Tagged: g2c11

Global2 Challenge – Collective Knowledge Construction

The final activity in the Global2 Blogging Challenge is to reflect and rethink our expectations of online teaching and learning activities. I have created the slideshow above to demonstrate some of the activities our students at Hawkesdale P12 College participate in. As we are a 1:1 learning environment, all our students from Grade 5 to Year 12 have nearly constant access to a netbook or desktop computer. This has been a steep learning curve for both students and teachers – in terms of classroom management, wireless access challenges, social networking opportunties, which sites should or should not be blocked, web2.0 tools available and changing expectations of students, teachers and parents.

I think that our staff and students have been learning collectively about how technology can impact on learning – just putting a computer in a child’s hands doesn’t necessarily improve their learning. Most students like using technology, but they prefer to use it different ways. Many teachers have discovered that netbooks allow learning to be more personalised – we can give students a greater variety of choices in their learning. Students can access, store and synthesise information quickly, allowing more time for evaluation and creation. Teachers are also learning to model appropriate use – from email and file storage to creating teaching tools using videos and screencasts.

We know that we need an appropriate use policy to be signed by students and parents at the beginning of each year, but we also need to remind students constantly about what appropriate use entails. We know that it is helpful if all students have agreed to have their images posted online and that it is helpful if parents have a good understanding of the benefits and risks of on online presence. We have found that it is easier for all teachers if we are open to learning from our students – often they can demonstrate better ways to achieve the same goals, rather than being restricted to the teacher’s method. We know that students and teachers need time to explore and practise with tools to be proficient in their use and that we can improve with reflection and feedback. It has been an interesting e-journey for the whole school and we hope that our students are developing 21st century skills that will enable them to be successful global citizens.

Global2 Challenge: Learning Collectively

Image created using WordFoto app for iPad

In a small, rural school, such as Hawkesdale P12 College, the ability to access resources from outside our remote location has been hugely beneficial. As well as communicating with students in all parts of the globe, teachers are able to form personal learning networks across continents and oceans. Teachers, students and community members can feel somewhat isolated from city life, without the great range of choice (shops, libraries, learning options, hobbies, medical and sporting opportunities) that are available in metropolitan areas. Through blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other online social networking platforms our community members have the ability to seek out others with similar interests, that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to contact.

In my school we have a Maths and Science faculty of just five teachers. We get on well and very quickly get to know each others preferred strategies and teaching philosophies. By joining online education communities (such as #vicpln on Twitter or the “Guide to Innovation” Ning) I am able to draw on – and contribute to – a much greater diversity of teaching experience. I certainly believe that effective professional development can occur as collective online learning – this has been consistently demonstrated by the Classroom2.0 forum, Anne Mirtschin’s “Tech Talk Tuesday” and “eLe@rning” on Wednesdays, as well as the Ultranet “Share and Tell” sessions. Each of these platforms operates on the premise that we all have something to contribute – everyone has different skills and experiences that others can learn from. By allowing different guests to present their own ideas and reflections, participants gain a wide range of perspectives.

Time and distance can prevent students from visiting museums, galleries, gardens, zoos and other places of interest. Many rarely have the opportunity for attending live theatre, dance or concerts. However, they can connect with like-minded people through gaming and other various special-interest forums. An example is the 365 project, which is a site where participants upload a photo each day for every day of the year and comment on photos of others. Several teachers at our school started the project this year and encouraged some of our students to join. As keen photographers they are able to share their work with others, view images from other beginners and experts, critique photos, ask for advice and contribute to discussions. This experience has allowed them to explore an interest and improve their skills outside school. Together the 365 community have built a resource of incredible images, together with information about cameras and how to create amazing photographs. These students have been able to take photos for the school magazine and enter photography competitions.

Another example of online collective learning has been the VCE Environmental Science Online course. This course has enabled students from four different schools to enroll in the subject, who would not otherwise been able to, due to lack of a willing and/or experienced teacher or due to too few students wishing to study the subject. We spend 90 minutes each week on Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate) and communicate via my blog, email, Facebook and Skype. These students are passionate about the subject – willing to take the risk on a trial in 2011 – and contacted me through my blog to request an online course. Ubiquitous access to technology has enabled them to connect with students of similar interests and support each other throughout the course.

Other students have taught themselves to play guitar using YouTube clips, create and upload animations and identify invertebrates, frogs and birds found on their farms. This ability to personalize their learning is motivating and increases the opportunities for students to develop skills for life-long learning. They are able to ask their own questions, contact experts and investigate answers. They can, as Sir Ken Robinson would say, find their “Element”. Teachers need to be very strategic and imaginative to be able to incorporate these types of learning within the scope of the VELS framework. I only hope that the new Australian curriculum will be flexible and open enough to allow teachers to facilitate online collective learning that matches the passions of our students.

Global2 Blogging Challenge – ReThinking Publishing and Transparency

global2 blogging challengex450

Students, classes and teachers at Hawkesdale P12 College have been blogging for the past four years, since Heather Blakey came to visit. We blog with varying degrees of success – none I consider to be failures. Blogging is the ultimate open-ended task, suited to all ages and abilities. As a digital portfolio it allows students to build up a chronological record of their writing and changing interests. It can be customized to suit individual students with a huge variety of templates, widgets, headers and colours available.

My daughter (aged 12) enjoys posting on her blog “to share with everyone” – although she doesn’t receive a lot of comments, she is careful with her writing because she knows she potentially has a global audience. She likes to choose widgets which express her personality and is constantly working to improve the appearance of her blog.

As a science and maths teacher, I have limited time to blog with my students in class. I do like them to produce digital products, such as slideshows, posters, quizzes and reports that can be added to their blogs. It was interesting that some students preferred not to add their slideshow of an eye dissection, because “people don’t want to look at blood on my blog”. Ideally, I think students should write at least weekly on their blogs and comment on their peers blogs. It would also be great if relatives, parents and teachers could comment regularly to encourage thoughtful blogging and reflective thinking.

Our school has started to focus more specifically on learning intentions, success criteria and making these explicit to students. I believe this is a powerful strategy for teachers and learners to improve learning outcomes. If we encourage students to state these learning intentions and reflect on their progress towards them on their blogs, students will be able to document their improvement over time. The development of this metacognitive process allows students to become more independent and improves their critical thinking – all valuable 21st century skills.

I think we can improve blogging at Hawkesdale by involving parents in the process. We are planning a parent information night when we will demonstrate the use of Facebook, blogs and other web2.0 tools. This is part of a proactive strategy to minimize cyber-bullying by assisting parents to monitor their children’s behavior online. We are also running a competition “What does my Digital Footprint say about me?” with prizes donated by local businesses. Students in three different age groups will submit artworks, writing, multimedia or songs demonstrating their understanding of appropriate online behaviour. This is one small way we can facilitate student thinking about how to behave online.

How does your school involve parents with technology learning?
What are some effective strategies to encourage students to behave appropriately online?
Why do you think inappropriate comments are more frequent on Facebook than on blogs?