Since attending the Slide2Learn conference, about iPods in Education, and particpating in #scichat on Twitter, my personal learning network has gone from zero to 100kph in 2 secs. Being one of only four science teachers at my small, rural school, Hawkesdale P12 College, opportunities for networking, communication and collaboration have been somewhat limited. Enter web2.0.
I started blogging in 2007, with the encouragment of two great teachers, Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch. It’s been a steep learning curve for a mother-of-two who did a Graduate Diploma of Education as a mature age student, with very little prior knowledge of computers. At times I wondered whether web2.0 tools in science were like trying to knit with a knife and fork – great tools, but for a different purpose. Since then, I have discovered that is important to focus on the learning outcomes and not on the tools themselves – there are far too many and varied tools (and more being created each day) to decide which ones to use in education and for which purpose. Once you have decided on the learning outcomes you wish to achieve with students, you should decide on the product or process that will demonstrate this learning. Only then think about the tools students need to achieve those outcomes. Just like when you want students to understand how to identify, name, measure and draw angles you need to use rulers, pencils, protractors as a minimum, then chalk, string and compasses to extend their learning or you might find some internet tools to use.
At the beginning of 2009, Hawkesdale P12 College started it’s 1:1 netbook program with a trial for Year 5 students. In 2010, that was expanded to include all students from Year 5 to 9. In semester 2, 2010, students in Year 10 and 11 will also receive netbooks. Some of the logisitical issues included providing sturdy cases to reduce damage, padlocks for lockers (we had open lockers prior to netbooks), upgrading the wireless network and increasing the technicians time at school. Some of the management issues include clear guidelines for teachers, students and parents about appropriate use and good cybersafety education. Then comes the task of teachers implementing learning programs that incorporate web2.0 tools and mobile technology effectively with students. At our school, one of the most effective ways to do that was “Wak-in, Walk-out Wednesdays”, when our ICT expert teacher stays behind after school and works with any teachers interested in exploring tools or asking for tips on “how to..”. So it is just-in-time learning, not a PD where you are told “What you are going to learn today is…” It has worked well, although full staff PD’s are required at times as well. For example, use of IWB’s and implementation of the Ultranet.
Well, I started this page to assist Shawn Hollaway, a high school principal in the first year of a 1:1 program, whose question was “How can science teachers use 1:1 technology effectively in their classes to improve learning outcomes?”. I’m going to start by listing some blogs/nings with excellent examples of science teaching and learning in the 21st century:
The Synapse – A ning connecting biology educators worldwide
Tony Vincent – “Learning in Hand” a website for implementing mobile technologies in schools
Ollie Bray – A blog for “New Technology and Outdoor Learning”
Teacher’s Domain – Resources from Hamilton and Alexandra College, Victoria, Australia.
David Wetzel’s “Teach Science and Maths” blog
Dan Meyer – A blog by an innovative maths teacher currently doing his doctoral fellowship.
Andrew Douch – Award winning science teacher and ICT Innovations Leader at Wanganui Park Secondary College.
There are multitudes of lists out there of web2.0 tools, iPod apps, open-source software and other tools for education. But what teachers really need is the enthusiasm to seek out the tools, the desire to take a risk and the motivation to plan work that integrates the technology and the learning outcomes. It will happen at different rates for different teachers and can’t be forced. Once teachers see the enthusiasm with which students embrace well-planned tasks, they will be inspired to try more. Kids are using the technology (gaming, social networking, mobile technology) in any case – and it’s not going away – so, as teachers, we must educate them to use it for “good and not evil”!
One site that might be easy for teachers and students to start with is CAST Science Writer; where students can type and submit science experimental reports online (needs student email accounts). This Google spreadsheet has a list of excellent interactive sites for science learning – which you are encouraged to add to. If you must have alist of the top tools for educators, here is the latest from Edudemic.