Time to Stop and Reflect

Harbor way by (davide), on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  (davide) 

For EC&I 831, my challenge was to create a digital project which would allow me to understand the potential uses of social media and Web 2.0 tools in the classroom while at the same time, be a useful product that could serve my school. As I am not a classroom teacher, but a school-based administrator, I wanted to create something that could benefit staff who were looking for information about these open source technologies. My decision was to create a Blog, Caught Up in the Web!  that  houses information on why the implementation of social media and web-based resources were useful, how and why to set up a bloghow to effectively comment on Blogs, the use of Twitter and Facebook in the classroom.

Originally I began building a website with the use of the free web building and hosting tool,  Weebly. This is a fantastic resource that is very user friendly and has a slick and professional look. However, like most websites it didn’t afford me the opportunity to provide regular posts and comments and I found it difficulty to embed certain sources without paying for an upgrade. I ultimately, abandoned the web in favour of a Word Press Blog which allowed my teachers to provide feedback regarding the usefulness or difficulties in accessing the suggested resources, as well as the success and challenges of using social media in the classroom.  I had also considered a Wiki, but I will admit I find the visual appearance of the free Wiki sites rather dated. In addition to creating my teacher Blog “Caught Up in the Web!” I also created a student/teacher Blog for use in my school called “Royal Subjects”, playing on the nickname of our athletic teams, the Royals.  This was as a result of a teacher inviting me into her ELA class to discuss Blogging. My plan is to continue to use this Blog in my work with classes on cyber bullying, school safety, drug and alcohol awareness and numerous other topics I address with small group discussions and class presentations. On this Blog I have created pages for students providing them information on digital citizenship and netiquette, tips for Blogging and commenting, similar to the pages on the teacher Blog but geared towards student use.

I have spent the last year attempting to broaden my understanding of Web 2.0 something I blogged about earlier and discussed in the following Xtranormal video:

A few short months ago I was still pondering on the impact of social media in the classroom, not totally convinced that the risks to privacy and the potential misuse of the medium outweighed the benefits. However, as a result of my experimentation with it and feedback I’m receiving from staff regarding its use, I think the potential rewards far outweight the risks. As I stated in an early post “Oh Wow, Oh Wow, oh Wow” – it is an exciting time to be an educator and I am anxiously looking forward to the future and my continuing journey with technology. If you missed last week’s post  “One journey ends, another begins” featuring a prezi chronicling my experiences in #eci831 – go back and take a look!

I have come along way, but most certainly is not the end destination, just a momentary stop. I plan on continuing this journey!

road to success... by paojus, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  paojus 

“Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow!”

 

Give, take ’n share by Funchye, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Funchye 

The last words uttered by Steve Jobs as revealed earlier this week by his sister, Mona Simpson, were “Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow.” For a man who made computer technology personal and mainstream, revolutionizing how we share, process, and filter information;  it is hard to imagine he could be amazed by anything. Such is the mystery of death, but those last words from one of the most innovative thinkers of the modern era, reflect more than just the enigma of our existence. They articulate the unfathomable boundaries of possibilities, uplifting me with optimism.  I needed this optimism in a week where I found myself attending two separate funerals; a week in which people emailed and posted condolences to the families on Twitter and Facebook. It was a startling example of how technology quickly and efficiently brings people together; not in the cold, dystopian manner depicted by science fiction writers such as Bradbury and Asimov,  but in profound, authentic, and real-time connections. At one of the funerals, a close family member unable to travel home participated in the service via the web. And as he contributed to the eulogy from another continent, I thought “Wow” – how the celebration of that life was made the richer for the sharing.

This week Dean Shareski  challenged us as educators to consider sharing as a moral imperative, challenging us to ponder “is our best work accessible to everyone?”  My friend whose parent had died, told me he did not know anything about Skype or data projectors,  but that  a simply query on Facebook, a technology he does use, caused a flood of helpful tips: the donation of a data projector and the volunteer services of a “technician”, and a few instructive YouTube videos empowered him. As a result, his brother-in-law could share in the funeral of their mother.  A couple of weeks ago, two of the math teachers in my department created a smart board through the use of a Wii remote and IR pen. How were they able to accomplish this? A tutorial on YouTube. For too long, teachers have worked in isolation, sharing only with a small, trusted group of people. However, teaching has changed. It is arguably more difficult; curricula are more extensive, diversity among learners greater, and class sizes larger. If we don’t share, not only don’t we cope, we don’t accomplish our mandate as educators – nurturing learning through sharing and challenging the thoughts and practices of ourselves and others. So, this week I shared. I invited several of my staff members to look at my Blog, a far riskier venture with people you know, work with, and supposedly lead, than muttering to faceless audience on my Blog. I shared the beginnings of my Blog resource which allows them to discover various Web 2.0 tools; I offered to work with an ELA teacher and her students on Blogging; in fact, I created a new Blog for the students of my school to comment on timely issues concerning their curricula, community and world. Over the next few weeks and months, they will blog and I will invite them to tweet responses . I’m thinking of using the hash tag #Veeptweet! We’ll see how it goes. This is an exciting time to be an educator.  A world of information is literally in the palm of our hands – and I am at the point of no return! In the words of Steve Jobs, “Oh, Wow! Oh, wow! Oh, Wow!!”