Hiatus! Sorry, I didn’t mean to.

Sometimes life gets in the way of things. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. My wife and I took our kids to Disney World over the March Break. What a good time that was! Further, I caught a nasty strep throat after coming back. All that to say, posts should be coming soon! Thanks for your patience!

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The future – Some of it is practically the present!

This is a cool video – you know, personally, I rarely say that Microsoft does a lot of “cool” stuff. But this video will get you thinking about what our current students will be graduating into! The types of new technologies and the new uses for it… it will be mind blowing!

Moving towards where we should already have been

With all of this talk of technology integration and looking at how students in today’s world learn and use technology, the school system has needed a drastic change for a while. There are some important questions we need to ask ourselves concerning this transition.

Why haven’t we changed yet?
What is stopping or hindering the change?
What are the dangers of not changing?
What will it take to change?

This reminds me of a particular industry that has been drastically impacted by their fear of new technologies and their reluctance to change with the times. The industry saw the Internet coming and became paralyzed by the potential of this technology to change its business model. They were blinded by this so much that they did nothing or even worse. They began to fight it!

I am thinking of the music industry. As the first iPod came out (2001), the music industry was so concerned about downloading and fighting it that they did nothing to join the revolution. They should have been FIRST to dip their feet in the pool (Internet, downloading) by offering legal and legitimate ways to purchase music online far before the time when people decided to take this into their own hands. As controversial as this comment may be, our society has now accepted downloading music. Whether you agree with that or not, the very industry that tried to prevent this is probably to blame. Today, iTunes (Apple’s online media store) is the largest seller of music in the United States. Walmart used to hold that title by selling CD (hard copies). We vote with our dollars, a friend of mine once told me. People are voting, with their money, that they prefer the digital way. Thankfully, the music industry is on board now. But, imagine where they would have been by now if they transitioned when they could have.

Fast forward to the future (2009) and  it seems that some schools / teachers are fighting tooth and nail to teach using techniques from the past. What will happen if we don’t change with our students? I shutter to think about the repercussions. *Please read me correctly, I am not painting with a broad stroke by saying that ALL teachers are reluctant to change. But, in today’s day and age, I find it difficult to believe that one can not see its importance.

Publishing to a wide audience

Back in the day, when students would write an article for their English class, students would learn to write and then would publish it to… the teacher. From there, MAYBE the teacher would post the article on the wall in the classroom or maybe even just outside the room. Eventually, you might get published in the school newsletter.

Today, the ultimate audience for publishing student work is the entire world. This can be a powerful motivator. I have shied away from going totally public by publishing student videos online, for example. But, I recently devised an official permission slip and learned that most (the vast majority) of my students have a FaceBook account. Why not just really dive in and give them a wider audience? They are already publishing on their own and in their own ways. Why should I pretend the world is any smaller than the world they live in outside of school?

I think giving them a larger audience will help me raise the bar for students. I am embarking on some really fascinating collaboration projects with other schools (outside of province and perhaps outside of the country). This will give my students the motivation to see their projects through to the end.

I came across an article on the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog where writer Steve Hargadon in Moving Toward Web 2.0 in Education writes about how Web 2.0 tools help to achieve educational goals. He lists the following as benefits to using Web 2.0 tools.

  • Engagement
  • Authenticity
  • Participation
  • Openness and Access to Information
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Passionate Interest and Personal Expression
  • Discussion
  • Asynchronous Contribution
  • Proactivity
  • Critical Thinking

Granted, no educational experience is perfect. However, by broadening the audience to whom our students publish, we can give them a richer experience. Isn’t that worth it?

Please note: I realize there are always security issues. I do not suggest posting students’ images and names without parental consent. There are ways, however, to do all of this responsibly. 

Is this generation really lost?

I have had conversations about the next gen – the net gen – the digital gen – the Y Gen… whatever you want to call them. I hear a lot of criticism. My goal is to uplift them – I think they have something to say and offer us. 

Here is a video that deals a little with this topic with a ‘twist’.

New Look

I am trying a new look to the blog. Thought that this look will allow for users to more easily see the comments and or post comments. It may be a little more clear to read as well. Comment / feedback if you like.

Ning – Create your own Social Network

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook… have you heard of it yet? If not, maybe your head is buried in the sand. In my classes, I was looking for a solution that would provide me with the opportunities and features of Facebook but with more privacy for my students. I found Ning.com – a site that allows you to create your very own social networking site. 

Ning.com offers you many features in your networks. You can have a photo viewer, videos, audio, chatting, forums, notes, games and even more. What I love about it is that you create the network and everything is self-contained… like a mini-Facebook just for you and your students! What my students seem to really love about it too though is that they can configure what their own profile pages looks like. There are dozens of themes they can choose from as well as having the ability to change colour themes and so on.

What Ning has opened up for me though is the ability to draw my students into something outside of class. I will sometimes post a new forum topic right away after class. By the time students arrive at their house, they will see the forum topic and they CHOOSE to respond. No pressure involved and they do it! I am very excited about the possibilities. 

Another feature I like is that with my music classes, the students belong to a more vast music student network belonging to the school. For my individual classes, however, there are subgroups within the network that I can allow for more specific discussions and posts. 

With all of this, I also am aware of the security issues when dealing with students and online behaviour. This is why I have set up my Ning.com sites to only allow new members based on invitations and my sole approval. Without my approval, NOBODY can become a member of the group. Without membership into the group, people can not see inside the network. 

Check it out and see for yourself. Ning.com

Did I forget to mention that it is free?