discussions has asked us to think back to our best and worst teachers and think about how we learn best. Here is the reply I posted;
My best teachers. Mr. Peterson, Mr. Maughan and Mrs. Underwood. All were chalk and talk teachers for the most part, but they took an interest in me and made me feel that my opinions were valued.
Worst Teachers. Can’t remember their names. They were paycheque teachers who didn’t care for my opinions and didn’t make me feel involved in the subject matter.
How do I learn best. Connection, connection, connection. For me, learning is about relationship building. If I feel that someone is interested in my thoughts and want to encourage me in my learning I will go the extra mile for them. That’s been my experience as a teacher also. I invest time in finding out about the kids I teach; I think it makes a difference. If they know that I care they will do more for me. I’m convinced of that.
How do I learn outside of school now? I take the initiative and search the web for answers. I use my connections, connections, connections. My friends in this online world are the best sharers I’ve ever met.
I liked reflecting on my learning experiences. I still think that taking an interest in the kids you teach is the most powerful thing you can do as a teacher. You don’t need technology to help you with that. You need an open personality and a desire to make a meaningful difference. What I find exciting about teaching now is that I know how to make more meaningful connections for my students with teachers and potentially other students, who have open personalities and a desire to make a meaningful difference. Opening my students minds to the world by connecting with people rather than words on a page is a pretty exciting possibility. This is all about human interaction.
I’m frightened I’m going to sound like a braggart in this post but I’m pretty darn chuffed about being a guest panelist for Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s workshop in West New York State on Wednesday night last week (my time 11.00pm to be exact!). Been so busy haven’t had a chance to write about it. Sheryl asked me to join a panel to discuss inquiry and project based learning utilising Web 2.0. The intention was to highlight that Web 2.0 tools are not to be taught in isolation. They need to be integrated into meaningful authentic learning tasks where they can take students to new places with their learning.
When Sheryl sent me the link to the wiki I was amazed to see who else was on the panel. Chris Lehmann, Wes Fryer, Kevin Honeycutt and Australia’s own Dean Groom (an expert in Project based learning using Web 2.0 as the driving force behind creation of tasks). Such illustrious company for little old me to be involved with. The session was for educators from West New York (State) near Buffalo. It was held using elluminate. I could see the names of the participants but couldn’t see or hear them. They could see who was speaking as we enabled our webcams to be accessed. It was a fantastic opportunity to share my experiences with people in the United States and let them know what a transformative experience it has been for me writing this blog. I was able to share with them how making connections has enabled my students to have experiences wider than the classroom walls we habitate.
You could hear the passion for the idea of Learning 2.0 from Chris, Wes, Kevin and Dean. I think it was obvious that all of us were student focused in our belief that it is transformative adopting new technologies to transform learning experiences for the students we have dealings with. I hope the participants got a sense of this and that they reach out like we have done to make connections for their students. Sheryl recorded the session so when I find out where the link is to that I’ll post it.
I’ve been involved in helping to establish the Australian arm of a global cohort for Sheryl and Will Richardson’s Powerful Learning Practice. I see it as a means of increasing the capacity of our teachers to move with change and see the potential of Learning 2.0/Web 2.0 for their classroom practice. We’re still seeking a couple of schools so if you’re an Australian educator and want some detail contact me through this blog and I’ll pass on some info.
Thanks Sheryl for the invite. It made my week.
Newsweek writer Tony Dokoupil wrote an article this week called ‘Revenge of the experts’. In it, he asks the question ‘Is user generated content out?’ The byline of the article is;
“The individual user has been king on the Internet, but the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward edited information vetted by professionals.”
The article champions the idea that we are moving into a new phase of the internet – internet 3.0, where the wisdom of crowds (web 2.0) is being supplemented by another layer “of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.” (Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis) The article uses Google’s Knol (still in development), About.com, who employ guides to find relevant results for search terms, and Mahalo, a people powered search engine, as examples of the new direction the web may be heading in.
Another featured new entry into the market is BigThink.com, “a self-styled “YouTube for ideas” backed by former Harvard president Larry Summers and others (It) debuted its cache of polished video interviews with public intellectuals.” I took a look and I liked what I saw. The videos are arranged into topics including History, Business and Economics, Science and Technology, Media and the Press, Truth and Justice as well as many others. Our Year 10 students have, ‘What makes us human’, as an overarching question for their study of English for a semester. Low and behold, there’s a video on this site dealing with exactly that question. I could see that this site would be an easy sell to the sceptics out there who doubt YouTube. (Personally, I love it!) Most of the videos on BigThink.com are less than seven minutes and offer the hook for stimulating class discussion. You can register into the site and contribute to the discussion surrounding ideas they are talking about. A great classroom activity and one I’d like to try with my students. Definitely worth a look.
I really like the final quote from the article from Glenn Reynolds, author of ‘An Army of Davids’.
“There’s always a Big New Thing, but the old Big New Thing doesn’t really go away,” says Reynolds. “It becomes just another layer—like we’re building an onion from the inside out.”
I certainly hope we don’t see the demise of user-generated content. It’s one of the things I love about the web – its democratic nature allowing all to have input. Appeals to my upbringing.
Time for the weekly dose of School’s out Friday. Here’s David Lee King singing his Web 2.0 song, ‘Are you blogging this?’ I think my friends who don’t get blogging are getting sick of me mentioning my blog! Perhaps I’ll annoy them further by singing this loudly around them. Enjoy your weekend – make the most of it – Monday seems to arrive way too soon!