I took this course because I knew I wanted to view many of the K12Online07 sessions and I had just been introduced to the many possibilities of web 2.0 tools at NECC07. I am completing this course late in the summer of 2008 as the K12Online08 sessions are looming on the horizon.
My responses to the sessions are reflections about how I might use the resources and ideas in my practice. An illness delayed my progress in the course, but now that I have been able to complete it I can say that I have found each session a rich source of new or consolidated learning and I look forward to using what I’ve learned in the upcoming 2008-09 school year.
I have worked with learners in K-4 classrooms, computer labs and university courses for teachers for over two decades. My latest title is “Instructional Technology Integrator” in a school district of 1400 students in southern Maine. This year I continue to work with our elementary school students and teachers three days a week and those at the high school two days a week collaborating with Alice Barr.
The goal of the project that I will be taking on to utilize the learning from the K12 Online Conference is to increase the number and effectiveness of our classroom web pages that link to our Yarmouth Elementary School website. Specifically, I want all fifteen classrooms and the specialist teachers to have a web presence, ideally an interactive one. While some teachers have had static web pages for a few years I would like to explore the educational advantages of moving to blogs that are directed toward parents and encourage feedback to students. The focus of the blogs will be to showcase classroom learning and give students a way to share online with family members so they see that others can comment and leave responses to their learning
Teachers at the elementary level have long created weekly newsletters and other ways to send home a digest of learning activities, but there isn’t a connection to students and student work. A print newsletter is a one-way communication that may prompt more questions than it answers for a parent. Every teacher has had an iBook for five years now, it is beyond the time to move from limited email uses to tools that support online interaction.
I viewed several sessions by presenters that specifically addressed classroom blogs (John Pearce, Jeff Utecht, Anne Davis), while other sessions I attended gave tutorials and ideas for podcasts (Cheryl Oakes, Bob Sprankle & Alice Barr) and other student-created media that can be posted to blogs (Clarence Fisher, Brian Crosby, Alan Levine et.al.). Many of the sessions remind us to plan for the pedagogy not just the technology (Sylvia Martinez & Sharon Peters) so that the focus is on increasing learning by changing our practices.
When I viewed Derek Wenmoth’s movie for his session one of the most memorable slides was the graphic included here:
If we are to keep moving along to the “Assimilation” stage of this graphic he has some very clear ideas and suggestions for what needs to change so we can continue on past the “Integration”stage. I see classroom blogs as important in moving in this direction.
I have already met with the elementary school principal about my action research for this year and we have agreed that this goal of teacher interactive web pages will be one that we will support with help sessions during faculty meetings and team meetings. Teachers who have experimented with blogs will be important instructors for those who are just starting. Indeed, just today I had a phone call from a teacher who was exultant in telling me that since I am not at school these days she taught a new teacher how to set up a classroom blog and was thrilled she knew enough to do that!
Teachers who have created classroom blogs (examples) have reported that they have many fewer questions and emails from parents as the blog posts allow them to view student work and access the whole class in a new way. Kathy Cassidy is one example of this at the close of her K12Online06 session. Is it scary and threatening for teachers to “go public” in this way? Indeed I can understand that it is, I felt the same way at one time. Change can be difficult, but given the right reasons for change teachers will move and learn.