Thursday, July 15, 2010

Give Students the Power at BLC10 Day 2

Today at BLC10 (Building Learning Communities 2010 from November Learning) the theme of the keynote and workshops I attended seemed to focus on providing students with an experience that blends classroom interaction with online participation. When students learn through face-to-face discussion AND online interaction, they are empowered to create and publish their own new ideas.

Why We Need Classroom AND Online Interaction
Dr. Michael Wesch (see @mwesch on Twitter) started the day with a keynote address that ended in a standing ovation. Those of you who are reading this post and are educators yourselves know how difficult it is to get faculty meeting full of teachers to be enthusiastic about a speaker's message.... imagine that situation multiplied by 5 or 10 or 25 (depending on the size of the faculty you work with). Dr. Wesch brought a room filled with hundreds of teachers to their feet. He showed various examples of how user participation on the Internet can lead to change and true meaning for our students. His published videos on YouTube have gone viral. Check out his channel here. There are two videos that I have watched before, and that he showed during his presentation, are posted here. They do a great job of putting his whole message into perspective.





Moodle as a Tool to In/Out of School
The second workshop I attended was a teacher demonstration showing the use of Moddle within a class and to connect classes. In this case, the teachers, Michelle Anderson and Lucy Howard, connecting their students from Prairie Vale, Oklahoma and Buckingham, England using Moodle. I had be playing around with Moodle and was relatively unimpressed prior to this session. I even felt stuck and limited. The demonstration reignited my interest and showed me how much growth and potention my Moodle, Honors History 9 - Renaissance Through Revolution, really has. I hope to build on my Moodle and really give it a shot during the 2010-2011 school year. Since the session, I have already added multimedia images, better design features, and a forum activity to the bear-bones of my Moodle. While it isn't published yet, I hope to launch it by the time the school year begins in late August.

Blended Classroom: Why? and How?
WHY?
Jeff Utecht (see @jutecht on Twitter)explained that 80% of today's undergraduates will take at least 1 online course. He also explained the universities are investing the majorit of their money in development of online content and courses. They can bring in more tuition money without building more dorms or classroom buildings. Students today can even get a bachelor's degree without ever stepping foot on a college campus. This well-known advertisement from Kaplan University is a perfect example of Mr. Utecht's point on the flood of online higher learning.



Teachers need to prepare students for online sharing and interaction because they will have to use those skills in higher education and the professional workplace.

HOW?
Mr. Utecht talked about how we need to allow ourselves and our students to have the time to go through all of the stages of technology use. As a way to challenge students to play with technology and use Bloom's Taxonomy-style thinking skills, Mr. Utecht gave us 10 minutes in small groups to research a corporate/political/economic problem with limited information. Participants used Google, Facebook, iPhone apps, and many more resources to accomplish the task. We then had to email a solution to one of the problems. It was exciting for us! I can't wait to dream up something similar for my own students.

Not only should students have time play with the technology, they should also have the opportunity to share their discoveries. His students at his International School of Bangkok, Thailand are blogging (a.k.a. writing, creating, interacting, multitasking...) on their own. Their blogs are hosted by the school, but not graded by the teachers. Their lives as students throughout their 13 years in the school are recorded in the blog in one big portfolio. The key to all of this is a teacher who is already connected with her own network of educators from around the world. We can use our connections to other educators to spread the word about our students' work and build their digital identity on the web and apart from Facebook.

Social Media in the Classroom
Howie DiBlasi calls himself an "Emerging Technologies Evangelist" (see @hdiblasi on Twitter) He opened the session with this remix video by Discovery.



He argued that remixes (a.k.a. mash-ups or montages) are going to be one of the most powerful ways for our students to develop literacy. In order for them to reach the resources they desire for these remixes, he proposed a solution in his workshop called Using Social Media in Your Class - 50 Ways.

Social Media is...

  • social networking (i.e. Facebook, Twitter)
  • social bookmarking (i.e. Delicious)
  • sharing and remixing (i.e. YouTube, blogging, wikis)


He challenged us to challenge our school districts' policies on the uses of these resources with our students. I left with many ideas and have posted about Facebook in the classroom in the past. I might just move forward with it!

How Did I Learn to Empower Students at BLC10?
  1. Students are more invested in and connected to your curriculum if they are communicating and creating the content themselves.
  2. Moodle has the potential to empower quiet students and bring about more meaningful student discussions.
  3. Students should be able to create their own content online and your classroom will be a more meaningful place if you help do it.
  4. Social media is unlimited. There are a LOT of tools out there. Teach your students to use them carefully and well so they are building a responsible identity online.