Exploring Web 2.0 in Education

I am currently taking an online course called “Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom.” The class is an exploration of the new tools offered by Web 2.0 (sometimes called the “Read/Write Web”) and how they can be implemented within[out] the classroom. Even though it’s only been a week I’ve already been greatly inspired by some of the ideas that I’ve read about, and I have some ideas for some things I would like to try to implement this Fall in my classes. So this next series of posts will be some of my thoughts on these new tools, which I hope will give some of you educators who read this a glimpse of the wide variety of things that are available for use to enhance our teaching and our students’ learning.

The first tool that we are exploring is the blog. Luckily this is a tool that I have slight familiarity with. Since I started the reasonable answers blog last December and started exploring what can be done with a blog by following the work of other blog writers, I’ve gained an appreciation for blogging as a medium for communication, as well as some of the constraints of blogs. I’ve greatly enjoyed writing in this blog, and I’ve greatly appreciated the comments that people have made about this blog, both written and verbal. I can’t overstate how important those words of encouragement are, especially for someone just starting out! It makes the time put into researching and writing and formatting each entry worthwhile!

That being said, I’ve certainly not been utilizing this blog as much as I would want, mainly because of the reality of teaching full time and having a very active toddler at home. There is still much that I want to write for this blog that I haven’t gotten around to yet, and I’ve certainly been feeling that I’ve been neglecting you faithful few who have actually subscribed to updates!

The nature of blogs is that content is presented in a chronological or sequential series of posts. As such, I really wanted to write something at least once a week to sustain interest in the blog. But the realities of life made it difficult to maintain that pace. Also, while the sequential format is conducive for a series of posts like the “ESCR Debate” series, I was hesitant about breaking a series to write about something else in between. I also think that a blog is great for up-to-date reflections and reactions on current events, but I think that what I write may be better suited to an archival type website, which is why I skipped ahead a bit and read the section on Wikis!

But I do have some ideas to incorporate blogs into my BRSR class this Fall. I plan to set up student blogs connected to a primary BRSR blog using Edublogs (already signed up! http://brsr.edublogs.org/) and require students to write weekly entries chronicling their thoughts on the content we discuss in class as well as share additional information that would be pertinent to class discussions. This would take the place of the weekly 1 page reflection essay that I had students do previous years. My hope is that this will give students who are less comfortable speaking up in class the opportunity to make their voice heard. Also, by having 50 sets of eyes prowling the web and posting up interesting and pertinent websites and information, this will broaden the scope of the class beyond what I can accomplish on my own. This would achieve at least two of the National Education and Technology Standards for students:

  • 2. Communication and Collaboration
  • 3. Research and Information Fluency
  • and possibly touch on 5. Digital Citizenship.

One of the greatest challenges for teachers incorporating blogs—or any other Web 2.0 tool—into a class is finding the time to translate their lessons and curriculum online.  Veteran teachers might be hesitant to change what has been working and try a new thing. New teachers who may be less set in their ways may be so overwhelmed with all the new teacher skills they are learning that they simply do not have time to try to learn new technologies, or they may be hesitant to try to introduce a new way of teaching a lesson if none of the other teachers has tried it before. I think that a way to conquer this challenge is if a few veteran teachers who are comfortable with new technology and are willing to try new things incorporate some of these tools into their classes, and then demonstrate to other teachers what they and their students can accomplish using these new tools.

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