School 2.0 – a revolution in learning? Discussions in the blogosphere

Bud the Teacher has an picked up a good point from a thread on David Warlick’s blog.
Here’s what he has to say:

I’ve been having quite intensive discussions

What I am against is the simplistic notion that this technology leads to “School 2.0″ and that it represents a revolution in learning.

    Yeah.  I’m against that, too.  See, while I’ve been participating in and am learning lots from the whole “School 2.0” conversation(s), I find that so often, the presence of technology, to some people, means that the school of the future is here.  But it ain’t.  The technology by itself changes very little.  Having a blog or a podcast or a really neat-o wiki doesn’t mean a thing in terms of school design, school reform, or doing business differently if the underlying philosophies of education don’t change.  Sitting in rows and watching the teacher type on a blog via the projector isn’t a revolution in amazingly new pedagogy — it’s just a really, really expensive use of virtuo-chalk.
    The change comes when we begin to realize the power of sharing the information, of making the walls more transparent.  I think. 
     And I’ve been guilty of that expensive use of tech stuff sometimes, but my larger point is simply that, if all we’ve done at the end of the day with these new fangled tools that have amazing potential is turn them on and blast the old school stuff out into the new school world, well, then we haven’t really done all that much.  Have we?

I’ve been having quite intense discussions with friends, trying to convince them of the whys and hows of blogs, wikis, collaborating via internet, etc. This is what it boils down to: Are the kids smarter if I make use of web 2.0 in the classroom? Will I be a better teacher? Bud’s words are exactly my own thinking. When I started exploring blogs, I was very sceptical, and it wasn’t until I had found a purpose that I feel my students will profit ADDITIONALLY from that I took them to heart.

I’m still exploring, and though I haven’t made any revolutionary steps in with my classes due to blogs, I’m still learning and working on it.
Tools are what the teachers make of them.

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Blogging Swiss politicians

Here in Switzerland one of the Bundesrat (we have 5 governing officials!) started a blog. he is currently also the minister of environmental affairs and has raised a lot of interest through his blogging. Mr. Bundesrat Leuenberger started on March 14 2007, so just over a week prior to this post. It has been a huge success. Apparently, there is a huge desire to put in one’s own two cents at the top. Some posts have over 500 comments!!!

This is the first I’ve heard of government officials blogging, but it could be the beginning of a new acceptance for such tools outside the homes and offices of ‘techno-geeks’ like I am currently considered. If so, this could also mean that we may become more successful in integrating blogs in schools. They are already a part of the software being used in the e-learning platform at the pedagogical university I work at.

Is there a change on the horizon, or am I simply too optimistic?

Why integrate internet technology in classrooms?

After many discussions about the pros and cons of using the computer in the classroom, I’d like to leave my thoughts here.

cons
Many of the teachers I’ve talked to, especially the sceptical ones, are afraid of spending (wasting) a large amount of their valuable time on the computer. This, I think, is a fair point and one that is not addressed enough. Teachers, especially at the moment here in Switzerland are in a stage of upheaval and change. The entire education system is being rearranged and new subjects are being introduced. A fair enough reason for this fear of wasting their time.

At the same time teachers feel, rightly so, that many pupils these days spend (waste) more than enough time in front of a screen already, be it the computer, the cellphone, gameboys, x-boxes and other digital gadgets.

In addition, many educators question the pedagogic value of using computers. It seems to them that technology is being used simply for the sake of using something new. Why use it when there is so much other material around? Lessons were good before, and they question whether technology just simply puts what was previously around into a new packaging.

Pros
So, let’s look at ‘wasting time’.  There is a fair amount of time needed for technology, especially in the beginning. However, the time taken to read what others are saying, especially through blogs, can be a source of growth and personal and professional development. Where else are you going to get such cheap training, and with some very respectable and knowledgable people out there in the blogosphere, second life, yahoo groups, youtube, myspace and many more!  Here in Switzerland teachers are obliged to take courses. With the available internet resources this can be done with international groups, at home, when you have the time (like at 10:30pm ;-)). I don’t see this as a waste of time.

Kids DO waste a lot of time in front of the screen. So instead of saying, stop sitting in front of the screen (and them NoT doing it), why not give them something useful to do in front of the screen?  They will be using internet for a good while to come and should learn to use the possibilities in a respectable manner. They also need to be taught to use these tools effectively and efficiently. This can only happen if the educators are acquianted with these same tools and can offer more producive and creative ways to use them. It is our responsibility to guide our children and pupils and teach them what to do with the computer (not technically, but morally) . Get on the internet and teach them netiquette. Get them involved with other pupils in other cultures. Let them use their own voice and be heard – but with clear guidelines.

What educators have been doing IS a valuable contribution to society, and can be done without a computer. But you wouldn’t through out the OHP, would you? -well, maybe you would because you now use the beamer!  Why? because it can allow you to do things which support your teaching that the OHP can’t do. The same is for internet tools on the computer.  And I think the main and most important addition these tools can add to teaching is INVOLVING the pupils. Giving a child a voice is a great start, but giving this voice an audience, one that replies, encourages, comments, etc., is invaluable in motivating and involving your learners.

I’m sure I could come up with more reasons. At the moment I’ve especially focused on the young learner. But the same goes for any type of learner, in my case language learners. This is what I hope to be able to achieve with my classes. I hope to get them active outside the classroom, using language to interact, not just for practice in the lesson. I want to give them an opportunity to go further, beyond the classroom walls and language learning mentality. I want them to become language USERS.

Recent courses and conferences

In the last few months I haven’t been idle. I’ve been trying out and expanding my knowledge about web2 tools and trying to share the word. For the record, here is a summary of some of the things I’ve done.

Publishing: As a newly appointed coordinator of the ETAS ‘learning technologies SIG I’ve begun writing a column for the ETAS journal about blogging. I’m going to expand the topic, including other tools such as openweb bookmarks, wikis etc. all in due time.

Workshop: This has received some interest so I wanted to give people an opportunity to use some of the tools hands-on. Therefore, I gave a workshop at the ETAS SIG day. As soon as I figure out how to integrate the Powerpoint into a slideshow, I’ll integrate it in this post. The day went well, but I tried to do a bit lot! more than time would allow. I also made my expereinces with the problems a computer-based workshop can bring. Certainl points such as e-mail addresses should be clarified and alternatives ready before hand. However, I feel this is a learning experience and will continue to promote web2 tools for teachers (thank you webheads!!! too many to name, but oh so important :-)) and I’m sure next time will be much better!

ETAS blog: I’ve put up a blog for the ETAS as well (if you are interested in what exactly ETAS is, then just have a look here: http://etasblog.wordpress.com/ This is a place for sharing with other members and the occasional visitor. I also hope to link up classes in Switzerland and get them blogging and collaborating together, a mini Dekita, if you will (thank you Bee!)

Santec blogging seminar: This was an interesting, if short, experience. The seminar was on a blog-basis and is now in the archives along with a podcast seminar. The next one will be about wikis in the end of July , see: http://santec.uwc.ac.za/ and register with a short hello message to follow what’s going on there. Have had some previous experience with blogs at different ends, it was interesting to see what happened. Once the participants were asked to make their own blogs and carry on the discussion there, the discussion seemed to dry up. I suggest that even competent educators need some guidance, even more importantly so if the area is new. This was the most valuable part of the experience for me since it made me reflect on the amount of guidance a learner of a new language would need to cope with a new communication tool. Very good food for thought!

Webheads in Action Convergence: More than a conference, this web-based meeting brought together people from all over the world from different secors of education. There were many interesting presentations about different aspects of learning, internet tools, collaborating, etc. The archives are open to the interested here: http://www.webheadsinaction.org/ What I learned most here was by observing some excellent models of use of these tools. The moderators were very professional and just by taking part, I felt I was not only getting a lot of ideas, but coming to understand the reasons for adding these tools to my repetoir of teaching – much more than just gag and interest of the new!

Now that all that has been said, I see that what I’m doing here is a kind of portfolio, unintentional, but never the less documented statements of my growth in this area. I will continue to follow what’s going on and keep up with what others are doing. And I will continue to reflect and record my experiences here .