Network power

I was exhausted last night when I finished writing yesterday’s post. Had about six hours sleep then had to get up early to take one of my kids to an early morning swim session. Arrived very early at work and logged on to check out the blog traffic. Wasn’t expecting much; who would be interested in reading about why I decided to start writing a blog and why I think it’s important to get our students learning in this environment.

Well, one look at my blog stats suggested otherwise! Last night’s post generated more traffic than I’ve ever had before. John Connell was kind enough to leave a comment and in a subsequent email said that he thinks a post like that resonates as it reminds bloggers about why they do what they do. Vicki Davis gave me some analogies she uses to describe the differences between wikis and blogs;

“I like to think of wikis as the collection and the blog as the album. Wikis as a chorus and a blog as a solo. Wikis for fact and blogs for opinion and voice. I think that both are needed as we try to teach both collaborators and individualistic thinker/inventors.”

Thanks Vicki. I used this in the afternoon PD session with my fellow staff – one participant read this and said, “That’s perfect, now I understand the difference. I was too embarrassed to ask before.” I think this is something we need to be very mindful of. During the session I was referring to plugins and widgets and had to clarify with the staff that this terminology has become familiar to me because I work with it now. It’s become relevant to me  – another example of how we learn best – when something has meaning for us we take it in, understand it and apply it to our needs.

My colleagues seemed interested and I got a round of applause at the end so that must mean something. One of our Heads of Year is keen to get involved in the Global Cooling project and sent me an email during the presentation so hopefully we’ll be able to get on board and have our students feeling empowered and making a difference.

Thanks network – being able to show my staff the huge spike in my blog stats and the cluster map locations were two of the most effective moments in the presentation. I think people could see that the world really is becoming flatter and we could be exploring possibilities for our students to operate in and learn from this collaborative network. I’ll wait and see if the seed planted today bears fruit.

Technology in Education – what should we be doing?

  

Todd Ritter from Download Squad attended the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference and heard David Pogue speak. He was amazed by the reaction of the audience to ideas David expressed about technology he feels would be usefully applied in educational settings. Todd made this comment about audience participants;

 “it became clear from the audience gasps and collective jaw-dropping that educators are not keeping up with technology changes. Demonstrations of technologies that have been around for more than two years were causing the educators to feverishly put pen to paper so they can take things like Skype back to their schools to use in the curriculum.”

While I think it’s true that many classrooms are not exploring technology to its full potential, I wouldn’t be so damning in my criticism. Many teachers are flat out trying to meet curriculum demands and the emotional needs of their students. While I agree that new technologies can make the learning experience more engaging, many teachers do not feel confident enough to try new things out. One of the things I’m trying to do with this blog is to highlight some of the new technologies available and empower teachers to feel confident enough to tackle something new. I had a wonderful experience with a colleague today. Our Electronic Services Librarian had set up a Wiki for her class and I was helping my colleague learn how to edit pages and link text to websites. I then suggested we find an appropriate YouTube video and embed it in the Wiki. We clicked on the plugin button and selected insert YouTube video. We copied the embed code from the YouTube video and pasted it into the box that had appeared on our screen. We clicked save and voila! YouTube video embedded in Wiki. She was thrilled and felt empowered. This was a teaching opportunity for me and my colleague will pass this on to her students. Winners all round! This is what we need to be doing to support our colleagues in feeling comfortable with new technology. Once they realise things aren’t so difficult to do there will be more uptake and our students will have the opportunity to learn technologies that will assist them in becoming the lifelong learners they need to be.

Todd Ritter suggests Five ways to improve technology in education. Read his post – he has ideas that I think all educators should be considering.

Wikis – We’re on our way

It’s 2am in the morning and I can’t sleep after my son woke me up. I’ve been lying in bed thinking about all manner of things. Do you remember ‘The Proclaimers’? They were two geeky looking Scottish guys with guitars who wrote a couple of catchy songs that were hits in the 80’s. (Still going strong according to their official site – they’ve even got a myspace page!) I was thinking about Wikis and their song, ‘I’m on my way’, came to mind. The title reflects how I feel about our adoption of Wikis in our School Library. We had pathfinders which were a static page of dewey numbers, keywords, and links that we devised for projects that teachers had set. They were great, but were limited because our Electonic Services Librarian was the only one who could make changes to these pages. They’re so much better now that we’ve started moving them over to Wikis. Now they’re a dynamic collaborative tool and everyone can have input – our Library staff, other teachers and students. Once again, the Lefevers at Commoncraft can explain a Wiki better than I!

I’m working with our Yr 11 Literature class on Monday morning to help them learn how to edit the Wiki our Library has set up for their class. The Wiki has pages for the texts they are studying and each student has their own page to chronicle their reading throughout the course of the year. I’m hoping the students are going to embrace this tool and that other teachers will see the benefits of this for their classes. We’re using PBwiki to create these online spaces and are making them password protected for privacy.

If we get time we may even lift our spirits watching this YouTube video featuring the song ‘I’m on my way’. Maggi137 has cleverly used the song to create a fanvid for the new Doctor Who, David Tennant.