In the Wild

I’ve facilitated a year 12 HSC English task using Classroom 2.0 ethos. I was given the previous assessment task, and then worked with the two teachers to shift it to the discourse we are advocating. I have to say that there is a huge amount of trust needed for this to happen on the part of the teachers, as this is a major HSC component. I think it is important to highlight that ‘trust’ is such a critical factor in learning to change.

This project is a Ning group, and I’m using Animoto and Flickr. I’m going to do a vodcast about this in the next few days. I spoke to the teachers today, after launching the project to students. It was only 24 hours old.

I highlighted the use of Google Reader to monitor the activity and the posts kids are making. I had to highlight that the ‘power’ of this group work in not in fact the ‘blog’ entries – but the back channel converstaion between students. As a teacher, a Ning (or a blog project that is actually organised and managed well), is a live view on the previously student-exclusive discourse around the topic.

The ability for teachers to understand and add value to the comment ‘back channel’ is a key skill for the ‘connected teacher’. Anyone can swap an writing pad for a blog, there is no value in that. The back channel is the conversation, and is the heartbeat of thought.

I had to explain how to use RSS and Google Reader – but this is a small skill in comparison with getting the teachers to truely understand the ‘why’ of what they are doing. RSS does make commenting by the teacher simple and fast. In fact you simply cannot tell me that a teacher can track, comment and add value to a class of 25 individual blogs without it.

A few obvious things showed up in the Ning withing 24 hours

  • Students quickly customise their space
  • Students cloak their work from other students selectively
  • Students extend their peer group digitally and share
  • Students offer practical comment and advice – they are positive, where in their verbal classroom banter they are often very critical of each other. I found that interesting.
  • Hyperlinks, embedding images, music etc., happened without instruction immediately
  • The task requires an 800-1200 word dissertation to support their visual task – many had written 3 line blog posts – yet 20 line comments
  • Students are more engaged in the discussion with each other – the public post is often a summary of that discussion – or – the blog post triggers the discussion.

Sue Waters is currently steering EduBlogger comment challenge and has been advocating how important peer comments are in professional development, extending Classroom 2.0 advocacy etc., Were as teachers are doing this as a challenge task, the students did it intrinsically and it is obvious that they see this as a normal line of communication.

Three students (that I really don’t know) came up to me today and commented that they were enjoying the 24 hour old project. They liked the fact that in order to succeed, that the Web2.0 tools offered a simple, immediate and fair method of production. There is no room in the task to add ‘techno-bling’. They can’t fool the teacher with digital-eye-candy. I got the feeling that the ‘middle’ kids saw the project strategy offered them a strong change of success – they did not need to be a ‘technocrat’ or ICT major to pull it off. It is pushing the middle order kids higher, and so the top end students have to work harder to maintain their status in the class order.

Students are applying their MySpace skills to the space – they dress it, customise it – want to add friends, images and audio already. This just re-affirms that we should be accessing their multi-modal skills.

It took a while but i finally got the permission to use my first image for my banner, found in Flicker by a photographer by the name of Kelapa whom yesterday i asked if i could have the permission to use his photographs and today he gave me the thumbs up.

This is a post by one student, who was working on a custom header image. I am sure that plenty of EduBloggers don’t do that! – He’s done the mature thing an even referenced it.

So this is my first – ‘model’ Classroom2.0 project – outside my own classroom – and outside of PBL.

Learning to change is a hands on experience – teachers are aware that adding tech often causes more problems than it solves unless you can pull it off with the skill set you have. Teachers point of reference for this is their past experience. If you are hoping to SHIFT, then Educational Technologist have to scaffold, hand hold, facilitate and support the project – especially by commenting students – you have to make a personal investment by being a visible participant. You have to be accessible to them in your ‘tech’ role. This frees up the teacher to focus on their passion – their subject. By being visibly involved on the Ning – you are offering the online support that gives them confidence.

I don’t believe that you can expect a teacher – even with ICT skills – or ICT training – to be able to SHIFT to a multi-modal model successfully unless they have access to someone who can facilitate and model the project. There pressure from students, parents, schools to teach/coach the HSC in such a way that students access the higher bands (5/6) is no secret. No teacher in their right mind would get involved, propose or attempt a task that is floored or too ambitious in this regard.

This project includes curriculum reform, connectedness, leveraging student’s intrinsic ‘digital’ skills, professional development and technology modeling. I am really pleased to see that the students are engaged so early – this task is due over 6 weeks! – they will probably make the baseline in 2 at this rate. The teachers will immediately see who needs help, who is not being effective or who is over reaching.

I can’t think of another way in which teachers can get such immediate access to the ‘thinking’ process that is playing out in front of them. Teachers are connected to students immediately – In my experience, once a task goes out, less than 10% of students include you in a conversation about their progress, and even then it is often a pressure situation. I can’t wait to see the post project teacher and student reflections.

2 thoughts on “In the Wild

  1. You really know what you are talking about and can explain things really well.

    These type of facilities will really be helpful for the students as well as for the teachers

  2. Pingback: Daily Bookmarks 05/14/2008 « Experiencing E-Learning

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