Joining the Powerful Learning Practices group, and grappling with using web 2.0 technologies has been hard work, time consuming, occasionally frustrating, but ultimately very satisfying. I’d started off as a PLP member having some understanding of the “why” and even something of the “how” using web 2.0 technologies might be useful to enhance student learning experiences. But there is nothing like having to “walk the walk”, to actually try a few things and get one’s hands dirty, to expand one’s understanding. And I’d underestimated the potential of web 2.0 technologies and the immediate collegial feedback and support it offers, to add substantially to my own professional growth.
So, what have I learnt/achieved? Modest gains but important ones I believe. Technically, I’ve developed confidence and some competence in podcasting, podcatching and blogging and have gained some experience and food-for-thought from trialling these with classes of students. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat bemused to see how students in my Indonesian classes, after listening in their own (home) time to some Indonesian language-related podcasts I had created, talk positively about their usefulness and get inspired to create their own podcasts in turn and post these online for other students to share. I had just assumed that, since there were already commercially produced audio files available (associated with their Indonesian text book), that a few more that I produced wouldn’t be such a big deal. But there was something about the fact that it was their teacher’s voice, not the voice of someone they didn’t know, and that that voice was posted for a potentially much wider audience to hear, that seemed to strike a chord with them.
I’ve also been able to draw on my experience with the PLP Ning and with Elluminate sessions to help bring useful insights to the conversation currently taking place in our school about the place of web 2.0 technologies in enhancing learning. Specifically, insights about how web 2.0 technologies can play a significant role in preparing students (and teachers) for a 21st century which will increasingly:
– expect and require digital competence,
– expect and require that all individuals will be able to frame insightful questions and know how to find relevant information, craft answers, and refine these answers in light of feedback actively sought and found
– be more easily negotiated by citizens with understandings and experiences of online collaborative learning,
– be enjoyed more fully by citizens who, rather than being merely passive consumers of information, analyses and multi-media communications, are also willing and able to create and disseminate such communications of their own devising.
So, I was able to be an advocate to the Principal’s executive group at our school (since I was able to talk from a position of having some first-hand experience) for those individual teachers who wanted to set-up blogs and use social networking sites to be a means by which they could focus on school learning activities (including, but not limited to specific school subject-related learning). Fears about relinquishing ‘control’, and about potential inappropriate use/behaviour of participating individual students, or undesirable ‘outsiders’ were able to be allayed.
Still much more to learn, much more work to be done with other teachers to encourage them to get out of their comfort zone, much more for me to try with my classes, more for me to do by widening my own online professional networks, but I recognise that I don’t have to know all the answers before I start – after all, one of the great advantages of using web 2.0 technologies is being able to utilise their power to harness the creative talents of huge numbers of people around the globe who can and do quickly respond to calls for help, and who provide feedback, encouragement and useful suggestions to challenge, extend and improve my thinking and that of my students