The online course on Web 2.0 technology for education that I have been working through the past several months has opened my eyes to how much more is available online for educators and students. With the school year started I certainly do not have all the time that I would like exploring all of these additional tools. But there are two tools in particular that have stood out and that I have already incorporated into my teaching this year.
The first of these is blogging. In my BRSR class, each student has created and is posting to their own blog on a weekly basis. My students use their blogs to write their thoughts and responses to topics that we have been discussing in class. I maintain a class blog where I post questions and links to relevant information. Though it took some time and effort to get all my students set up (don’t assume that all students are comfortable with computers and online apps!), things are really starting to roll, and I have been pleased with the kinds of responses that many of my students are posting.
There are at least two key advantages in having students write their responses in a blog rather than on paper. The first advantage is that students can easily incorporate multimedia and links in their blogs, something that they could not do on paper. Students have the ability to post images and embed video and audio into their blogs, as well as upload other kinds of files. Being able to incorporate these dynamic elements adds interest for both students and teacher.
The second key advantage is that, whereas most students will throw away or recycle all their paper assignments at the end of the year, a blog will remain accessible even after they graduate. My hope is that my students will refer back to their blog when they go off to college as a reference for when they encounter the kinds of questions and topics that we have covered in my class.
The other web tool that has been very effective for me has been screencasting, which I wrote about in a prior post. I have been referring my physics students who need extra review to the Physics Tutorials website I created using the free Yola website creation and hosting tool. I’ve already had students remark that these screencasts have been helpful when it came time for them to try to do their homework; it was as if they could see me re-teach the lesson at home, and they could replay certain sections as many times as they needed until they got it. Now it certainly has been time-consuming to create each of these screencasts, but that’s partially because I keep recording a new take whenever I mess up (which happens constantly).
I am currently using the Pro version of Blueberry Flashback which allows frame by frame editing of a recording—very helpful for cleaning up mistakes and “umms…” and such. Screencasting will also be extremely helpful when we teach our students how to incorporate multimedia and videos into Powerpoint slideshows for their final presentations, or for explaining how to do virtually anything on the computer.
So these are the two tools that I will be using most often this year, but I am sure that I will continue to learn new and incorporate new things into my teaching with each new year!