Think before you jump!

A few people have asked me about ‘where do people start’ in re-thinking their use of ICT in the classroom. This photo kind of sums up what can happen if you decide to make a lot of noise unexpectedly. Noise is good – as long as people are expecting it. If not, then it may have the opposite effect, making change a lot harder next time … if there is one.

One of the ‘dot com’ phrases from the lat 90’s is applicable to getting into Web2.0 in your classroom is “the biggest risk to your success, is your success‘. In other words, if you get too carried away, too ambitious, then you see some amazing results initially, but sustaining that becomes problematic as you try to scale it outwards. Getting beyond your immediate classroom is actually easier by working with someone else online than it is with the teacher next door. Forget changing your school, just change yourself.

Start with the students.

Think about not what you are into (this week), but what is it that the students know, or need to know – in your subject. Adding technology will not make kids any smarter at all. You need to be very clear and very strategic. You have to think about ‘waves’ of revalation with your students. You can’t just keep moving endlessly though the savannah of web2.0 applications that spreads out before you.

Take it a term at a time.

And be well prepared to do that! – If you are teacher who works a day out or even week out, then you won’t pull it off. Why? Because your day to day teaching is dead. You are no longer going to have all the answers, no longer stand at the front and command. You will be an expert learner – supporting novice learners. You won’t have all the questions – but you will be scaffolding the goals/standards/outcomes – and how kids will reach them. If you like to ‘wing’ it, hand out worksheets, set text book execises … think long and hard! You are not going to pull it off, and you’ll confuse students.

Get involved and develop a personal learning network.

Professional Development, as it’s been for decades is dead. Learning is a conversation and people are organising without needing their management structures to do so. This means being online. You might be a fringe dweller – who looks and listens to conversations – or you might like voice, audio chatting. You might even get a Second Life (which leads to some amazing new ways of looking at yourself and the industry you are working in). But if you think its a game, then hey – collect your ream of paper on your way out.

Put down the ‘tool’ and back – away slowly!

You need to get into the conversation because everything gets easier if you do. If you are not in the conversation (and there are a millions of fragmented discussions going on right now), then you will remain one person. The power of you + network is what makes your classroom work. Don’t worry about ‘the tool’ or learning ‘how to use it’. Before you go anywhere near that, you have to be absolutely clear that you are prepared to do all this, prepared to be more flexible than you’ve ever been before and that you are prepared to support your students – online – whenever they are online. If you clock off at the bell, this aint for you. Hang on – its not about you right? – It’s about the learners. That is a fundamental self-check. If you are not prepared to live it, not talk it, then back away now.

Preparation before doing.

Before trying anything … I’d suggest you take a look at the following 10 things. A pre-flight inspection if you like. Have are clear for take off? – You need to get this stuff clear, written down and well planned. Any fool can sign up a class for Ning – and hope kids use it. They will, but what are the value adds. You have to start somewhere … so here’s a list of 10 things I think people should address before jumping.

Getting into Web2.0 Classroom?

Things to consider :

1.    Don’t expect anyone in your staffroom to empathise with your new found vision. Where you previously sourced information (your primary sources : collegues, professional publications and Google) – you will now start getting them from your network – this is alien to most teachers.
2.    Start with your students and work outwards. Changing your teaching style and their learning style is far easier than changing the world.
3.    Work out how much access you have in ICT classrooms before deciding anything. Access determines the ICT level you can work at. Be realistic.
4.    Develop a clear understanding of ‘Digital Reputation’ – be clear about what activities (ePortfolios) – using online read/write technologies can they use in the future. Discuss these with your students. Make it a project! – Make sure you understand how they see it.
5.    Develop a clear understanding of ‘Media Awareness’ – In the context of what you are teaching – how do you want to teach students about ‘filtering’ for your subject. Write down your goals, and discuss with your class.
6.    Take your librarian out to lunch. Find out how they can support you and your learners in research, literacy and copyright/creative commons.
7.    Get a network. Your network. Get Twitter – use twitter! – It will change the way you learn, and the way they learn – it’s an ecosystem.
8.    Prepare to spend time online – at home – some of the best teaching and learning happens in Ustream, Skype and Second Life.
9.    Listen to podcasts – buy an iPod – listen in the car or where ever – podcasting is blogging out loud – and there are some great Ed Tech stories out there.
10.    Join – start reflecting on your teaching practice – take part in conversations. Develop a learning network.

10 thoughts on “Think before you jump!

  1. This possibly the most sensible post I’ve read for a while Dean, well done. it also made me ask myself some difficult questions, which is what we should be doing.

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  3. That is a clearly articulated plan to enable and support a teacher looking to change their practice, and refelcts my experience over the last 12 months.

    It also points out some steps those in management positions can take to understand what their innovative teachers are doing, and how ‘management’ can support them.

  4. This is one of the best ‘how to get started’ posts I’ve seen!

    I shared this on an Angela Maiers post recently:
    I built a presentation called “Project 2-point-oh-Yeah” for a Pro-D session with 1:1 teachers. I changed it a bit to use as an add-on to a presentation I did in Boston… but then didn’t use it in the presentation:-( Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start a project… scaffolding to help you build a great project:

    I think that for the ultra-newbie, the best advice I can give is to find a tool that makes your life easier, such as delicious or diigo and use it yourself! Find the value in a tool for YOU, then when you can’t live without it anymore you will see the value of also showing it to your students as well.

    Oh, and one more thing… collaborate! Find a mentor, ask for help, don’t try to do it on your own, there are many people willing to help you on your journey!
    Thanks again for sharing this great post!

  5. Thanks for this post … I think the 1st step (and Vick Davis always says this in her Flat World talks) is to start with you (the teacher) first (of course with the learners’ needs at the front of that thinking).

    It is a huge assumption to think that the teacher is already there, ie ready … here where I am the students are ahead of the teachers in terms of using technology. Kids power down when they go to school. Teachers getting comfortable with using technology to pedagogically support 21st century learning skills ..I think comes before starting with the students, one by one.

    Step 1: Start with yourself first

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  7. Well done, Dean. In looking at your list, I see so many of the roadblocks that not only our students face in their own learning, but our teachers as well. Your message is clear: take control of your own learning, and that permeates into both student learning and teacher learning.

    I’ll be referencing this one many times over the course of the next few months. Thanks for the insight!

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