Archive for October, 2008

My first webinar

Yesterday I attended my first webinar entitled “Blogging for Beginners” by Janni Black sponsored by ISTE. It was quite an experience to participate in comfortable clothes, with an espresso by my hand and my cat in nearby chair watching and listening to Janni present information in a clear and engaging manner.  Although I have been writing this blog for a few months now and I don’t really think of myself as a beginner, I decided to attend this webinar because I knew there was lots more I needed to know about blogs.  Janni will be doing an intermediate session on blogs next month, and I may do that one as well.

Janni urged all educators considering using blogs with their students to first read some educator blogs to get a sense of what they are all about, then, when ready, post a comment to someone’s blog.  Thereafter, educators should set up their own blog and get a feel for what the experience is like.  I am pleased that she outlined this process because that is exactly the route I took.  As I was beginning to learn about Web 2.0, I found that educator blogs (and the wikis some of them created) to be my main source of information.  I was amazed how many educators from all levels already knew about these web technologies and how many of them were just getting started, like me.  There’s a whole community out there exploring these tools, and their blog posts (which tend to highlight an article they have read, a conference they have attended, a tool they have used, or an idea that they are thinking about) have led me to other blogs, other tools, new ideas, etc.  The learning is endless. Janni mentioned that blogging can enable you to take charge of your own professional development, and i concur.  Although the wealth of information can get overwhelming at times, I have found that a time-limited web session is the best; otherwise, the links from one site to another can eat up hours upon hours without me even noticing. Engagement with the content is never an issue; would high school or college students in a course be similarly engaged with this type of learning and exploration? (a question to ponder in terms of application to the classroom).

Throughout her presentation, Janni offered suggestions for how to choose blogs in terms of their features and their applicability to a classroom.  She spoke highly of Edublogs for using in high school settings and also for a one’s own educator blog (Note: Edublogs and WordPress are hosted by the same company).  And she gave suggestions for blogging sites for teachers who want to use blogs with their elementary students. You find many of them through her blog and a wiki on Wikispaces created by Support

One caveat that she mentioned in educating students about blogs and other web-based tools is not to fall into thinking that students are natives to all of this technology (I discussed this in my last blog).  Although they may have more digital experience with certain technology applications, they do not know all of them.  Janni cautioned us to break down the steps involved in using these tools and to incorporate many of the excellent videos available free on the web that teach students (and us) about these tools accurately and sensibly.

Thank you, Janni Black, you gave me lots to ponder, and I look forward to learning more.

More learnings from Michael Wesch

After one fantastic week in Paris, I am back to learning more about Web 2.0 and trying to capture the many significant points here on the blog.  Whenever I feel a little rusty about all of this technology (which can certainly happen to an aging mind and a 14-day break), I resort to a video to bring me back.  Today was no exception.

As I was reading a blog by Houshuang called “Random Stuff that Matters,” I came across a video of a presentation that Michael Wesch gave at the University of Manitoba on June 17, 2008.  His presentation called “The Future of Education” highlighted the work he is doing as a symbolic anthropologist at the  Kansas State University.  He discussed the classes he teaches (both large and small) in digital ethnography and media literacy and reviewed some of the research he and his students have conducted about student learning in general and YouTube in particular.  As usual, I found myself riveted by his knowledge, his explanations, and his examples.  I will highlight a few of my specific learnings.   Here is a gem of a quote which speaks to the value of collaboration in creating new knowledge: “nobody is as smart as everybody.”  It’s seems like an updated version of  the old adage that “two heads are better than one,” but it speaks to me.

Another statement that resonated with me refers to the terms “digital native and digital immigrants” as referred to by Marc Prensky. Within this terminology digital natives are the young people we are teaching who have far more digital experience than the older generation.  As we try to catch up with these natives, we find ourselves similar to immigrants to a country who do not know the language.  And although we may struggle and study very hard, we will still be digitial immigrants in this new world.  This description made sense to me, and I have used these descriptors to describe myself and the young generations who are far more experienced on Myspace and Facebook and can text-message seeminly faster than the speed of light.  Wesch, however, takes issue with the notion that students are digital natives.  For even though our students know how to use a few applications in some ways, they know very little about the extensive array of Web 2.0 applications or how they can be used in educational contexts.  Wesch maintains that “there are no natives here.”  He was encouraging to his audience (and me) when he commented, “don’t feel stupid because we are all stupid.”  With over 30 new Web 2.0 start-ups everyday (one of which could become as popular as Facebook), we are all sort of playing catch-up.  As I ponder his assessment of students’s skills, it makes sense to me.  So maybe  I will let go of my digital immigrant label.  I’ll have to think more about that.

One last tidbit I’ll mention here (there are several, watch the video and you will discover more yourself) appeared on one of his last slides.  While  refering to the teaching/learning process, he referred to a goal we should hold for our students.  Education should “move students from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.”  Studentns should learn to do more than acquire knowledge; we must guide them to be creators of knowledge as well.  Web 2.0 has provided the platforms for that to happen, but we (as educators) have to learn how to use those tools to accomplish that end (forstudents and ourselves too).

The presentation contains far more than just these points.  I invite you to visit Wesch’s website on netvibes and to view his Youtube videos – you won’t be disappointed.

Deki Wiki – an easy to use wiki for education

For the past few days, I have talked with 3 of my Web 2.0 guides and learned a tremendous amount for each hour that I spent withthese talented educators.  I will highlight only one on this post. One of my new guides, Ed Gray, shared with me the various wiki hosting services that he considered before selecting the wiki he is now using called from Mindtouch. He felt that this wiki was easier to edit, easier to upload images and other media, and offered a lot of flexibility.  He recommended that I try a Deki Wiki and see how it compared to the other wiki hosting services that I have used.  So, I today I registered for a Deki Wiki, and in a few days I’ll start to add content to it and see how it goes.  In the past I have tried both Pbwiki and Wetpaint.  I also have an account at Wikispaces but I have not spent much time at that site even though I have read other educator’s wikis on wikispaces and learned from them.  Interestingly, it was the wiki that got me interested in Web 2.0 over a year ago.  But I haven’t gone back to them since.  All of the wiki sites that I used have been upgraded with many easier to use features since my first visit to them, so I think it is time to rediscover my initial fascination with them – a task for tomorrow.

October 2008