How Will Education be Different?

6 Oct

I have spent the better part if the last four years contemplating this question: What can I do to make education different?  Four years ago I was dissatisfied with my teaching and I was dissatisfied with the way my students were passively learning.  I knew that there had to be a better way to do it and I knew that I needed to find it or I would be one of those teachers that only lasted five years.  About that time my school board started rolling out the carts of MacBooks to all of the schools and I discovered Constructivist pedagogy. From these two things, my world of education changed forever. I became an active supporter and practitioner of technology supported learning and inquiry based pedagogy. Listening to Sheryl tonight got me thinking, how else do I want education to be different?  Where am I now, compared to where I was four years ago when I was seeking personal pedagogy reform? What I have discovered through tonight’s presentation is that I have, without realizing it, been seeking a way to connect myself and my students together into a community of learners that moves beyond the classroom walls. Now that I maintain an inquiry based classroom and seem to have moved past the struggles that implementing that presented, my next step apparently has been to create a forum for students to take that inquiry home with them.  I have been trying to find a way for them to have access to the same resources that they would have at school and as much access to myself and to each other as I can create.  I embarked on this journey on my own without really knowing what this class would be about but now I can see how it all connects.

I have maintained a classroom website, provided by the board office for a few years.  On this site I basically offer a list of the homework as well as links to other sites that I use like my on-line grade book.  It is pretty simplistic and offers no collaborative benefits. It was a good start but is pretty stale.  This year I am working collaboratively with two other teachers and their students. Our vision is to view our grade 7/8s as a collection of 75 students that we all teach, not through subject switches but through parallel learning and collaborative projects.  We wanted the freedom to mix our students as needed and so far, I think that is working quite well. (For example, we have students with various levels of knowledge and experience with Inquiry based learning, so we divided the students into three groups, two to learn how to inquire and seek answers and one to hone their skills) After we decided that this was how we would structure our wing of the school I began to think of ways to join our classroom communities. I started by creating a wiki. This was the only way that I really knew how to create a collaborative space at the time, because we had worked on a collaborative project last year and most of the students knew how to use it.  I wanted a space where students from all three classes could access AND contribute information for their school work in a collaborative manner.  The result is 0ur SeniorEagles wiki.  So far, the wiki is a little simple but I know that it is a space that will become more useful with time.  My students are all members and have collaboratively created a space of resources on the First Nation’s people’s use of the bison that will be used for an activity by all three classes later. The problem is, right now, it’s only my students using it and even then, only when I tell them too.  I surveyed my students last week to see how they were using the resources that I offer them and this chart shows the result I received in regard to the wiki:

These are the results I received regarding wiki usage

Seeing how my students only use this resource when I tell them to, my vision how we can work together is not really coming to fruition.  I needed another course of action.  Last week I blogged a story from CBC news about a teacher in Regina using Facebook in his classroom and the criticism that he was getting for it. I wondered why we are so scared of using social media in the classroom.  Won’t students be more engaged if we use what they know and like or would it, as I have discussed before, be weird to them, like we are invading their private lives.  If they feel that way, then how can we smoothly connect social media and traditional schools.  I know that eventually community based learning and networking at school will be as common as a yellow number 2 pencil but I want to make that transition now and I want to make it smoothly.  Knowing that Facebook is controversial (I have students who are not allowed to use it) and knowing I may be criticised for using it in school, I decided to test its usefulness as a means of communicating and collaborating with my students. To see how they felt about the possibility I asked my kids through survey and they seemed to be very supportive of the idea. SurveySummary_10052010

Facebook Question

In this question I ask my students about how likely they would be to communicate with me via Facebook

So I decided to conduct an experiment.  I am going to operate my classroom website and wiki as usual and add a school based Facebook account and perhaps a Twitter account (by student request) and ask for students and parents to use these resources and give me feedback on what worked and what did not.  This way, I am not the only one making decisions on how I want education to change and I am not the only one creating the learning communities in my school.  I am hoping that this experiment will be my project for this class. So, ask me again how education in my class will be different and I will answer you with, “let me ask my students and I will let you know”.

If anyone has any feedback on my experiment, I would love to hear it. This idea of forming a community is still very much in the beginning stage and any advice or commentary would be very valuable.

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3 Responses to “How Will Education be Different?”

  1. olabakri October 6, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    I really like this. I know what you are feeling especially after yesterday’s great presentation. I want also to do something, but the problem is I teach private English courses and not many students have Internet and know how to use Internet applications. Should I try to convince them of blogging? But they have hard time in doing assignments because of their work and family commitments.
    I appreciate what you are trying to do. I think this will work out, but needs perseverance….

  2. jhuistemurphy October 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Danielle,

    Wow, so much good stuff. I like the attempt to bring students into the collaboration. I also like the attempt to bring your fellow teachers into collaboration.

    I think perhaps the trouble isn’t the collaborative space so much as you aren’t as comfortable being collaborative as you need to be.

    In this post by one of your classmates http://byrnesa.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/convene-not-control/ where she noted “Shirky said that the technological tools we are using do not get socially interesting until they get technically boring.”

    I would focus more on being collaborative with your peers first and really learn how to do it, then it will naturally bleed over into what you are trying to do in class. At least that is my hypothesis.

    • daniellestinson October 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

      Thank you for your input. I am not sure that it is me that it is uncomfortable with collaboration but more my peers. I do not like having to try to encourage them to do so as I know how busy we all are and I do not want to overwhelm them! I am afraid of being a nag, not of the actual process. It is something to think about though, maybe I am unsure of how to use it properly and therefore not supporting my colleagues. Something to ponder anyway…

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