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Considering Technology in Education

It is important to remember that using technology in education is not an unalloyed good in and of itself. Using technology is good when you are meeting a need, when you are providing a tool or assistive device or accommodation, when you are facilitating communication, when you are documenting learning, when you are assessing understanding… whenever you’re being a teacher and a learner.

With that in mind, let’s consider these four possible lenses through which we can view technology in education (borrowed liberally from Bernie Dodge’s Webquest about Webquests, and flavored with some of my own perspective).

  1. Efficiency — How does this project or technology allow us to do something that we couldn’t do before? Or help us to do something better than we could before? Or allow us to bypass unncessary work? Or increase the efficiency of our learning? From this perspective, a project or technology that does not enhance our work product or workflow adds no value to the classroom.
  2. Collaboration — How does this project or technology promote learner cooperation? Or facilitate collaboration between individuals or groups? Or engender debate — or consensus-building? Or encourage discussion and reflection with peers or teachers? From this perspective, a project or technology that encourages solitary or individual work is undesirable.
  3. 21st Century Learning — How does this project or technology promote higher order thinking? Or facilitate critical thought and analysis? Or support creative synthesis of ideas? Or develop information and media literacy? From this perspective, projects and technologies aimed at rote recall, rather than “21st century learning” undermine learning.
  4. Engagement — How does this project or technology embrace the power of the internet? Or engage learners through its use of media? Or make use of “cutting edge” tools? Or push students to approach ideas and concepts from a novel perspective or tack? From this perspective, a project or technology that fails to meet students “where they’re at” is uninteresting and unengaging.

Example Wikis

  • Building a collaborative reference: Jewish Futures Project (Rabbi Yechiel Hoffman, Milken Community High School)
  • Sharing knowledge: Tech Resources Wiki (Education Technology Department, Milken Community High School)
  • Building a professional community: The Hebrew Project (Nehama Moskowitz, Jewish Education Center of Cleveland)
  • Sharing a passion: Electric Cars and Alternative Vehicles (Ken Wells, St. Mark’s School)
  • Constructing a collaborative document: Milken WASC (Milken Community High School)
  • Recording the sum of all human knowledge (about things that nerds are interested in): Wikipedia (The Wikimedia Foundation)

Models of Teaching 2011 Wiki

Today we’ll be working on Wikispaces, a wiki-hosting service (it’s worth noting that you can get a free, ad-free wiki from them just for being an educator!). Our wiki is at:

http://modelsofteaching2011.wikispaces.com/

Wikispaces provides a series of video tutorials explaining how to use their site.

Nota bene: you will need to log in to your email to click the confirmation link from Wikispaces after you register and before you can edit any pages on the wiki!

Wiki Considerations/Affordances

  • Asynchronous versus synchronous communication. Only one person can edit a page at a time. Divide the site into sections and pages that are distinct enough that two people shouldn’t need to edit the same page at the same time — or, one person can do other work on the site while another edits the page.
  • Organization matters in the big picture. Page hierarchies and links make it easier to find information. Use standard naming conventions. Consider developing a style guide for when and how to link both to other pages on the wiki and to resources off-site.
  • Organization matters in the small picture. Structured text make it possible for the software to “understand” our information too. Consider developing a style guide to standardize the structure of pages to make it predictable where information will be on the page.
  • Target your audience. Decide on a target audience — or recognize who is reading and responding to your wiki — and write for them. Explain what they don’t understand. Engage them in conversation. Solicit edits, updates and content from your audience. Engage.
  • Separate the product from the discussion. Use the discussion tab for discussion, use the page for presentation. The page should reflect the final outcome of the discussion, while the discussion (and revision history) represents the process to get to that outcome.
  • Moderate the discussion. Set ground rules and expectations, define community norms. Be present and responsive. Push back against people who test the envelope.
  • Learning in public. Know who can read, who can edit, who can administer your wiki. And be aware of how that challenges you and your students. Know — and respect — your school’s guidelines for protecting student (and teacher) privacy.
  • Track revisions. You can see who edited which pages when and how. Check the history often enough to recognize “normal” and look for anomalies. Respond to anomalies.

Wiki Challenge, for Thursday, March 3

The Word Processor is Dead.

On Thursday, we’re going to look at a number of other online tools that can be used for teaching and learning. All of these tools have — at their core — a word processor. Each is tailored to a particular use, each promotes different kinds of writing, different kinds of reading, different kinds of thinking. None of them are a “general purpose” word processor like Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages. They’re not about composing documents that will be printed out and distributed on paper (or as PDFs). How does this shift in paradigms change what a classroom looks like in the early twenty-first century?

As a class, divide and conquer this question and present your findings and conclusions on the Models of Teaching 2011 wiki.

Some things to consider as you tackle this project:

  • What are the key components of this question? Who will be responsible for addressing which components?
  • How will you organize the wiki? Who will be responsible for being “editor in chief”?
  • What kind of evidence (for or against) should you each be looking for?
  • Where will you look for information? How will you cite this information?

February 28th, 2011

Posted In: Handouts

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