mixing and remixing to find a balance….
At my school we have a Professional Growth and Development program known as TALL Tuesday. While I can never remember what the acronym stands for, the program represents the earnest efforts of the school to carve out time for sustained professional development. For a set number of Tuesdays each school year (this year we have six meetings) the academic day ends an hour early and faculty members meet for two and a half hours in workshops organized and run by their colleagues. Each faculty member chooses one of the offered workshops and stays with that group for the entire year. This year’s offerings range from Mentoring to Social Justice in the Classroom, Global Warming to Write Your Own Textbook. This year my colleague Michael Bernstein and I decided to run a Web 2.0 workshop.
The group met for the first time this week, and from my perspective the session went well. Michael and I have also gotten positive feedback from some of our colleagues, but I’d welcome folks to use the comment feature of this blog to respond with thoughts, suggestions, or critique as well.
We began the meeting by getting a sense of why people had chosen this group. The answers ranged from general interest to specific ideas or needs. We then showed Epic 2015, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson’s rather dark vision of the future of information and the Internet. It’s a powerful reminder both of the potential of the new tools being developed and of the possible negative consequences they carry. We then offered an overview of our take on Web 2.0 and something of a roadmap for our journey.
After Epic 2015, we figured it apropos to begin our exploration of Web 2.0 tools with those offered by Google. A few people already had Gmail access, but most had to create new accounts. We briefly looked at the e-mail and calendar, partly as a familiar starting point for discussions, but also as way to demonstrate briefly how AJAX and other similar technologies are changing the landscape of the web. Our main reason for using the Google offerings, however, was to introduce Docs & Spreadsheets (formerly Writely), looking especially at the remote access and collaboration features.
We ended the session with a quick look at the use of weblogs in education, using as an example the Secret Life of Bees blog that Will Richardson had used with one of his English classes. It’s a great example of how blogs can be used to motivate student writing and validate their thoughts and ideas. We’ll pick up with blogs and blogging at the next meeting.
Michael and I are excited that teachers from the workshop are already taking some of the tools they explored and putting them into use in their classes. To wit:
1. As preparation for upcoming parent-teacher conferences, one teacher is setting up shared online documents so that students can write reflections about their work and parents can read and add to them, all before the meeting happens.
2. Another teacher has set up shared assignment calendars that students can link to using iCal and have them update automatically.
Seems that folks are hitting the ground running. I really think that these tools can be quite exciting, useful, and, frankly, fun. Exploring their potential can be, in the words of one teacher, “truly energizing — even inspiring.”
I look foward to session two in January!