Thank you Gerry, always funny stuff. Even Stephen Downes has appreciated your humor.
My next guest is a middle school teacher from Bengough, Saskatchewan. Peter has been exploring the use of social software in his classroom for the past year. I sat down with Peter and asked him a few questions about the changes in his classroom. Peter recently launched a Citizenship Project honoring local citizens. Students wrote reports and created videos celebrated their lives.
1. What has/is changing about your classroom?

In many classes the way students learn has been evolving with technology. By incorporating technological tools in the classroom, learning is becoming more current and has more meaning for students.

The Internet has quickly become the most valuable resource for students. Internet based resources allow for greater access to information, going far beyond what any school library could realistically provide. This information is usually more current and can provide relevant up-to-the-minute information, allowing for instant details on current topics or events. Learning is also becoming more equitable due to the Internet. With a reliable Internet connection, a student has access to the same resources (and classes), as any other student in the world.

I have also tried to incorporate Web 2.0 tools in my classroom. Web 2.0 publishing tools are some of the most valuable tools that can be used by students and teachers. By being able to digitally publish and present their work, students become more motivated about their learning. Using social software tools to share information can greatly enhance student learning, especially through jigsaw styled activities.

2. What makes this change more or less challenging?

I believe the greatest challenge for a teacher implementing new technologies in the classroom is their own fear of trying some of these new tools available. With the workload most teachers have they may not believe they have the time to develop their skills to a level that they may think is suitable for implementing the tools in the classroom. I would recommend teachers to take baby-steps, to not be scared of implementing some of these new technologies in the classroom and to be willing to learn with their students.

A teacher should also try to access those within their school, division and profession that are already utilizing new technological tools in their classrooms. We should not try to reinvent the wheel when we have numerous resources that we can learn from and build upon. There are many so called “experts” we can access that have tried these tools in the classroom and they are always more than willing to help.

3. How does using technology make learning more relevant?

The Internet provides many opportunities that students have never had before. The timeliness of the information can not be matched by any other traditional form of resources. The access that it allows provides equal opportunities for all students no matter where they are located.

New technological tools can also give much more meaning to learning. With students being able to simply publish their work with the click of a button, they can quickly share their materials and collaborate with students in their own class or anywhere in the world. By being able to control this part of their learning, students are more focused and motivated. With online publishing collaborative learning is much easier and I believe that student learning can be greatly enhanced.

The technological world that our students live in is much different from the one many of their teachers know. As teachers, we must adapt the way we teach students so it matches their evolving learning patterns. Teaching is no longer a one-way process, learning needs to be interactive and involve the students as full participants.

4. How is working with others more or less difficult than working by yourself?

Within my classroom I have not directly worked with any other teachers. However through my own Personal Learning community and various Division based in-services, we have been able to share ideas and work with each other to help incorporate new teaching tools.

I have been indirectly influenced by the work of many people within my profession. By using RSS feeds I have been able to observe the work of other teachers and have been able to adapt some of the things they are doing in their classrooms into my own.

5. Why is it important to collaborate with others?

It is an absolute must. As teachers we do not have enough time to test out every possible new tool and develop it from scratch into an effective learning device. We need to work with others to see what works and to discover the possibilities or limitations of new technologies.

6. How are you addressing higher order thinking skills?

I have found that by incorporating new technological tools in the classroom, student learning has been greatly enhanced. By being able to be active and involved learners, students are going far beyond basic comprehension levels and are able to apply and synthesize their information into presentations that are far beyond the work they may have done in a traditional classroom. The tools have made students powerful and have given them an outlet to express themselves in a way that has meaning.

6. How would you describe your Personal Learning Network?

In the past I have often described the role of a teacher in a small community without colleagues in similar subject areas, to being similar of living on an island. Even though I am often “isolated” within my school, with technology I now feel I am now part of an archipelago. Technology has definitely allowed me to create links and develop my own personal learning network. Tools such as email, VOIP and video conferencing have allowed me to connect with other teachers to share ideas and to learn new ways to enhance my students’ learning. Another effective tool has been RSS feeds. RSS feeds have allowed me to see what other teachers are doing and to consider new ideas, without spending an endless amount of time to search out these resources. With technological tools the world has become much smaller and more accessible.

Thanks Peter for visiting us and all the best as you continue to develop ideas and learning strategies for your students. Also a special congratulations on your recent assignment as principal of Bengough School. Your leadership will be an added value to your school.

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