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.


April 14, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Posted in internet, life | 3 Comments

Wow, what a time-suck. Fun, though.

I’ve been trying social networking sites on the web since sixdegrees.com. That went under. Then Friendster. Eh. Myspace? Didn’t do it for me. Livejournal … that’s more like it. Then I got my own wordpress blog, and this has done pretty well.

I must say, though, Facebook is compelling. It certainly seems to do things well that these other sites just didn’t do as well. It seems that through their concept of a “network,” it is a lot easier to find people you know. And the interface is not nearly as annoying as on myspace.

On the one hand, the stuff I see here is stuff I’ve seen elsewhere. They just seem to do it better.

For those of you not in the know, it’s not a blog site. So I won’t be replacing this blog with Facebook. That’s not what it is. It’s like everyone is in a big room, and you can see everyone and what they’re doing. You get little news updates called “stories,” and they say that so-and-so just, for instance, added this application. So you either ignore it, or you say, hey, that application sounds neat. Or a friend of yours adds another friend to their list, and you say, hey, I didn’t know they were on Facebook too, I’ll add them to my friend list.

I guess the thing is that they assume that completely open free flow of information is the norm, and it’s up to the users to limit that flow to the privacy level they want. For instance, I don’t have my email address visible there. Anyone who wants/needs to know that either already has it, or knows where to find it.

The advantage to this is that you don’t have to do much to network with people, find people you know, etc. High visibility and open exchange of information is the defualt, and you have to figure out how to limit that to your own comfort level. In these other social networking sites, you have to exert effort to figure out how to be visible and find people and exchange information. In Facebook, it’s almost effortless.

And it’s exactly what I’m looking for. I decided about a year ago that I would take steps to establish a public web presence. This is exactly what I’m looking for. That’s a good thing about livejournal, by the way. Want to look at your friends’ blogs? It’s all on one page for you. They do that well. Facebook does this well.

Another thing it does well, it integrates other web stuff. For instance, I’m posting this blog entry from my Facebook account. (If your blog is on LJ, you can post from Facebook, your friends can read your posts from your Facebook profile. I don’t know about your friends page.) I’m accessing my iLike from my Facebook account. I’m reading PHD comics from my Facebook account. (Ok, you can do that on LJ, too.)

Sorry to bore all you folks for whom Facebook is old hat. Now I have to get back to work. Criminy!

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