Friday, April 13, 2012

Web 2.0 usage in the classroom

This is the year of web 2.0 usage in the classroom.  Teachers have avoided using technology in the classroom and have stated that the failures in the past is a justification for not using it in the future.  I'll put my hand up and say that I was one of those.

Then I did a host of research for my "on again" masters.

I think the time has come that we give this a good look.  The failure of learning management systems (LMS's) can now be overcome.  Social media applications provide the gloss that engages students online.  It gives them reason to revisit and get access to information that they require at critical times during their "learning journey" (bleuch.. writing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth - but best describes what I mean).

Online applications are now reaching the level that they can be useful in the classroom and superior to direct instruction.  There is enough competition that application vendors are willing to listen to classroom requirements, assist teachers with implementation and work towards a successful implementation (rather than an "overstate the possibilities, take my money, dissappear" approach.  I'm sure this sounds familiar to many of us).

Web 2.0 extends the classroom beyond four walls - blogging, microblogging, social networking, cloud computing are being used effectively in higher education and there is little reason it shouldn't be used in primary and secondary settings.  Not doing so causes equity issues for our students when they enter higher education.

Students are now IT literate in ways that can be useful to implement in the classroom.  We're not teaching mail merging, Excel and Access usage anymore.  We're talking small bites of IT understanding and using it to directly aid classroom progress.  Microblogging (short notes sequentially placed on a wall similar to facebook) attaching IWB notes for revision, getting a better idea of progress through online marksbooks, providing tools for online collaboration and creating active subgroups within a class, shared development of documents through googledocs, improved organisation through calendars, online project submission,  annotation reducing paper usage, creating digital rather than paper notes using applications such as notability or goodnotes, classroom monitoring software, vod and podcasting - these sorts of things take small amounts of time to implement, are typically free and can make real differences in results, it's now accessible, cheap and works.  These things can be done now, not tomorrow, enabled by tablet and 1-1 laptop access.

I'm not glossing over the learning curve for us, or the overhead of starting the progress but.. if it can clearly be shown that these techniques are superior, it is worth the effort.  I think this time has come.

Even in Math, technologies are starting to mature that reduce IT overheads and improve the classroom experience especially in revision, organisation and note taking.  It's time that schools and universities embrace what can be done to improve teaching pedagogy where new technologies drive student performance. Perhaps we could give less prominance to engagement and self esteem.  These two come primarily as a result of performance and to get engagement with web 2.0 in a class, I think it has to be shown that performance is the primary result.

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