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Where To Go From Here

August 13, 2009

Students must be prepared for the inevitable if we are going to use web2.0 tools like wikis. As a teacher-librarian, I need to equip students with the strategies they need to deal with comments or conversations that they may be uncomfortable with as they explore online. They need to be able to evaluate the accuracy and plausibility of online sources. They also need to be capable of expressing their views in a socially acceptable way. However, students are not the only ones who benefit from this kind of preparation. Teachers also need to become more comfortable in a web2.0 world if they are to continue to grow personally and professionally. Through the use of wikis, teachers are not only able to read and learn from the experiences and ideas of others, they can also participate in creating content and expressing their views as a way of processing all the information they are overloaded with.

“If teachers are able to innovate from time to time and then share with others what they have done, then effective ideas can spread. It is this sort of grass-roots innovation that moves the teaching profession on.” (Freedman,2006).

We have the tools and we have the support to embrace these web2.0 tools, so what needs to happen next is that teachers must be educated in three areas:

1. How to use this technology for their own learning
2. How to teach to students the effective use of these technologies
3. How to integrate the use of web2.0 tools with current curriculum

I don’t believe it is fair or reasonable to expect that teachers will learn all of these new technologies themselves. As with any learner, regardless of age, mentors and a learning community are essential to ensure the successful implementation of any technology.

Big decisions

When considering which tool I plan to share with my colleagues to start off with, I was torn between multimedia sharing sites and wikis. I took several things into consideration;
1. Which tool will best enable differentiation in K-5, one of our school-wide goals?
2. What are teachers’ technological literacy skills? What amount of time are teachers willing to spend on exploring the new tool?
3. How will using this tool influence the professional development of teachers?
4. Would using this tool in the classroom be manageable with regards to time?

While I do see potential for all the web2.0 tools we have learned thus far, realistically speaking, I think that wikis would most likely be adopted by teachers and students in our elementary school. Creating a wiki initially requires organization, minimal time, and experimentation on the part of the teacher, but the students, regardless of age, can take ownership of the wiki as they each contribute to the final product. I think that this is an excellent tool to begin easing teachers into the web2.0 world, and can easily be a medium to which more web2.0 tools can be added.

Implications for teaching and learning of adults

Will this help us to achieve our goals here at our school?

First and foremost, teachers need to see a reasonable and plausible reason for using a technology before they are open to investing the time and effort required to learn it. With differentiation being one of our school wide goals, I am certain that most of my colleagues would feel it was a good idea to use wikis in order to ensure collaboration and cooperation among students…assuming I can help them to identify the many practical applications of wikis. As more teachers begin to experiment with inquiry based learning in their classrooms, the possibility of sharing this learning on line in a collaborative environment is very appealing. Each student can contribute in a way that makes him/her feel successful. Whether it is writing a post, checking facts, adding links to valuable information, uploading photos and videos, each student feels as though he or she is an important part of the big picture. Making this process visible to parents would also benefit the school community as a whole.

Caverley (2008) discusses several different types of wikis that can be used in education. One is a resource wiki, where students can create a lesson or unit review weekly, to be used later as study notes. Younger classes may choose to do a daily class summary in place of a weekly newsletter. Two is a presentation wiki where the focus is on a final product, and others are invited to contribute in some way. This would be a great way to have Book Clubs create an analysis of their weekly reading assignments. Third is the simulation wiki where students are given an authentic problem which they would all take a role in solving (Caverly, 2008).This would apply to the Grade 5 science fair and other project based learning activities. Most importantly, the reason teachers might want to give wikis a try is that students are motivated to publish online. It is very exciting for them.

By teaching teachers how to use a wiki, its potential practical applications, and by addressing issues of safety and privacy, the idea of using wikis in the classroom would most certainly be accepted as a tool worth taking the time to explore. Showing teachers the implications wikis hold for their own learning would seal the deal.

In 2009, there is a much higher demand for teachers who are technologically literate. Teachers are expected to provide quality instruction in a way that engages learners and addresses the needs of every learner. What engages and addresses the needs of learners today? Hands on activities and…you guessed it…technology. Different from in the past, teachers are now encouraged to make their reflections and ideas more transparent and to learn from and share with other teachers (Ferriter, 2009). Wikis provide a way for this to happen. Reading wikis for 20 minutes a day, with the help of an RSS aggregator like Pageflakes or Google Reader, is a reasonable way to ensure that you are constantly learning and reflecting on the your pedagogical practice (Ferriter, 2009). Taking 10 more minutes to either write in your own wiki or respond to the writing of others means that you are an active participant in a learning community.

Overcoming Barriers

Wikis are quick and easy to use. They are designed like a word processor, and are appropriate for any student who is able to log on and write a message using a keyboard. This means they are appropriate for all computer literacy levels among teaching staff. In our elementary school, teachers have a wide range of technological literacies. All teachers are familiar with Microsoft Word, email, video sharing, and social networking. Very few, however, are familiar with blogs and wikis. In fact, I have heard many say, “that looks too difficult. I don’t think I could do that.” This lack of confidence with technology is one of the most difficult barriers to overcome when guiding teachers toward using web2.0 tools. Teachers would need to be shown a variety of wikis from simple to complex when first being introduced to this useful tool. Some, but not all, would need to learn how to link, upload images and videos, and how to edit content on the wiki. This is where it would be invaluable to have students pair up with teachers to show them these basic skills; an idea borrowed from Joanne RM. I find when I’m sitting through technology in-services that teachers quickly become “lost” and feel somewhat defeated, eventually closing the door to possibility of figuring out whatever it is that is being shoved down their throat. Teachers having the one on one time with students, who are most likely advanced in using this tool, would foster a positive learning environment for teachers. Once a teacher was satisfied with the look, feel, and functionality of their wiki, they would be more willing to try new web2.0 tools to add to their wiki.

Teachers Learning With Wikis

Two of the best reasons for teaching teachers about the wiki are for collaborative planning and for professional development purposes. In the school I teach at, there are four teachers at every grade level, and eleven resource staff. Too often, teachers within a grade level do not meet as a team or do not collaboratively plan a unit because their schedules conflict or there is not enough time in the school day. Wikis can be used for convenient collaborative planning among a group of teachers and resource staff can be invited to contribute to the wiki as well.

A wiki would provide an excellent follow-up to any professional development course, where teachers can collaboratively write how they think that what they have learned contributes to the betterment of their grade level and to the entire school. This can then be made public for viewing to the school community.

How can wikis save “us” (teachers) time?

Using a wiki in the classroom or for professional reading you already do does not necessarily add to your workload, nor does it need to replace a valuable part of your curriculum. Here’s how.
o Subscribing to RSS feeds, which all of your student and colleague’s wikis will have, allows you to view and respond to each edit that is made, as soon as it is posted. There’s no need to search through every website or spend time creating checklists to make sure all assignments are handed in. The same goes for reading relevant professional materials. These can be delivered right your browser with RSS aggregators.
o Wikis enable you to save time in the classroom as they enable cross curricular projects that can be accessed from school and home.
o Wikis are quite easy to use, which means that very little time should be spent on the technological aspect, and the focus should continue to be on teaching literacy skills
o This is simply an alternative way for students to share what they have learned.
o Due to the simplicity of the wiki interface, it is quite acceptable for teachers to learn as they go. In other words, a enhancing and modifying the look and organization of a wiki can become a collaborative learning experience for the teacher and students.

How do I plan to integrate and showcase wikis in our school?

The integration of web2.0 tools into teacher professional development will start by highlighting Dennis (2004)’s points about what it means to be a media literate adult. Most of the educators I work with understand that there is a difference between media literacy and being able to use Microsoft Office. These become obvious as many of us become gradually more intimidated by advancing technology and students’ ease with its use. The first step is identifying with teachers what it means to be media literate.

o Know what’s out there for multimedia tools and how you can share what you create
o understand how to access and view different media sources, even when they change format. Ie. adjust to software updates
o possess the ability to evaluate media for its authority and accuracy, to differentiate between the different kinds of media, and be able to create multimedia content
o Be able to identify the motivation of whoever has created the online content that you read.
o Interact with people all over the world in order to maximize the benefits of using the web.
o “Technical competence and skill including computer literacy (which changes with
new hardware and software offerings), including sophistication in online searching and awareness of new equipment and changes made possible by broadband, wireless, video-on-demand, and other technologies and services.
o Keep current with new developments in technology integrations using tools like RSS aggregators
Dennis (2004)

This can serve as a checklist, based on which teachers can create goals. It might be worthwhile to group teachers in learning communities based on their specific goals. Someone in your group who might be more a visual learner could add to your content by embedding video. Another could have a way with words and find ways to make your information more interesting to read, without taking away from your message An excellent example of a wiki used for professional development is NewLits.org. A wiki used for discussing best practices is Digitally Speaking. Any wiki can be made public once the creator feels they are ready. Having an RSS for this wiki and ensuring through newsletters that parents are aware of how to view the wiki, would ensure that teacher reflection and development is visible to the entire community. A professional development wiki, where teachers collaboratively prepare a report on the implications of the PD opportunity, could be updated with every PD day. I know that some parents think that PD days are just “teachers slacking off.” This would be a great way to ensure the entire school community understands how valuable professional development opportunities are for the school.

On the journey to becoming more media literate, wikis can be employed to showcase teacher and student learning. Wikis are an excellent way for the school community to keep informed about field trips and the learning that happens at school. Students can contribute to this by taking and uploading digital photos, by creating summaries, reports, connections, and by editing the wiki themselves. Students and parents can become actively involved by being able to access and discuss daily current events that may be discussed during class time.

Potential obstacles for teachers

When teaching teachers a new web2.0 tool, the obstacles are slightly different than those for students.

1. Discomfort with interacting online as this is not a medium with which most of the teachers grew up.
A common complaint I hear from teachers is that they need to have something to hold when they are reading. This discomfort with reading off a screen, is one of the reasons that teachers become frustrated and confused so quickly, as they find it difficult to navigate through the various icons. By breaking down web2.0 tools into chunks and integrating tech lit terminology, teachers can become more comfortable with navigating online.

2. TIME TIME TIME!
Time is so valuable to a classroom teacher and it is no wonder that many teachers are resistant to change when they think that change will require time they don’t have and patience they can’t afford to lose. Providing professional development opportunities during contract hours and a knowledgeable and patient guide would be inhibitors for opening teachers up to new technologies.

What’s Next?

August 31st, I will do a presentation on information literacy in elementary school for our elementary staff. My focus will be on integrating web2.0tools into information literacy skills teaching. Taking into consideration the issues I’ve discussed in this post, we will start small, as has been recommended throughout this course. I will introduce teachers to sample wikis, like DigitallySpeaking.com. We will discuss issues and their concerns, as well as any applications we can see for the application of wikis in teaching reading and writing skills. These conversations will occur in their grade level groups, to hopefully motivate the adoption of a grade level wiki. I intend to have teachers work in groups to determine a purpose for their wiki and to begin to set up the look and feel of the wiki. This will only be the beginning as I will hold other sessions showing teachers how to subscribe to RSS feeds, add links to sites like del.icio.us, and eventually how to create and share photos, video, and multi media on the wiki. In each session, however, the emphasis will not be on the technical aspect of the wiki and other web2.0 tools, but rather on the issues surrounding the use of these tools and how they can be used to teach information literacy skills. To showcase this, these wikis can be shared with the grade level parents once teachers are comfortable with their use, and they can serve as a communication tool between teachers, parents, and students. .

References

Caverly, D., & Ward, A. (2008, Winter2008). Techtalk: Wikis and Collaborative Knowledge Construction. Journal of Developmental Education, 32(2), 36-37. Retrieved August 11, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Dennis, E. (2004, October). Out of Sight and Out of Mind: The Media Literacy Needs of Grown-Ups. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(2), 202-211. Retrieved August 12, 2009, doi:10.1177/0002764204267264

Ferriter, B. (2009, February). Learning with Blogs and Wikis. Educational Leadership, 66(5), 34-38. Retrieved August 11, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Freedman, T (ed) (2006). Coming of Age: An Introduction to the New World Wide Web. Terry Freedman Ltd. http://www.ictineducation.org.

Honan, E. (2008, April). Barriers to teachers using digital texts in literacy classrooms. Literacy, 42(1), 36-43. Retrieved August 12, 2009, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9345.2008.00480.x

Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2009, April). Wikis, Digital Literacies, and Professional Growth. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(7), 631-634. Retrieved August 12, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2007, June). an information skills workout: wikis and collaborative writing. Teacher Librarian, 34(5), 57-59. Retrieved August 12, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Molen, K. (2009, January). Wee Wikis: Implementing the Use of Wikis with Elementary Students. Library Media Connection, 27(4), 57-58. Retrieved August 11, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Wheeler, S., & Wheeler, D. (2009, March). Using wikis to promote quality learning in teacher training. Learning, Media, & Technology, 34(1), 1-10. Retrieved August 12, 2009, doi:10.1080/17439880902759851

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2 comments

  1. I loved the video clip! It’s quite inspiring and thought provoking. Actually your whole blog entry was thorough and thought provoking! Teaching habits certainly don’t change as quickly as technological habits, so although we need to be using the new technologies in our classrooms NOW, change will take a bit of time. Hopefully, if all of us in this course can convince and teach one or two teachers, who in turn can inspire others, I think we’ll be on the right track and change will occur. But I’m going to save the video to share with teachers AFTER they’ve learned a few Web 2.0 tools and can see some of the possibilities!


    • Yes, you wouldn’t want your teachers to be so overwhelmed by all the opportunities that they feel defeated before getting started. I think you are wise to save this video for when teachers are more comfortable with using tech in their classrooms. I’m glad you pointed out that even convincing a couple teachers to adopt some of these tools would be a success. I regularly run and workout with many teachers on staff and use this as an opportunity to informally share my enthusiasm for what we’ve learned. We’ll see how it goes this year:)



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