Getting into it

The problem with Web2.0 is that it doesn’t really exist. For a school to say it is going to look into Web2.0 is far too loose an objective as it means different things to different people. For some it means using online ‘tools’ and for others it is about students making global connections.

All to often Web2.0 is used as the collective term is not based on any given technology, but an understanding that the advent of read/write publishing, collaboration and media literacy are now established ‘communication’ methods. Communication has been the most misunderstood part of ‘ICT’.

Originally, communication (the C in ICT) was about networking. The ability to send and receive information, using technology. Email was perhaps the most ‘social’ element, but mainly it related to data transmission of files. Full duplex, half duplex, modems and the digitization of analogue data for transmission was for a long time what the C meant. It was perfectly acceptable then to create word processing documents, presentations and desktop publishing as a method of communicating information with technology.

Web2.0 is a major disruption to this well worn path.  So where do you start?

Andrew Church has recently updated his ‘digital taxonomies’, and still remains one of the best resources to use in understanding and establishing new learning frameworks. It can be used to great effect to renew curriculum and rethink learning frameworks.

In exploring what can and can’t be done, start with a single unit of work.

Unpack the current scope and sequence, read Andrew’s taxonomies and try to establish where they will fit. That in itself is a big undertaking.

Establish a working party to discuss the tools Andrew suggests, and how you are going to evaluate their impact. From there you can select a limited number of technology approaches and introduce them into the classroom.

What is it that you will be evaluating? Remember Web2.0 is a big idea – so chunk it down, and keep it simple.

It is one thing to renew a unit of work, but quite another to start talking about the ‘shift’ and ‘21st Century’ skills. My point is that curriculum leaders and your peers will find renewing a unit of work – setting out terms of reference for evaluation – linked to performance indicators understandable. Selecting one or two read/write methods, investigating them and working towards targeted professional development in those is likely to get supported.

I think that no matter how passionate you are about the way we use ICTs to prepare students for their future, no matter how fired up you get after reading posts such as Chris Betcher’s ‘Digital Divide’, you have to try and separate advocacy from the reality of the day to day processes that make schools operate.

Change has rarely been radical in schools and trends come and go, so it’s not surprising that your frantic signaling may be misunderstood completely. The most significant barrier if you do start waving at them, is the perceived ripple effects that may de-stabilize established (and successful) teaching and learning approaches.

Establish how these new approaches fit within your assessment schedules. How are you going to convince your head of department that your modifications will improve learning?

Developing revised performance indicators mapped against outcomes within established learning frameworks is language that they understand. Mapping these to established systemic initiatives, such as the NSW Quality Teaching Frameworks will strengthen your argument. This is overtly possible.

Working on a single unit is also very manageable for busy teachers. If you can convince your executive to bring in someone from outside your school to help you workshop your unit, to identify areas of professional development that can be realized, then do it. If not, pick you way carefully by developing a personal learning network. Find someone online who will act as a mentor – join a common interest group such as OZ/NZ Educators. The process may be slower, but still better than trial and error in your classroom – and you WILL be supported.

Give yourself time to create your unit, develop your framework, and plan your evaluation. I’d suggest 3-6 months for your first unit of work. Don’t try and take in the enormity of Web2.0. Take on your curriculum first.

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One thought on “Getting into it

  1. “you have to try and separate advocacy from the reality of the day to day processes that make schools operate.” That’s a good point, but a tricky one. On some level, real advocacy means nothing other than refusing to separate one’s principles from daily life. On the other hand, who does it help if everyone just knows me as that guy who’s always ranting about stuff? Do I want the rosy glow of righteous self-satisfaction, or do I want to get things done? Like most things in life, the art lies in finding the right path down the middle.

    I like your idea of “take on your curriculum first.” I’ve seen too many examples of Frankenstein-monster pedagogy: one pedagogical approach gracelessly smooshed atop the one that came before. I’d go one step further and say this: just reform your curriculum. If you are doing it right, that’ll lead you to some web 2.0 tools–but only the ones that emerge in the context of what you are trying to teach and how.

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