Saturday, November 15, 2008

Online writing and collaboration

I have a few ideas about online writing and collaboration. I integrate computers in grades k-2. As any educator knows, what we do in the grades before gets built upon in our students future. How can we expect our students to grow into adults who can collaborate in the workplace if we don't ask them to collaborate at school? Must this collaboration be done online? Certainly not, but the internet provides easy access for it to be accomplished. Other advantages to the internet collaboration via a wiki, google documents, blogs, nings... are that peer editing, and collaboration with students and teachers in other schools and places all over the world can occur. In other words, online writing gives students ownership with a real "audience" to write for. This audience is not just their classmates or immediate family. My youngest students are extremely excited to have their writing placed on a website for others to read. Their enthusiasm to make their writing more polished and thoughtful should be reason enough to use the internet for publishing.

Google documents is a real world application in which we can give our students a real life skill that they can use after their graduation. Students can work together on a single document and not have to be in the same place at the same time. The possibilities for use are unimaginable in the work place environment but are just as applicable in the classroom.

My feeling about online writing and collaboration are, "Why wouldn't you want to use these free tools and give your students the opportunities for learning and pride in their work?"

Friday, November 7, 2008


My online 21st Century Web Resources for Teachers and Students class had this discussion question this week. “A veteran teacher says, “I don’t understand what the big fuss is over the Internet. Books are all my students and I need to learn.’ What would you do and/or to this teacher to help him/her move onto the ‘Information Highway’?”

My answer was this: The true nature of a teacher is to impart to others their knowledge. The very notion that we might not know how to do something is scary to many teachers. We all have been afraid to try something new. We don't want to look or feel foolish. Unplanned & uncomfortable internet situations making us look inept are inevitable. Technology is not something that is easy for every person to embrace. It is intimidating. It is not always reliable, it has inappropriate and unrelated things that will undoubtedly waste valuable class time.As adults we often forget that learning is not just for our students but also for adults. In the case of technology it is easy to understand why a teacher might not want to use computers, the internet or anything else technology related.This is especially true when a book is a perfectly good source of information for their students.
Teachers need to believe that technology is not an optional part of our lives any more. It is our job as educators to prepare our students for the real world and to help them navigate the internet. The vast resources that the internet encompasses cannot be a choice to use in our teaching just because we are reluctant to change. Our society does not stop- it continues to change and evolve. As an educator, we must continue to change with society. Without the courage to do this, we do not prepare our students to be thinking, problem solving people.
I would urge any teacher that believes that books are perfectly fine sources of information for their class to start with themselves. The reluctant teacher needs to begin looking at the resources online available for them to use. Once a teacher sees the resources that others around the world have shared, it becomes very difficult to turn your back on new ideas and ways to teach a lesson. I think pointing teachers in the right direction to online resources would be a really good first step. I would try and be the teachers guide helping them navigate through websites like Thinkfinity and the The top 100 sites for teachers. This cannot be all we do. We need to be their support person. I would have the teacher think of small things that they might be able to incorporate to make their lesson come alive for their students. I would help them to become better searchers for internet sites that are applicable to their teaching area. Finally, I would ask if they would observe a teacher of the same grade level and area of study that is using technology effectively. Watching someone else (and the problems that might happen, handled professionally) is an excellent way to embrace something new.Without a guide through the technology highway, a person can easily become overwhelmed and turned off. The teacher needs to be given TIME to explore and learn. The internet is a vital part of our future and a critical part of our students lives.