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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Web-Constructors of Knowledge

During a meeting with a couple of teachers today, I was asked by a colleague whether I felt that new web-based technologies (i.e. glogster, blogging, wikis, prezis) were being implemented in classrooms today because they are ideal for how our students learn or was it for us to 'hook' them into learning.

I told him that I felt that these programs are non-linear and so is student thinking and learning preferences today. Students today are interacting with data and online applications in a constant manner. They move and click, manipulate, comment, and tweet. When all else fails, if students encounter something that does not excite them or allow them to make it 'their own' - they do just that.....make one of their own. Our students are online collaborators. They are webpage authors and facebook administrators. They have been raised in an online environment that is built on collaboration and integration of ideas (between web and self).

Our students are in control of what they do online when they spent their time that way - and they are increasingly choosing to do this. They want author rights to things. They do not enjoy the same artistic license and opportunity in many of our lessons. They are largely passive and static unless personally engaged and challenged to be a creator of something. Use these web-based technologies to both hook and adhere to their preferred learning style, that is, one that is egocentric and grounded in their ability to control and manipulate the information. We need to teach them the digital citizenship skills required to keep these tools and goals in line with educational priorities; but it is they who will need to invest in the adoption of vital online rules and expectations.

I think we are headed in the right place with new programs and learning opportunities that embrace the web and its many applications. The nature of schooling today is in flux. There is a great battle between traditional and non-traditional ways of teaching and those teachers and principals that have not opened themselves to the expanding possibilities of technology are finding themselves on the outside looking in. They might want to be a part of this educational revolution, but feel that they lack the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to be an active participant. Educators need to collaborate on these issues in appropriate and engaging ways (just like students!). When our classrooms become places that integrate self and learning - it will be lasting and dynamic. It's the reason we are shifting to differentiated instruction techniques and it should be reason to incorporate more web-based programs and new online learning tools.


Suzie Nestico said...

Hi Neil,

Agreed. There certainly is a great battle between traditional and non-traditional ways of teaching. Even when some of us benefit from learning and teaching with new tools and new conceptual approaches, it remains difficult for others to "catch on". It isn't something we can simply preach and expect others to jump on the bandwagon.

Also agree that many feel as though they lack the fundamental skills to harness the real transformative power of technology in the classroom. However, teachers need to be reminded that they do possess the most fundamental skills of 'learning' and 'teaching' themselves given the nature of the profession they chose. I learned much of what I know just by jumping in and playing a bit at a time.

And yes, digital citizenship is imperative and we can not teach it and model it if we don't understand it ourselves, first. Best of luck with your Digital Citizenship program. You may want to check out this globally collaborative project for digital citizenship, Digiteen ( I've done it with my students before and what I learned, as an educator, is invaluable.

nfinney said...

Digiteen is a terrific resource. Thanks for resounding many of the things contained within this post. It is certainly a careful balance between traditional and non-traditional methods of reaching students. It is on the shoulders of students that most of us teachers will be able to take on new ideas and move forward with promising next steps for our chosen profession. I'll keep this blog updated with digital citizenship pursuits as they happen and hope that it helps others to implement key skills in their classrooms.

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