Friday, 20 December 2013

Final Course Reflection (web2.0 online course)

In this final module, we are asked to consider all the Web 2.0 tools we have learned about during this online course. We are to think of them in the context of Bloom's revised digital taxonomy as well as our own diocese contemporary learning model, in terms of pedagogy, curriculum planning, student learning and educational leadership.

I have found this course to be quite involved, requiring a deeper level of thinking about the potential uses for various web2.0 tools in education. I feel that my appreciation for the use of some of these tools has grown (say using Picasa to curate events, or wikis/GoogleSites to collaborate), whilst for others it has diminished (I see minimal effective use of Facebook or Twitter in the classroom, despite Twitter being useful in maintaining a PLN).

If I consider the iLE@RN model:

It shows a continuum that is focused on collaboration, creative thinking, reflection, critical-thinking, mathematical and literacy and questioning skills. It sees learners as knowledge creators and managers, who thrive in creative learning spaces. I feel that this constructivist approach where students are involved in the knowledge creation process, will allow for a deeper level of learning than some traditional methods will. Where students are involved in the teaching/learning process in this way, there is a deeper level of commitment/buy in to the process.

Through the use of web2.0 tools, students are able to become involved in this fashion with the learning process. They are able to design and manipulate knowledge and ways of knowing and thus have more ownership over their own learning.

I remember watching an academic at the John Monash Science School observing students conducting experiments during one of my placement's as a pre-service teacher. He was struck by how involved in the process they were, intently focused on what they were doing. This contrasted with how students often perceive the science laboratory. I mentioned simply that the students had ownership over the experiments, as they had designed and chosen them. This begins in the web2.0 classroom as well - and I have witnessed it during this term at my school when my classes were writing to their blogs and had a deep level of focus.

I think this can be developed further through collaboration between classes at a school, or between different schools. Educators need to become more au fait with web2.0 tools and use the strengths of such options - creativity and collaboration and critical-thinking. Web2.0 tools cover the whole gamut of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, from creating as the highest-order skills, down to remembering. When I reflect on how my students benefited from their blogging experience, in some cases it was the lower-level remembering and understanding, and in other cases it was being able to create content and knowledge and evaluate others' understanding. I would like to further develop how I teach using this, to focus on developing student's ability to critique and question.

Our school is beginning to become more familiar with different web2.0 tools and their use in the classroom, and I think that is an area where we needed to continue to focus, to develop clear goalposts in terms of what we are trying to achieve. Having a student blog for the sake of having a blog might not achieve our educational aims; yet knowing that we can develop student interest and engagement through one, and use it to develop skills of evaluation and collaboration through one might. Being clear about how this is built into the curriculum is also important, as it becomes part of the regular planning/teaching/evaluating process. I would like to think I can help lead my school into effective use of some of these tools as part of our pedagogical model (we have recently develop new non-negotiables in terms of teaching - more to follow!) in the upcoming year, as part of my new role as Curriculum Leader.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Module 10 (web2.0 online course)

In this module we were required to look at various learning communities and using wikis. I found this topic quite interesting as the use of wikis in education is something that I have been investigating over the last two years. During my graduate diploma of education study I began learning about Wikispaces, an example of a site that hosts wikis. FYI, a wiki is defined as:

a website or database developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content

During that time I developed a wiki with several other pre-service teachers based on a biology unit that we were planning for. At the time I remember feeling that it was a little cumbersome, requiring us to format and re-edit documents to display them correctly and share them through Wikispaces.

Since that time, I have developed more familiarity with both Wikispaces and Google Sites and have found them to offer a number of benefits to my classes. I wanted to use them for my classes for two reasons: firstly as a place to store digital documents for students to readily access, and more importantly, as a place to help students join in a conversation about their learning process, to enable them to see other learning process from their peers, and share feedback and strategies about their learning.

What I have found so far is that Google Sites works more effectively with the students from my school, in comparison with Wikispaces. The difficulties my students found with Wikispaces was that they had to remember another login for another site, and often the school server blocked students from accessing the website. Whilst the first is easily remedied, the second really impacted on the students taking it up. Google Sites on the other hand was more easily taken up by students due to using the same logon details as their school email, which is already required for all their subjects. I also found that the layout presented by Google Sites was more user friendly, and a more simple interface.

As I have used these websites, my awareness of what they can be used for has developed. Initially I thought they would serve to outline the 'course' and subject materials; which is such a small application. Since I have been using them regularly, I have seen their potential in getting students to complete groupwork collaboratively, in a way that I can observe each students contributions. I have also been able to blog to the class discussing why we are studying certain things in class, presenting students with feedback and discussing class survey results. I feel that they can help my students to see that I can meet their needs outside of the classroom.

I feel that I am able to more easily see more of my students achieving/satisfying requirements of a course through their interactions with a wiki. Several of my students have provided feedback, saying that they enjoy using the websites, but would prefer to use them every class or not at all. I think they find it difficult to add another literacy (digital/use of wiki) when they might already be struggling. Some of them would prefer to use a wiki in place of a notebook, recording their class notes etc. Some of the year 10 science research projects really worked heavily on developing their group page, seeing it as part of their overall project assessment.

Overall I think that I will continue to use a form of wikis in my classroom, and expect that my usage of them will develop with my teaching. I look forward to helping students see different ways of learning, through what they share with their peers. I look forward to establishing a sense of collaboration in my students. I look forward to developing their digital literacy as well.

How do you use wikis in your classroom?