Friday, October 29, 2010

Schooling in a Web 2.0 World

Ben Sheldon - Flickr
Recently, I asked my high school sociology students this question:  "What should school look like in a Web 2.0 world?"  Leading up to that question, the students had watched several TED videos; Jimmy Wales' story of Wikipedia, Negroponte's OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) and Kevin Kelly and the Next Web.  The following is a very small sampling of some of their ideas, dreams and criticisms about school in a Web 2.0 world.

Mira says:  If Nicholas Negroponte, the creator of 'One Laptop per Child' can provide laptops for children in 3rd world countries, high schools should find the means to provide their students with them.
 (Our school recently initiated a 1:1 laptop program for the grade 7 students.  The other grades have access to a mobile laptop cart and two computer labs.  I took her comment to mean "other schools, not us".)

Jamie says: Additionally, teachers must make this adaptation to Web 2.0, as Generation Y and Generation X who represent 40 % of the global population are digital natives, meaning they have grown up with the Net and understand it extremely well.  If teachers adapted to Web 2.0 they would be able to teach more effectively as they will be communicating with students through an environment students are accustomed to using.

And Jordana says: In conclusion, in a Web 2.0 world, education should be an adventure. History class should be a virtual tour of New France, French class should be a video chat with a student from Paris and English class should have a new guest speaker everyday. Web 2.0 should allow us to escape the four walls of our classrooms and learn in a way that is fun and exciting. We have all the tools. We have all the resources. Now it’s up to us to utilize them and take education to the next level.  

We should ask our students their opinion about these important issues, especially their education.  Generally, students spend more time in the classroom than they do at home with parents and siblings.  They spend crucial, formative years in our classroom.  What we do (or neglect to do because we don't know how, because we don't have time to learn new tools, because we think our teaching doesn't need to be improved, infinitum) is going to have an impact on their developing minds, skills and personalities.  Teachers need to remember that.  Our work matters.  Our pedagogy makes a difference.  Listen to their voice and take some time to reflect on your own practices in the classroom.  Are you leveraging Web 2.0 tools for their benefit?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Silent Generation Meets Generation Y

Today is a day to remember.  Today, the 'silent generation' (people born in the 1930s and 1940s) met 'generation Y'.  Here's a picture to prove it.
That's my mother who is embarking on her journey of hyper-connected, brain-juicing, soul invigorating learning.  I'm so proud of her I could simply bust.  My mother is the model of a perfect learner: she's tenacious, very bright, inquisitive and her creativity is almost boundless.  She wants to be a part of this new landscape of learning and sharing.  Her passions are many, but watercolour painting is high on the list.  Today is her first day with her brand spanking new Asus laptop.  In a short time, she learned how to open the browser, find her gmail account, bookmark web pages and look for interesting videos on YouTube.  She's going to be a force to reckon with, I'm sure.  I can't wait until she starts blogging about her painting.

Can you imagine a world where our teachers, regardless of age, are as enthusiastic about learning new web technologies as my mother is?  How powerful and transformative that would be; for them and their students!

Why not wade in and leave her a message of encouragement?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Simple Truths from a New Jersey Blogger

I just read Karl Fisch's blog and he linked his readers to Vicky Bell's blog so of course I followed the link.  If you are reading this page, please do the same.  Ms. Bell wrote an open letter to her daughter reminding her of simple truths in life; nothing ruins your life forever.  The letter is beautiful, powerful and simply true.  Please read it and share it with the young people in your life.  When my son began his ninth grade, early in September, a fellow student committed suicide when his girlfriend left him.  I think about that young man every Fall and wonder what he would be like today if he had not made that terrible decision.  Teenagers need to know that there are options, even in the face of pain that seems insurmountable.  We all taste pain, some in greater measure than others.  Parents, teachers and significant adults need to be reminded to tell the young people in their lives about the simple truth Vicky Bell speaks of: nothing ruins your life forever.  Thanks Vicky.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Obsurvey Trumps Google Forms

I'm a big fan of Google docs as my students and colleagues will testify. Google cloud computing has been my preferred way of working and saving/sharing document for over a year now and "once you go Google, you never go back" is still my favorite phrase. I stumbled upon Obsurvey; a very powerful tool for hosting on line surveys. Not only can you easily share the url to the survey you create with Obsurvey, and embed it on your webpage/wiki, but you can download a pdf file of the results, filter how you see the results and much, much more. This tool is invaluable for any student or teacher who wants to collect information easily. It has obvious applications for a sociology course where students are designing their own research project and collecting data; but it could also be useful in any course where the teacher wants students to interact with and interpret data. This would be a super tool for a math course. I found out about Obsurvey from David Wetzel who blogs at Teach Science and Math You can watch the creator, Allan Ebdrup from Copenhagen, explaining his wonderful tool for teachers in this screenr video:

So, in that same vein, I've decided to post a survey that I created this morning.  I know that students read this blog and so I'm inviting any student to respond to this survey.  (I'll create a separate one for teachers later on.)  Be be reassured that the survey is completely anonymous and know that I appreciate your honesty.  This idea was inspired by the webinar I listened to this morning at, a site that both teachers and students would be interested in visiting to see the results of their study and some of their surprising conclusions.)

(survey removed)