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Posts Tagged ‘Web2.0’

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to some former students who are now seniors in high school.   After the ceremony honoring them (that’s another story), the young men came into the library to talk to me, and a simple conversation about school evolved into an educational policy discussion.

First, they told me about their “silent” library.  They laughed as they told me how they can’t talk in the library, and are threatened with demerits if they do.  “It’s different than here,”  they said.  (I never was known for a quiet library).  I have always tried to encourage discussion and sharing, and have tried to make the library a fun space that students would be happy to come to and stay in.  After all, in a student’s world where social learning and exchange is commonplace and constant, imposing silence seems not only artificial but stifling. We have to encourage enthusiasm and collaboration. And that sometimes results in more noise than most find acceptable, and may look a little chaotic, but it seems to work.  

We talked about past lessons and research, and how I had changed things to incorporate some newer tools like our class wikis, twitter, googledocs, and wallwisher.  All our middle school students have gmail accounts that they use to login to other sites and to communicate with the faculty.  I don’t think of any of these things as revolutionary; conversely, I think they’re a pretty basic step into web 2.0 tools appropriate for students this age.  If anything, I think we could be more progressive than this, and I’m working on incorporating more collaborative tools into their lessons.  I thought my former students would laugh at their simplicity, but the reaction I got was quite different.  My high schoolers look at each other in astonishment.  It seems that social media tools and most types of communication are being blocked at their school.  “They don’t trust us,”  they said.  They laughed as they told me that the school has a twitter account, but they’re blocked from reading the feed at school.  “We can’t use any of that stuff” was the general comment.

That got me thinking — how are schools preparing students for the 21st century, if policy becomes more restrictive as the students get older?  I always thought with maturity comes increased responsibility.  Where have the benefits of social media gotten lost?  Or perhaps, more scarily,  why have they yet to be recognized?  Who is driving the policy that is preventing young adults from using the tools they use now in every other facet of their lives, and will continue to use in the years ahead?  It’s a little scary when middle school curriculum and policy is more progressive than high school policy.  When 18-year-olds recognize the absurdity of a school’s blocking and filtering policy, what does that say about the educators who are perpetrating it?  Out of the mouths of babes —

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Kids’ Favorites

My library web page always has a “Website of the Week”, something I’m encouraging the kids to try that they may never have heard of before.  The site is usually tied to a curricular theme, and is often academic in nature.  In the past year, however, I find that the post popular sites are not those that help them with their work, but rather the sites that are fun.  (I guess this shouldn’t have been a surprise.) The following sites are the biggest hits on my web page; thought other students might like them as well.

  • Mr. Picasso Head: Create art work online in the style of Picasso
  • Make a Flake: Students in all grades love folding paper and cutting to reveal beautiful snowflakes – paper cutting without the mess.
  • Seussville: A great arcade of Seuss related games in the playground.
  • Notebook Babies: Funny animation about classroom behavior by Tony Dusko
  • Wild West Phonics from BBC: Funny cartoon graphics that make kids forget they’re actually learning phonics

As far as authors go, the pages of Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl are the biggest hits.  

These websites encourage creativity, and the generation of original products.  Students are excited to use them, and are proud of their creations.  I’ll keep adding links, and let our ultimate judges, the students, pick the best.  After all, who knows better than the experts?

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Professional development used to involve taking classes, reading journal articles, and discussing issues at conferences.  Although there was a time lag between new innovations for the library and classroom, and personal knowledge and implementation of those developments, I was appreciative of the knowledge for knowledge’s sake.  But with Twitter, that time delay has disappeared.  Twitter has become my most important professional development tool.  It has put me in contact with the best of educational professionals, and has provided me with news of the most recent educational innovations.  I have been advised of tools that work well in the classroom, and those that are problematic.  I’ve compiled lists of “the best” in every possible category, thanks to a learning network that prides itself in collaboration.  Methods and resources that would have alluded me for months are now transmitted daily.  And all this I have attributed to Twitter.

But today, while I was talking to students about Twitter, one made a comment that made me rethink this attitude.  He asked if I talked about what I ate, and read about what movies people watched — the typical stereotype of Twitter use.  It was then that I realized that Twitter is only the method by which these ideas are transmitted.  It is a communication tool, and while it does provide immediacy, the value of the information hinges on the users.  It is ultimately the teaching community and it’s search for best methodology that lifts the tool above a mere communication vehicle.  These professionals have provided me more information in several months than I would have garnered in a several years. And while Twitter gets the credit, it is their knowledge that is responsible.

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