Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Only the Beginning...


Beautiful island
Originally uploaded by leenmaldives
I have ventured through the jungle, fought off the social bookmarking adversary and struggled to free myself from the sinking sand of podcasting.
Now I have made it to my dream island. I need the peace and quiet and relaxation. Learning about new technology left behind, just for a moment in time while I catch my breath and reflect on this technological journey. Oh, what an incredible journey it was!

Reflection on Learning:
Looking back to my first on line interaction in my Web 2.0 course I have to sigh and laugh at the same time. I was so nervous and extremely unsure of what I was getting myself into. If I was a quitter I might have done so before I got very far. But I am not. Lucky for me I persevered.
In my introductory post I asked many questions. What will I know at the end of this course? How will this technological journey assist me to be a better mom, teacher or friend? How will I incorporate my new knowledge into my teaching and personal life? What knowledge have I gained that I can share with my colleagues? How will I expand on what I have learned?
Every aspect of this course has provided me with learning opportunities. Not only have I benefited from this but my family, students, and colleagues will also benefit from my learning about the web 2.0 tools we studied. This is only the tip of the iceberg for me. Very few courses have engaged me as this one has. Usually when a course of study is over I am done. I feel like I have just started and a whole new world is out there waiting for me to explore, create, and share. I titled my introduction to my fellow students in this web 2.0 course as ‘My learning curve can only go up.’ I underestimated the potential behind that title.
I started with very little knowledge and it seemed that every week I gained a bit more confidence in my ability to understand and use the web. Every web 2.0 tool was virtually new to me, except for a couple. Even in those cases I had to think about how to use them in an educational context.
I found both text books to be helpful but really enjoyed and used Richardson’s (2009), Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms as my constant companion when setting up and learning about a new tool. The language and instructions are straight forward and simple to follow. For a non techie like me this was a life saver. If Richardson said to do it a certain way that is the way I did it. I also found the trailfires to be an excellent source of information and a good starting point for other links to follow. They helped me to understand the educational value of the tool we were studying. I liked the progression in which we learned about each tool. Even though each tool had its challenges for me at the time I was learning about it, I can see now that starting with photo sharing would be the easiest tool to learn about. Progressing to blogging and RSS brings it all together. I have moved away from being a limited consumer of the web to being more of a creator. From the first day to the last I know that I have been involved in an opportunity to change the way I teach and engage the 21st century learner.

Highlights:
There are so many exciting things that I learned about that it is difficult to just pick a few. One of the overall highlights of this course was the feeling I got when I discovered how to use the tool and manipulate it to produce my project for the week. I would get very excited about all the possibilities it would give me for using the tool in the classroom. For example podcasting is a tool that I can easily use in my Kindergarten class. Another highlight would be learning to use the multimedia sites as I enjoy photography and will be able to present my pictures in a more dynamic way to family and friends and embed them in a wiki or Facebook to share with them. I will also be able to produce an exciting video for my year end Kindergarten graduation that each student will be able to keep as a memoir. Another ‘aha’ moment for me was to finally discover that the internet is not just a place to google something I need to learn about. “Use the Internet to not just gather information but to share information, to collaborate with others, and at the same time to allow students to learn content in a more independent and creative manner.” (Rochelle, 2009). Not only will my students benefit from this, I have learned that the web is an invaluable tool for me.

Lowlights:
I did have some. Frustration did not elude me. There were times that I wanted to give up. I felt that the time I took to learn, play, and research each topic was phenomenal. It was difficult sometimes for my children to accept this. Also, temporary difficulty accessing the trailfires was frustrating because I didn’t know how to fix it. I asked several people at work and they couldn’t help me either. Finally I asked a high school student
and in about thirty seconds he solved the problem that had been plaguing me for a week. As far as tools, Twitter was probably my least favorite. I know that I need to give it more of a chance as it has many professional development opportunities. Over time I will delve deeper into Twitter. Listening to the beginning podcast was also a frustration for me. I could not get it to work but finally figured it out as a computer issue. Even though I had some difficulties the highlights outweighed the negative.

What I learned from others in class:
Upon sitting here and reflecting on the entire process I realized the most significant thing I learned from my fellow classmates was to let go -
- of my insecurities of having to talk face to face with someone.
- of my anxiousness of having my picture and information on the web.
- of my fear of someone I know actually coming across something I have put on the web.
As I participated in the discussions and followed my classmates’ blog posts I began to see that they were more comfortable in sharing and that in turn made me relax more. If I had continued to harness these issues it would have hindered my learning and I would not have gone as far into the web world as I did. From Kathy I learned to think about credibility on the web and how I need to check sources and trust my instincts about sites. Bruce through all his references and links throughout our discussions and his blog posts have shown me that I need to be reading more professionally. Jackie had me thinking about what kind of tool promotes the most collaboration and I’m still not sure if that is a one word answer. I think it depends on the kind of rapport you are looking for. Last but not least from Corey I learned to be myself and to add humor to my blog. When I blog about early literacy I will feel more comfortable with the topic so I will be able to add more personal anecdotes and play up the humor. I enjoyed the stimulating conversations and reading my group members blogs.

Discussion of the implications:
Future plans:
I plan to continue my pursuit of learning about technology. Our school division is in the process of starting a Web 2.0 cohort. I was talking to one of the coordinators last week about this course. He was very interested and wanted me to share more about what I learned. I will be joining the cohort and expanding the skills I have already acquired and hopefully be helping others to see the potential of the web as a learning tool within our schools. I agree with Richardson (2009) that teachers will have to redefine their role as being: connectors of content and people, content creators that use web 2.0 tools, collaborators with other teachers and students, coaches that model necessary web 2.0 skills, and change agents. (pp.136-137) I feel that I will continue to grow as well as have the opportunity to help other teachers within the cohort see their changing role.
I will also be able to go back and experiment with many of the tools we learned about this term that I feel I never got enough time to explore. I started some projects like my Kindergarten wiki and have not found the time to complete it so that it is useful to me. I want to continue learning and using wikis for collaboration for my Kindergarten Action Group and for my classroom as Hargadon (2009) suggested as a communication tool for parents. I am also continuing to use Delicious and my RSS. Google Reader allows me to keep up with quality reading so that I can keep abreast of the new issues and information involving technology. As Gardner (2008), states, I will, “take advantage of RSS to stay informed and save time.” I also want to become more involved in social networking. I feel the more I read about technology and understand it the more confident I will be to make credible comments on blogs and Twitter. If I become a more active participant in social networking I will in turn share its value with my students. “Social participation forms the basis of a learning community that reaches well beyond the walls of the classroom and involves learners at different times and in very different places” (Davis & Merchant, 2009). By becoming involved in various learning communities both myself and my students will become more active learners.
I will also continue to integrate podcasting, Flickr, YouTube and Voicethread into my teaching at the primary level. These tools will become part of my repertoire for engaging my students and for introducing Web 2.0 tools to them.

Tools to share with colleagues:
Joining the Web 2.0 cohort will allow me to share my knowledge about most of the tools we learned about. I will continue to share what I have learned about blogs with other staff members. Blogs have many benefits in the classroom. They encourage feedback from all over the world, learning new vocabulary and stimulating conversations, as well as improve reading and writing skills. (Davis & McGrail,2009). I will also show them how blogs and blogging can improve networking and professional development.
I also will continue to show my colleagues how useful Delicious and RSS are in organizing online information as well as collaboration. I need to convince them that, “the advantage in using social bookmarking sites is the human collaboration involved in the searching framework” (McGraw Hill Companies, 2009) as well as keeping track of your favorite sites. Using Google Reader will also benefit them in keeping up with their online reading while saving time.
Some of our staff likes Twitter. I could help them to realize there is more to Twitter than socializing. The professional development they could get from Twitter as Valenza (2009), states would benefit them. “My Twitter network helps me grow as a professional and share as a mentor and teacher.”
Every time I use a Web 2.0 tool in my teaching I will share it with my colleagues both at my school, in the Web 2.0 cohort and with my Kindergarten Action Group. I will also use the Common Craft videos to help my colleagues to understand how to use a tool and their benefits. http://www.commoncraft.com/ They will get to see how I use Animoto, Audacity, Voicethread, Youtube and wikis in my classroom. They all should learn how to use these tools because it is their responsibility to keep up with what is current in teaching and to integrate new methods into their teaching. “Our amazing, ever-changing technological world may seem overwhelming at times, but educators must rise to the challenge of closing the growing digital divide in education.” (Mullen & Wedwick, 2008).

Networking and Professional Development:
After taking this course I have realized that a blog about early literacy would be a great way to network with others and to increase my professional development in the area. I have lots to share with the world about early literacy and there are experts in the field that I could also learn from. There are other social networking tools that I will continue to use as well as reading blogs and creating my own. Some of these tools include Facebook for keeping up with my extended family and Twitter for professional development as soon as I start to follow the right people. Wikis and Nings can be used for both personal and professional use. I am beginning to use our Kindergarten Action group wiki more than ever and feel like I can become a leader in the group on using technology. I agree with Maloney in Selwyn’s (2009) article that “the conversational, collaborative and communal qualities of social networking services are felt to “mirror much of what we know to be good models of learning, in that they are collaborative and encourage active participatory role for users.” If I network we can learn from each other.

Summary:
Three months ago if someone had said to me that I would know about blogs, RSS, Voicethread or podcasting I would have asked them what kind of language they were speaking in. It was foreign to me. Now I can communicate in this different language and teach others about it. It’s the language of Web 2.0. How will this technological journey continue to change me personally and professionally? That is difficult to say. I know that the, “idea that teachers need to see themselves as learners first,” (Richardson, 2009) is a critical point for all educators to adhere to if they want to successfully implement Web 2.0 tools into their teaching and learning. It must be done to move our students forward to become 21st century learners. Taking this course has been my first step into becoming a more productive teacher in helping to prepare my students for the future. It’s a journey I will always remember and will always be on. This was really just the beginning.

References:

Davis, A., & McGrail, E.. (March, 2009). The Joy of Blogging. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 74. Retrieved November 22, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Davies, J. & Merchant, G. (2009). Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation. New York, NY: Lang Publishing.

Gardner, T. (2008). RSS: Bringing What’s New to You. Retrieved November 20, 2009 from http://ncteinbox.blogspot.com/2008/06/rss-bringing-whats-new-to-you.html

Hargadon, S. (October, 2009). Web Site in a Rush. School Library Journal, 55(10), 16. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

http://www.commoncraft.com/

McGraw Hill Companies. (2009). How to Article - Social Bookmarking. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from Teaching Today http://teachingtoday.glencoe.com/howtoarticles/social-bookmarking

Mullen, R. & Wedwick, L. (Nov./Dec.2008). Avoiding the digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs.
The Clearing House. Washington: Vol. 82, Iss. 2, p. 66-69

Richardson, W., (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. United States: Corwin.

Richardson, W. (2009). Teachers as Learners part 32. Retrieved December 5, 2009, from http://weblogg-ed.com/2009/teachers-as-learners-part-32/

Rochelle, N. (August,2009). To Blog or Not to Blog? School Administrator, 66(7), 17-19. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Selwyn, N. (2009). Faceworking: exploring students' education-related use of Facebook. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 157. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Valenza, J. ( March, 2009). http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/1940041394.html

4 comments:

  1. Hi Pam, I really enjoyed following your posts. You have a knack for communicating what the learning process is really like for each of us. Take care and have a great Christmas break!

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  2. What a great summary. It has been a busy three months and like you I’ve learned tons. Thank you for all your thoughtful insights.

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  3. Hi Pam,
    You have done a fantastic job with your blog posts this semester. I really appreciated your honesty with your frustrations in the course and the perseverance you showed. I absolutely agree with you that this is one of the first courses I've 'finished' where I feel I am just beginning my learning. I'm excited to keep learning about the tools as I use and implement them in my teaching. Thank you for all of your encouragement through the semester and for sharing your thoughts. Have a fantastic Christmas break :) Jackie

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