Note: This is a blog post I previously published March 2015 on an old site that I am transferring to this site. It is still applicable for today.
I read an article titled ‘The Digital Native in context’ by Charles Crook Much of what was outlined in this paper I have experienced and observed in my teaching. I do agree that web 2.0 tools have much to offer to educationalists but there are many issues to be worked through in actually using them in a School and Classroom context. For example, a web 2.0 tool I have extensively used myself is the ‘Google Apps for education’ suite. What is interesting is that my school IT manager (at what is now my previous school) set this up at the beginning of 2014 and I started using it extensively about 8 months into the year. I asked two of my year 9 classes ‘who has used google apps/docs before’ and out of about 50 students only 2 or 3 had. I then asked ‘who has used google apps/docs as part of your lessons at school?’ not one of them put up their hand; At least for these students I was the first!
I hold absolutely no judgement on my colleagues for this because teachers are very very busy and need a Professional Development model that supports them in a regular manner. Such a model that is useful is peer coaching where over time staff are supported in learning how to use technology and embed it into their teaching in a pedagogically sound manner.
As already stated, teachers are extraordinarily busy and have many demands placed upon them; with very few exceptions you will simply not get teacher uptake without building more regular ICT/web 2.0 PD into the meeting schedule and giving teachers the time to set up, implement, and discuss/critique their use of the technology. I really like the peer mentor type approach but that does not happen at most schools I know of. Time poor teachers who are not given scaffolded guidence and time will simply do what they have always done in teaching; and that is NOT web 2.0.
Once the above hurdle is overcome and a teacher then decides to use ICT such as web 2.0 tools Web Pedagogy is a very important starting point. Thinking through the educational rationale/reasons for using a web 2.0 tool to help students, and the teacher, to learn is very important. The question should be ‘what approach and tool/s will help students best learn here’. The answer may not be a web 2.0 tool at all! It could be pen and paper. However it could also be a web 2.0 tool and there may be several to chose from.
Economics can often play a role which is why many schools use ‘Moodle’ as a learning management platform and google apps for education (noe G-suite) because they are free. Beyond the economics a great model to follow in helping to determine the affordances of web 2.0 tools is the TPACK model. It is important for the teacher to consider how to best combine their content knowledge, with the technology, and how that synthesises together to help students learn – the pedagogical knowledge of the teacher.
A big reason I embraced the use of google apps for education is to assist students collaboration. I had the chance to use google docs, as part of a professional development activity with ‘Powerful Learning Practice’
I got to work live with educators from Pensylvania in the USA in real time working on a google doc to design a learning activity. It was about 3:30pm for them and 8:30am for me! My colleagues were asking me questions about ideas of what to do and I was using the chat feature to answer them. I then went to put my suggestions down into the document but could see that they were taking on my suggestions and doing it there and then. I could see exactly what they were typing and seeing it take form right before my eyes from two educators on the other side of the world! WOW!!!
This inspired me to use it in the classroom, which I did. What I found in the classroom was that the use of google docs helped students work on a document and then a presentation without any doubling up or emailing documents back and forth. They saw live, what each of them were doing. They also used the chat feature to organise what each member was to do. Another affordance of it was that I could efficiently monitor what students were doing. I easily monitored group progress as I put students into 7 or 8 groups of about 4. While groups were working on their assigned google docs I simply had 8 tabs open (not needed is Hapara was used but this costs money) and could monitor what each group was doing live. One day I was off sick and monitored my year 10 class from home even telling one student to focus on his work and to get into the right group! This is an example of how web 2.0 tools can be used to improve workflow, monitoring, and feedback for teachers and students. In the past I had often baulked at using group work with students as monitoring who did and did not do the work was often an issue. Since Google apps shows keystroke history the teacher can easily see who has and has not done the work. Because of this I will also consider using group work as part of assessment strategies whereas in the past I would not have.
This year I am starting at a new school and Microsoft Office, which the school uses extensively with ‘Office Online’ now has many of the features that g-suite has had for some time. Because of this I intend to use this but also using G-Suite where it offers benefits not offered by the Microsoft product. I will outline my experiences with this, comparing and contrasting both technologies in the classroom setting.