Another coincidence in my learning happened today when the second article I noticed in the Middle School Journal was dealing with Web 2.0 applications in the classroom. I find it interesting that the article calls the children of today, digital natives, meaning that they have grown up using digital technology on a daily basis. It is in fact a natural part of their lives. The article states that most teachers ask students to “power down” when entering a classroom because we do not incorporate this natural part of their lives into the daily routine of learning and communicating in the class. The article goes on to discuss some of the benefits of Web 2.0 applications as well as look at two concrete examples in a middle school environment.
Here are some of the advantages to using Web 2.0 technologies:
– they combine face-to-face interactions with the virtual world
– they are versatile, affordable and widely available
– they allow educators to infuse digital literacy experiences into their classroom
– they allow active involvement of the participants
The first teacher in this article uses a wiki as a forum for discussion, thoughts, and opinions about books the students have read independently. This is an advanced English class for grade 8. The students involved loved this experience and found it beneficial to their learning. Some benefits mentioned by students were that the wiki was fast and easy, it was fun, it let them see each other’s feelings, it’s more open, they all get a chance to say something and using technology helps them learn better. These seem like great responses to the project. I really feel like this is something that I could do in my class (with a little help from my IT department of course!).
The second class is a group of students who were struggling with reading and needed help to achieve a higher level of reading comprehension. The project was much the same except that all literature was read together in class as opposed to independently in the first class. Prompts were posted on the wiki. The first few discussions were held in class and once students got the hang of it, the next discussions were held at home. In both classes, the primary focus is on helping the students make personal connections to the text.
The great thing, in my opinion, is that students are enabled to answer higher level questions about their literature AND actual conversation builds from their responses leading them to go back and forth with their opinions and thoughts. The wikis were also used later with debate questions where the students had to choose a side. As the debate continued online, students either cemented their opinions or changed them based on arguments posted by classmates.
It is amazing to me how wikis, and technology in general, can help open up discussion and incite participation on behalf of all students. Even those who are typically shy or withdrawn in class have the opportunity to express their feelings and opinions in a safe and fun environment. The idea that everyone has the opportunity to be an ACTIVE participant is awesome for me as a teacher.
Lastly, the article outlines some great ideas of how to establish rules and guidelines with the students about appropriate social networking. Even included is an example of a student contract (that I may or may not have photocopied for future use). This contract outlines the responsibilities for teachers, students, and parents for online participation.
I am left feeling very motivated to try some of these activities with my own grade 8s and I love that these ideas are easily transferable to French Immersion!