Saturday, 24 January 2009

Why Bother getting Connected?

I came across this video about what this generation of 21st Century Learners needs to learn. It's message is that to prepare our students for the future in an evolving technological age we need to cater for their needs by CREATING, COMMUNICATING and COLLABORATING using technology. Watch:

But how can we get started? In a perfect world you would hope that you would let your staff watch the above, show them how to use a variety of web2 tools and they would shout "Eureka, I can see the benefits for student learning, engagement and achievement so I'm going to start today!". But alas, the world is not perfect and alot of staff members are not keen to step out of their comfort zones. What do we do with teachers that are reluctant because they don't know how to use the technology?

I haven't always been a whizz on the computer and was quite a technophobic before 2000. I started out slowly by ensuring that I was turning my classroom computers ON in the morning and committing myself to the notion that the students WOULD be using the computers. Of course my first experiences with computers in education was simply to publish the students writing but that was me using the computers not the kids. The first proper use of the students using the computer was through using digital learning centres. I have created many of these which educators can use, they are here at my wikispace. These are great for use with students from the primary/elementary sector (K -6). A digital learning centre reinforces, enriches and extends concepts taught as part of the daily programme and is a safe portal for children to access the internet. So I felt happy that they didn't have to type in any URL's that might lead them to dodgy sites if spelt incorrectly. The students could also access the wikispace from home and parents could take the opportunity to join in with homelearning. From the basic learning centres I then started creating my literacy programmes for early learners (5year olds) with a whole series of termly work called Learn to Read - they are available here.

From here I felt more confident to try different things on the computer. Using paint programmes for students to do follow-up pictures on, printing these out and adding stories, using the digital camera to document our learning and making readers of these events. Making digital stories using paint programmes, powerpoints and eventually being lead to creating blogs and wikispaces for children to use and share their learning. It all comes down to the willingness to embrace the technology and use it to make learning engaging for our students.

As technology evolves so too should our teaching pedagogy evolve to keep up to date, embracing and incorporating the technology. The benefits are numerous for our students and it is for them that we as educators need to change to engage and motivate our learners. Using web2.0 applications DOES this. If we can get teachers to start out small, to start to CREATE using technologies then they will be able to COMMUNICATE these creations with others (video, storytelling, blogs, podcasts) and ultimately this will lead to COLLABORATION (across the web with other learners in the global network).

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach is an amazing American educator who has been to New Zealand many times in recent years as a Keynote presenter, she writes a blog called 21st Century Learning and just today she has written a new post on a similar theme to my own called "Why Change" which is has a very powerful message that I totally agree with. Please drop by her blog and read this post.


Mr Lietze said...

Hi Justine

I thought I would share briefly my perspective in trying to answer your question"How do you think teachers should start getting connected?"

I personally believe we as teachers need to build first on our STRENGTHS. Develop and refine these so that we feel like we are getting somewhere. I find there is so much to do in our curriculum/classroom and so there is a danger of just doing things at a superficial level. You don't gain any satisfaction from doing things at this level.

I started by reading others blogs (and their blogs they read) looking for topics that I was interested in and I soon began to contribute by leaving comments. It was a natural progression when I realized I could contribute.

Next I believe as teachers who enjoy using ICT to enhance teaching and learning, that we share these things often. Show them the simple stuff that works so they can (if they want to) get started on BULLET PROOF, SIMPLE IDEAS. As they build in confidence, take them to the next step, demonstrating and scaffolding them on a new ICT tool or skill.

Keep in mind that whatever you teach them they need to be able to do independently and set them on a course so that it is SUSTAINABLE (many start and do little more). I think the reason many don't keep going is because they don't see the PURPOSE or the purpose they originally had in mind changed - and that is part of life.

Hope this helps a little.

Justine said...

I absolutely agree that teachers need to be able to sustain what they have learned and to see the purpose and advantage in why they are doing it.
I'm hoping to start with the keen teachers by offering techi-breakies. I like that a good way to start is by reading the blogs of others and beginning to comment.
Thanks for commenting.

teachernz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
teachernz said...

How do you do this when management is not on board? How to fit it all in when the expectation is that you carry on as "normal" and use IT and Web 2.0 as addons or another learning area instead of integrating into the main classroom programmes?

I know this year I'm planning to integrate more into literacy and inquiry, but I know this will attract criticism because if it's not on paper (in an exercise book) it's not "real".

I have to do this, for me, for the kids in my class and for their future.

Mr Lietze, you're right to say that teachers should share their love of ICT enhanced learning and I enjoy doing this on an ad hoc, casual basis as opportunities present themselves, but it's not my role. I'm not the IT leader and I feel like I'm swimming against the tide. Should I just stick up a poster "Blogging, wikis and Web 2.0" and see if anyone is interested?

I will see.

Justine said...

thanks for commenting Michael. You do need to keep sharing and keep on integrating the use of web2 tools as this is keeping abreast of current pedagogy which we are all obligated to do under our Professional Standards. Mel of @moodlegirl shared this quote with me today "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader". You don't need an official title to be a leader, your use of IT will inspire and rub off on others and I encourage you to continue to do so.
I'm in a fortunate position of being able to make "offical" decisions at school but you must make your voice heard in the direction of IT that you are doing and that it is right. However my dilemma is getting trying to get EVERYONE inspired. I'm happy if it is just a few to start but it will need to be all teachers if we are to give our students the 21C skills they require. When your school starts reviewing their curriculum delivery plan under the new NZC you will be looked to (I'm sure) for input and contribution. Hang in there.

a. bendelow said...

"Eureka, Justine!"
I can see the benefits for student learning, engagement and achievement so i've been trying to get my hesitant co-educators on board in small ways. One idea that a commentator to my blog ( has got me thinking about is to get the teachers and administrators micro-blogging, as through Twitter. Doing so is easy, unblocked, and allows one to immediately see the purpose, a point you're right to make.