Web 2.0 experiences in the classroom

January 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Posted in conference, education, internet, internet culture, local, math, technology | 3 Comments
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I just got back from TLT Day, Teaching and Learning with Technology Day 2009. I attended a great presentation by Marianne Hebert on Web 2.0 in the classroom. It was a great presentation that I was rather disappointed with.

The presentation slides are here on slideshare. (I learned about slideshare from Marianne’s talk … thanks!) See, that’s why I say it was a great presentation. I learned some new stuff that I want to look into and, via the discussion, found ways other folks are using Web 2.0 stuff. I even learned what the heck Web 2.0 means.

The reason I was rather disappointed with it is that I didn’t leave with ways to improve the classroom/course experience for my students. Sure, I know about various web stuff that’s really cool, and I could incorporate these things if I wanted to, but it’s not clear at all if using these things (like delicious, facebook, twitter, google maps, google docs, etc.) will improve my classroom/course experience. This left me conflicted, since I thought it was a good talk.

And that’s when it hit me. The talk basically said that people are on the web, our students are on the web more than we are, and here are lots of ways that we can interact with them to facilitate learning in ways with which they are comfortable. It gave lots of examples and demonstrated how many different websites are used. And it did a good job at that.

But that’s not what I need in order to improve my classroom/course experience. I’m not just going to use a piece of technology because it’s cool. (Ok, I might. But only if it’s REALLY cool.) And I’m not going to just throw more technology into my classes with the hope that the experience will be better. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to work.

What I need to do is spend some time alone and brainstorm. I need to just strip away all perceived boundaries, imagine that no impediments exist, and that I can make any classroom experience I can imagine a reality just by willing it to be. If that were the reality in which I lived, what classroom/course experience would I create? What sorts of things can I imagine?

That’s hard! I don’t know about you, but if I start doing that, part of my mind (call it the practical part) immediately starts thinking about all the problems with implementing what I just imagined. Now don’t get me wrong; I like the practical part of my mind. And I know it’s just looking at things that way with the intention of solving those problems. But it gets in the way of the creative part of my mind that imagines in the first place. And my creative part can get bummed out by a preponderance of practical concerns that I don’t know how to solve. So I need to take some time to give the creative part free reign, and imagine what I want to make happen.

Once I get an idea of what that looks like … well, then I will sit back and have a beer. A good beer, like Guinness. But after that, I will let the practical part out of its cage and say, “Make that happen!” In reality, it will probably only make a facsimile, or a lower dimensional projection, of my imagination happen, because it has to live in the real world. If it really can make my imagination happen, that’s a sign to me that I need to dream bigger.

So, my conclusion is that coming to a talk like this the way I did today is almost like putting the cart before the horse. I need to have that dream first. I need to imagine the ultimate classroom/course experience in a limitless world. Then I can come to a talk like this and when I see something useful I can say, “Hey, that can help make this little part of my ultimate experience a reality!” Then I won’t be just adding technology for its own sake. I will be filling a need, a function that I have already identified. Then whatever I add is practically assured to make a tangible improvement.

You’re indirectly responsible for this realization, Marianne, so thank you. You just may have helped me make every conference I go to more enriching. I also had good conversations with Linda, Karen, and Jenica. It was a few hours well spent IMO.

I also attended a workshop about iClicker, a classroom voting system that I will be using extensively this semester. I’ll devote a separate entry to just that.

Happy New Year!

January 3, 2009 at 9:59 am | Posted in life | 1 Comment

Oh my goodness, it’s been over a month! Well, now that the semester is over and the holidays are over, it’s time for an update.

Halloween was fun. Jenny had a great idea for a last minute costume for me. She bleached and spiked my hair and I went as Billy Idol. Fun stuff. Maybe I’ll get a flickr account someday and post the pics.

Thanksgiving was good. We had some family and some friends over, ate food, and played games. The next day we put up the tree! That was exciting because we didn’t get around to it last year. We like our tree. And Jenny’s dad endured winter driving that wasn’t as bad as he feared.

The semester ended a bit roughly. I’ve got to reorganize some things. I’ve got the upper level courses worked out pretty well, but the workload on the lower level courses is killing me. I’m teaching 3 sections of 100 level Prob and Stat in the spring, so this is the time to figure it out.

Jenny and I had a nice romantic Christmas, just the two of us. She’s knitting me a sweater! Then I went south to visit my Mom in SC for a week. Got delayed on the 24th on the way out, and got sick on the plane. That only lasted a couple of days though, and we had a good time. Saw tons of movies. Love Actually, Lost In Translation, Benjamin Button, The Lake House, and The Accidental Tourist. Mom likes movies! Luckily she likes good movies.

Jenny and I have been enjoying the new year. We have been playing a great new game called Carcassone. We’ve played it before and liked it, and we finally picked it up with a B&N gift card. Fun stuff. Last night we saw Tortilla Soup. Great movie! If you don’t want to eat like a horse after the movie, you’d better see it after you’ve just eaten a whole lot. It’s got lots of scenes of fantastic food being prepared. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

For this year’s new year’s resolution, I resolve to blog more frequently and consistently.

Psych! Yeah, we’ll see about that.

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