Technology has rapidly advanced over the past few years to include an extensive list of new technologies and applications such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, social bookmarking, RSS feeds, webcams, and portable devices. While the list can be exhaustive, there are educational applications and technologies to suite educator’s instructional needs for addressing 21st century learning.
The educational landscape has experienced exponential growth and change, and will continue to do so whether we welcome change or not. Over the past couple months I have welcomed new approaches in learning, exploring new applications and researching the educational implications of Web 2.0 tools. My personal and professional Web 2.0 tool box is full of new learning, new experiences and new connections.
Focus on Staff Development
The best approach to integrating Web 2.0 tools in my school would be through school-based professional development. As a media specialist and technology leader, I remind myself that delivering onsite teacher technology professional development should be inviting, meaningful and relevant in making curriculum and instruction connections. The ever-present expectation of delivering the provincial Program of Studies goes hand-in-hand with Alberta Education’s focus on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Outcomes. “The ICT curriculum is not intended to stand alone, but rather to be infused within core courses and programs” (Alberta Education, 2008). There are educators still struggling with these ICT outcomes even though these outcomes have been around since 2003. How do I help teachers move into the Web 2.0 when some are struggling with Web 1.0? Richardson (2006) reminds us that “education has been slow to adapt to these new tools and potentials” (p. 3).
Will Richardson’s book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms provides teachers and administrators with a hands-on approach, illustrating some of the most powerful Web 2.0 tools transforming education today. The 2008 edition now includes updated research, Internet safety and a section on information literacy.
A Web 2.0 Overview
What are Web 2.0 tools? What exactly does the emergence of Web 2.0 tools mean for teaching, for learning? I want to begin to integrate my Web 2.0 learning from this course into my school setting. As a teacher-librarian, one of my roles is as a technology leader. I would like to approach the introduction of Web 2.0 tools through a school-based professional development session. This would require me to begin at the beginning, presenting an introductory overview of the ever-evolving Web and an explanation of Web 2.0 tools. There are a few links to articles and websites that pay particular attention in highlighting the new read/write Web.
‘Net Know-How: Web 2.0 Overview
Alberta’s 2Learn.ca Education Society provides a brief overview of the new face of educational technologies, describing Web 2.0 “where the central theme is to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing” (2Learn.ca Education Society, 2008). I particularly like this introduction because it talks about the new connecting technologies in three distinct areas:
Convergent Technologies: blogs, rss feeds, wikis, collaborative real-time editors, webcams, e-mail guestbooks, directories.
Portable Technologies: cell phones, picture/video phones. MP3/iPods, PDA’s.
Peer to Peer: realtime [i.e. Skype], direct sharing of files (audio, video, data). (2Learn.ca Education Society, 2008)
What is Web 2.0 Anyway?
This Techsoup article describes the new philosophy of the Web by saying that people are no longer passive consumers, instead “they should be active contributors, helping customize media and technology for their own purposes, as well as those of their communities” (Krasne, 2005). Krasne features three popular Web 2.0 tools:
-Tagging and social bookmarking
Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?
This Educause Review article is a more advanced reflection of the rapid developments in the world of Web 2.0. This resource would be more appropriate for technologically advanced colleagues who consistently use technology and the Internet to enhance their professional learning and teaching practices. As a technology leader it is imperative to recognize that teachers on staff will be in different stages of their own technology knowledge, instruction and comfort level. As educators we differentiate instruction for our students. It is equally important to differentiate professional development for our colleagues.
Blogs & Social Bookmarking
Blogs are one of the main tools that (I believe) provide a foundation for many Web 2.0 tools. Blogs present readers with a variety of ‘applications used with an application’. Readers are easily exposed to a selection Web 2.0 tools because blogs typically house different tools such as voicethreads, RSS feeds, blogrolls, YouTube videos, social networking references etc. The list is exhaustive. What makes blogs an important 21st century tool is that they are developed through a series of conversations and reflections, engaging readers with questions, links and ideas, and they ask readers to participate (Richardson, 2006). Learning is active participation. Expecting all staff members to jump into blogging is unrealistic, however encouraging them to comment on blogs is a goal that many could easily accomplish.
As I commented in my last posting, I view blogs as having two distinct purposes - blogs as professional development and blogs for professional development - I would promote both purposes to teachers. There are blogs to suite general educational needs, and blogs to suite specific subject areas. Here is one example of a provincial blog suitable for all teachers on my staff:
Alberta Assessment Consortium Blog
An extension of AAC’s webpage, the Consortium focuses on a wide range of assessment topics, quality professional development, and partnerships with a variety of educational stakeholders.
Once educators can recognize the power of the blog, it is equally important to introduce them to the power of student blogging.
Teachers may have some preconceived thoughts that blogging is for older students or even adults…not the case. Blogging? It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson! talks about using this engaging tool at the K-6 level by discussing what you need to begin blogging and Internet safety concerns.
It is important to not only provide technology professional development from a teacher’s perspective, but also from an administrator’s perspective. Miguel Guhlin wrote a three part series on essential Web tools for administrators. In his second article, Five Essential Tech Tools for Administrators Part 2, he challenges administrators to blog because as leaders they (administrators and blogs) can “empower powerful conversations” (Guhlin, 2008). Guhlin quotes Dan Ostreich’s (2008) blog Unfolding Leadership by further stating that “the reflective leader opens the difficult conversations that people in a relationship need to have… blogs can help us explore those conversations -- and because of their openness, invite conversations that help us learn as leaders -- in advance, as theoretical exercises before we ever have them in person”.
“Whether it’s blogs or wikis or RSS, all roads now point to a Web where little is done in isolation and all things are collaborative and social in nature” (Richardson, 2006, p. 89). All roads must lead to social bookmarking!
Saving bookmarks on individual computers (at home, at school) is an ‘old out-of-date way’ to access bookmarks, or to quote Lee LeFever from Common Craft, he would say “boo!”. The cumbersome task of transferring bookmarks through hyperlinks or cut & past documents are steps that many teachers will no longer have to endure. This is the second essential tool for teachers to place in their Web 2.0 toolbox.
Once teachers see the exciting possibilities of integrating new emerging technologies, the transition of 21st learning and teaching can truly take place. My school has embarked on a formal ‘professional learning community’ project this year and what better way to promote new Web technologies than to infuse technology into our PLCs, after all “web 2.0 is all about open-ness and collaboration”(MacManus, 2007) and so are professional learning communities.
2Learn.ca Education Society. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.2learn.ca/nkh/nkhw2about.asp
Alberta Education. (2008). About information and communication technology (ICT). Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/program/ict.aspx
Guhlin, M. (2008). Five essential tech tools for tdministrators part 2. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/columnists/guhlin/guhlin008.shtml
Krasne, A. (2005). What is the web 2.0 anyway? Retrieved from http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/webbuilding/archives/page9344.cfm
MacManus, R. (2007). Fear of web 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/fear_of_web_20.php
Ostreich, D. (2008). Unfolding leadership. Retrieved from http://www.unfoldingleadership.com/blog/?p=171