BlogWalker

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Web 2.0 in the Classroom – Some Benefits and Realities

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Maggie Tsai just posted a link to The Becta Report on the Benefits Web 2.0 in the Classroom, “a major new research into the use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis, blogs and social networking by children between the ages of 11-16, both in and out of the school environment.” In a nutshell, the report found a disconnect between the increasing amount of Web 2.0 use students reported using outside of school and the limited use of Web 2.0 during the school day. But in observing schools and teachers who are innovating with Web 2.0 tools, they found the following benefits:

  • Web 2.0 helps to encourage student engagement and increase participation – particularly among quieter pupils, who can use it to work collaboratively online, without the anxiety of having to raise questions in front of peers in class – or by enabling expression through less traditional media such as video.
  • Teachers have reported that the use of social networking technology can encourage online discussion amongst students outside school.
  • Web 2.0 can be available anytime, anywhere, which encourages some individuals to extend their learning through further investigation into topics that interest them.
  • Pupils feel a sense of ownership and engagement when they publish their work online and this can encourage attention to detail and an overall improved quality of work. Some teachers reported using publication of work to encourage peer assessment.”

I think the research being compiled by the U.K.’s Becta Group complements the 2008 findings shared by the Pew Internet/American Life Project in collaboration with the National Commission on the Teaching of Writing. Two sections of this report jumped out at me because both can easily be addressed by integrating Web 2.0 into the classroom:

Teens are motivated to write by relevant topics, high expectations, an
interested audience and opportunities to write creatively.

Teens write for a variety of reasons—as part of a school assignment, to get a good grade, to stay in touch with friends, to share their artistic creations with others or simply to put their thoughts to paper (whether virtual or otherwise). In our focus groups, teens said they are motivated to write when they can select topics that are relevant to their lives and interests, and report greater enjoyment of school writing when they have the opportunity to write creatively. Having teachers or other adults who challenge them, present them with interesting curricula and give them detailed feedback also serves as a motivator for teens. Teens also report writing for an audience motivates them to write and write well.”

Teens believe that the writing instruction they receive in school could be
improved.

Most teens feel that additional instruction and focus on writing in school would help improve their writing even further. Our survey asked teens whether their writing skills would be improved by two potential changes to their school curricula: teachers having them spend more time writing in class, and teachers using more computer-based tools(such as games, writing help programs or websites, or multimedia) to teach writing. Overall, 82% of teens feel that additional in-class writing time would improve their writing abilities and 78% feel the same way about their teachers using computer-based writing tools.”

In conversations with teachers in and around California and across the nation (via the National Writing Project and the National Council for Teachers of English), my colleagues have shared that lack of access to computers can present a huge obstacle to integrating Web 2.0 into their curriculum. Particularly at elementary sites, many school computer labs are designated for automated assessment (e.g., Accelerated Reader, All the Right Type, Exam View Pro generated quizzes), a bit of MS Office, and “learning” games. At many middle and high schools, computer labs are reserved for particular technology courses, generally not connected to the core curriculum (e.g., MS Office, Web Design, AutoCad). Therefore an English or Social Studies teacher, for instance, seeking to connect students via the Internet with students in other locations for the purpose of collaborating, creating, and sharing authentic research projects often faces a constant scheduling battle.

In my own district, school sites are attempting to solve access issues in a variety of ways. One elementary site, for instance, furnished a second computer lab, leaving the original lab for drill/test/play and the second for classroom teachers to schedule time for curriculum-related projects. Thanks to funding through the federally-funded EETT grant, three elementary sites will be getting grade-level (4th and 5th grade) laptop carts. At one of our high school sites, an English teacher is asking permission for his students to be allowed to use their cell phones during his class, as the blogging project his students are joining that will connect them to students in Utah, New Mexico, New York, and Maine, can be accessed by cell phone.

What other successful models are out there for providing students with Web 2.0 access within the core curriculum of the school day? I welcome your ideas, questions, and examples – and non-examples too.

8 Comments

  1. A key component to getting Web 2.0 access with in the core curriculum is showing network administrators curriculum directors how powerful these tools can be. Quite often these people don’t use Web 2.0 tools and don’t understand why anyone would. If MS Office works for me, why would anyone want to use Google Docs, Voicethread, or a wiki? At my current and former school sites we have found much success by having these conversations. Once the people with the power to allow access to certain sites understand how Web 2.0 products can be valuable learning tools I find things magically become available for me and my students to use.

  2. Thank you for your insightful comment, Joe. I’m starting to make some headway in working with administrators and am already seeing that you are right on the mark.

    I find that in many school districts, computer “refreshes” are based on the age of the equipment rather than how the computers will actually be used.

  3. Iam recently joined to Edublog and it takes time to surf all the blogs to find out my interesting topic about web 2.0 .Iam studying MA in ICT education and Iam doing a project about web 2.0 applications such as blogs.The project is designed to gather information about teachers’ perceptions of information literacy in relation to social networking applications such as blogs. I’d really appreciate it if you could take the time to answer the following questions .

    Please give your ideas and your experience on these questions

    1.I’m trying to figure out people’s different uses and definitions of blogs, so first tell me a little bit about your experience of using blogs, in your private life, in the classroom or in other contexts.

    2.What are your reasons for using blogs?

    3.Do you feel using blogs was successful in fulfilling your reasons for using it?

    4.What potential benefits and risks do blogs pose for formal learning?

    5.What is your understanding of information literacy? What skills need to be developed in order for students to be information literate?

    6.What do you think information literacy means in relation to social networking applications such as blogs?

    7.How do you think we should teach information literacy in relation to social networking applications such as blogs?

    8.How would you compare and contrast information literacy skills needed for reading and writing blogs versus skills needed for reading and writing other materials such as books?

    9.In what ways do you think writing in a blog environment can contribute to students’ writing skills?

    10.Do you think there are issues about credibility when students are reading and writing blogs?

    11.Have you had discussions about the credibility of the comments and contents of bloggers? (eg. discussing how you know what bloggers are telling is true? whether or not you trust what people are saying in their blogs?)

    12. What skills do you think are essential to evaluate credibility of information when using blogs?

    Many thanks

  4. Wow. Each of those questions could generate pages worth of answers. I know those questions are directed at the blogwalker…but I’d like to put my two cents in. I’m a middle school tech teacher who has been implementing blogs in my classroom for about two years. I have found that student blogs allow for a more holistic expression of self by the student then can be offered through other mediums. The blogs produced by my students are a combination of prompts given by me (techbrarian.com) and spontaneous writings. The sum total of these posts produces a picture of the teen that validates their ideas and gives them a forum for self-expression and social activism. Many of my bloggers are reluctant writers who have now found a voice due to the less formal constraints of blogging and the public encouragement offered by supportive commenters. Anyhow, good luck in your blogging pursuits…I found it to be a rewarding path.

  5. Thanks @louielahana for jumping in with some answers to @nazum1344 ‘s questions. I’ll be adding my thoughts later today.

  6. Thank you Louielahana.It would be grateful to receive more comments about your experience . It would be grateful if you answer to my questions. Particularly , Iam interested to find out whether blogs help students to improve their reading and writing.If So,can you explain.

  7. As far as I know there has been little quantitative research done that can point to blogging as a direct cause for student achievement in English Language Arts. There is, however, abundant anecdotal evidence presented by teachers and researchers that correlates work on blogs to student achievement in the language arts. I wrote a paper on the subject for a doctoral course and posted it for you to see.

    http://www.techbrarian.com/docs/Fostering Voice in Adolescents through Blogging.pdf

    Working with inner city middle school bloggers for the past couple of years I can tell you blogs have acted as a conduit for many of my students to allow for creative self-expression, social action, and critical thinking in a way that other courses have not. Their increase in motivation and writing output is notable. Whether that leads to a corresponding bump in test scores or reflects on their work in other courses should be the subject for many researchers to tackle (perhaps my dissertation?) Hope this helps.

    p.s., check out some of the top blogs on techbrarian.com I post them each month.

  8. @louielahana – Thank you for sharing your both your research paper and your blog, which I’ve added to my reader.

    @nazm 1344 I think a great source for research is NCTE’s growing collection.

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