Thursday, 29 March 2012

Final Reflection

            When I embarked upon the learning journey that was to be this course, I had several goals.  I wanted to increase my own comfort level with Web 2.0 tools, so that I could more effectively integrate their use into my classroom practice.  I wanted my use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom to lead to rich, meaningful, and curricularly-linked learning for my students.  I also wanted to explore ways to teach my students to be active participants in the Web 2.0 world, while still being safe, responsible, and resourceful.  While I had used some Web 2.0 tools in my classroom in the past, I had had mixed results, and wanted to increase my knowledge and competence, so that my future technological efforts would be more successful.  I chose several tools that I intended to explore, but I was fully aware that it was a fluid list, and kept an open mind.  The blogs and discussions of my classmates, the readings I did, the needs of my class, and the conversations I had with my colleagues, all led me to make changes in my list as my inquiry progressed.  In the end, my inquiry led me to explore some fascinating new (to me) Web 2.0 tools, challenged me to find ways to integrate technology into my classroom practice in a meaningful way, and helped me to gain confidence in learning and using new Web 2.0 tools.
Synthesis of Learning
            When this course began, I was an intermediate tech user.  I was comfortable using a range of technological tools in my classroom, but had concerns about online security and digital citizenship.  I also found that technology would often be used in schools just for the sake of using technology, rather than to create a learning opportunity that would not have existed in a lower-tech environment.  I wanted to find ways to use technology to augment my teaching and my students’ learning.  My inquiry project allowed me to begin to do this.
            Over the course of my inquiry, I explored a range of Web 2.0 tools.  Some were useful in my classroom, some allowed me to present materials to my students in interesting ways, and some engaged me in professional learning.  While my blog contains details on my efforts, successes, and struggles with each Web 2.0 tool that I tried, I can summarize my experiences by saying that however I used technology with my students, it engaged them.  Technology is the heart of the world in which my students are growing up, and they are excited when presented with an opportunity to incorporate pieces of this world into their school experience. 
            Brian Kenney, in School Library Journal, said the following:
                     For librarian-teachers, this challenge is even more critical. The new Web is increasingly the pen and paper for young people. It's one of the places they experience and create narrative. It's where reading and learning takes place, where recreational needs are met, communities are formed, and knowledge is constructed.  (Kenney, 2007)  
Bearing this in mind, I was not surprised to find my students highly engaged by technology.  I was looking for more than just engagement, however.  I was looking for meaningful learning. 
            While my students were engaged by the Web 2.0 tools that we explored as part of my inquiry, I found that they needed direct instruction and purposeful feedback if they were to use the tools responsibly and effectively.  Just like when students are learning a new low-tech skill, students need to be guided in reflection on their work, and goal-setting for improvement, based on feedback.  They need a chance to become familiar with a Web 2.0 tool, but also with how to interact responsibly and respectfully in an online environment.  My students were at first sometimes silly, off-task, and even disrespectful to each other when interacting in an online environment, but with direct instruction, their digital citizenship improved.  I believe that this learning will transfer to other online areas of their lives.  Will Richardson (2010) states that students are interacting with others on the Web at an earlier and earlier age, and so they need to be taught the fundamentals of digital citizenship.  Students are going to have a digital footprint, regardless of whether we help them to develop one or not.  We can help this to be a positive experience by modelling respectful, responsible use of Web 2.0 tools, and the development of a positive online profile.  I talked to my students about my inquiry project, and showed them some of the tools that I was using and resources that I was creating.  They were intrigued, and I was able to be a positive Web 2.0 role-model.
            Perhaps the most important result of my inquiry is that I became a much more fluent and competent user of Web 2.0 tools, both for my own personal and professional uses, and in my classroom.  I challenged myself to explore new tools, even when I was sceptical, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I began to understand the richness of the possibilities of the Web 2.0 world.  While there is a lot out there that holds no interest for me, there is also a lot that is relevant, intriguing, and useful to me.  Although I barely scraped the surface of the Web, I am a lot further along than I was before this inquiry started.  While I would still consider myself an intermediate tech user, I now have a much clearer idea of the possibilities of the Web 2.0 world, and a much more positive attitude towards them.
Sharing My Learning
            I work in a small school, with a small staff of open-minded people.  Our school is in the process of updating our technological hardware, and is spending a lot of money purchasing projectors, iPads, Apple TV, class sets of lap tops, and document cameras.  Because of this, it is understandable that we would be focussing our professional development and collaboration on using this technology effectively.  So I am in a good position to share my learning with a group of keen, hard-working teachers.  My colleagues and I share ideas, and learn from each other.  My class has a Grade One class for computer buddies, and my students teach them most things that they learn.  We present our tech products at assemblies and staff meetings, as well as on our school website.  We are learning day by day, and we are sharing our learning with others whenever we can.
Imagining the Future
            My exploration of the Web 2.0 world does not end with this course.  Our students live in a Web 2.0 world, so we, as teachers, must plan our students’ learning with this in mind.  I have already, since I finished my blog, set up blogs for each of my students (in the secure environment of Moodle) on which they will blog as the main character of their novel as they read for their independent novel study.  I have developed criteria for their blogs, and am working on setting criteria for them to read and comment on their classmates’ blogs.  As I continue in my career, I anticipate that I will continue to learn and grow.  Next year, our district is apparently going to begin using a programme that will assign each student a school-specific email address.  This would allow my students to access many of the excellent Web 2.0 tools that I explored in this inquiry, as well as many that I haven’t yet become familiar with.  Secure email addresses would open a lot of possibilities for my students.  As well as this development, my school is investing in some exciting technology, and I will need to learn and grow if I am to incorporate its use effectively into my classroom practice.  The future holds many exciting possibilities, and I look forward to exploring them with the open mind and the comfort level that I developed over the course of this inquiry.  Berger and Trexler (2010) say that “school librarians need to become leaders, advocates, and change agents willing to embrace the digital environment to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information” (p 17).  As this course draws to a close, I feel confident that I will be able to be a leader in my school as my learning journey into the Web 2.0 world continues.

Berger, P., & Trexler, S. (2010).Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital   World. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Kenney, B. (2007). You 2.0. School Library Journal, 53 (1). Retrieved from        ew/211823073?accountid=14656

Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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