Saturday, 19 October 2013

Module 5 (web2.0 online course)

What good are web 2.0 tools?

In module five we reflect on our current understanding of web 2.0 and the tools that may be used in this domain. Through the website, we are asked to create a concept map of web 2.0 tools and export it to include in this blog post.

I found the process of creating a concept map to allow me to more effectively reflect about what I thought was powerful from web 2.0 tools. In creating the different strands of my map, I decided that I thought the two most important elements of the web 2.0 environment are creating content and collaboration.

Through publishing tools, we can create vodcasts and podcasts to engage students, and compete effectively with other sources that clamour for their attention. We can create blogs and wikis that serve not only to house teaching and learning resources, but also to be a place where they are reflected upon. This reflection is the second part - the collaboration. Web 2.0 allows users to develop and refine together, efficiently. Gone are the email chains bouncing back and forth (well, almost) and now we can collaborate quickly in Google+, through wikis, on Twitter. This rapid feedback allows teachers to work with their peers and develop their resources and expertise. These tools allow for professional networking in real time, outside of school.

I think that gradually web 2.0 tools will replace existing professional development; it is free and accessible. I do not think this will occur rapidly, indeed, the majority of my colleagues do not have a professional online presence as yet, and there is an incongruence between those that do use online networking, and those that do not know it exists. There is also the problem that networks such as Twitter can easily end up as an echo chamber for the loudest voices. Yet, I do not think this is solely due to it being online, I feel sure there is historical precedent for certain people having voices which are heard when there are others which are not.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Module 4 (web2.0 online course)

Module 4 of the web2.0 online course required us to investigate podcasting and vodcasting as elements of digital storytelling. Feeling like a digital native, I had already investigated both of these tools prior to engaging with them through the course. I remember creating a video for some of my students last year, more as a proof of concept that vodcasting could work.

I enjoyed the process - and feel that there is room for the use of such resources, particularly because they can engage and audience readily, especially an audience accustomed to rich online content. Younger generations are used to dedicating attention to things that stimulate it, and all too easily, a classroom can become a place where a students attention is lost by the teacher. Commanding a student to focus, to dedicate their attention, is not going to easily undo the countless hours of training they subject their attention to through digital media in and outside of school.

However, creating rich, engaging, and more importantly, effective (in an educational context) digital media, when a teacher is often time poor, seems to be the typical catch-22. As a committee member of the Early Careers Chemistry Network, I have been involved in producing some digital resources for chemistry teachers, videos of demonstrations, that seek to be rich, engaging and effective as learning resources. And they take a lot of time! Given the scope of what chemistry courses at VCE level cover, there is no effective way to provide quality digital content of the course when teaching is my day job.

Any suggestions?

We interrupt this service...

I have been quite busy over the last three weeks: getting engaged, celebrating my birthday, and running my first marathon. So apologies for the gap in my posts! ;) I am lucky enough to now be engaged to a beautiful, intelligent woman who I find inspiring! We were engaged over the school holidays, and now have a little bit of time to plan an engagement party, and hopefully about one year to plan the wedding!

Adventuring in Brazil 2013
Running the marathon was extremely satisfying; I have been an avid cyclist for quite a few years now (starting back in university in 2005) and having done my fair share of racing, I was keen to see what it was like to be a runner. I trained for around 2.5~3 months, building up to a max of about 75kms per week. I suffered a minor setback with a temporary injury of the facia around my left ankle, but came good, continued training, and debuted with a 3:21 for the 42.2km. I am quite happy with the result, but now curious to see what it takes to get a sub 3hr; apparently some 2% of people attempting reach this goal.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Getting students involved in the learning process...

I have been mulling over how to get students more involved in the learning process since I started teaching. As a teacher, I hold a belief in the ability of all my students to be able to achieve some measure of success. I know that in a given classroom, I will have some students who are more able than others. Some will be older, more mature, have more life experience, have more supportive parents, have greater expectations put on them, have had effective learning strategies modeled for them, will be faster at processing. Some will be born into families that do not experience disadvantage. All of these things confer an advantage to these students. Yet time and time again, what I see as enabling success for a given student, regardless of their starting ability, is their own involvement in the learning process. Students who are motivated to learn, who are interested, challenged, have their interest piqued by a certain topic or teacher.

Students involved in the learning process have enough of themselves invested in the learning to continue when it becomes difficult. They persevere, seek assistance and clarify to assimilate new knowledge. As a teacher, how do I enable more of my students to become involved in this process?

One of the ways I am interested in doing this is through fostering self-reflection. I want to develop in my students an ability to critique what they are doing to learn, not just what they have learned. Too often, the focus is on what a student has or has not learnt, rather than what they are doing to actually learn it. Whilst there obviously needs to be some focus on the outcome that is desired, if there is no focus on the process, the likelihood of that outcome is quite low. I have been amazed to watch young students tell me they are 'no good at maths' or 'I just don't get it' when looking back at a piece of assessment that they have completed. Usually if we unpack it further, there is a clear sign that they were not involved in the learning process at some point, and this is where they have come unstuck. Trying to have students balance these two aspects of learning, the HOW and the WHAT, is a continuously developing part of my teaching.

I have used both a wiki and a google site with different classes at school, and endeavoured to have students use these resources not only to access class material and an outline, but also engage them on seeing what they are doing for their own learning. I have students who have a limited conception of what is required to succeed academically, and I hope that through seeing what some of their peers are doing, they might be able to change some habits. In particular I want to get my students used to reflecting on how they prepared for assessment tasks, and to try and think about ways to improve this in the future. What I have found so far is that students enjoy using these online tools if it is done regularly and often, and are resistant to it if they are not using them regularly. I think part of this comes through the perceived 'load' of becoming familiar with a blog/wiki etc and learning how to operate it, vs the perceived benefit. For some of my underperforming students, part of this could also arise from a sense of inadequacy. Perhaps when setting this up, connecting it to their goals for that subject could allow them to describe their learning against predetermined goals, and they can rationalise their results in this way, rather than necessarily feeling as through they are being compared to others.