30 March 2008

Pondering Techy Things

It's spring break, which is one of the times of year when the cobwebs and dust bunnies of my mind clear enough to deal with other issues which need some tending. For example, I typically deal with my blog sidebar. It's time to sweep away inactive blogs and search out new things to add to the blogroll. It's during these reaches into the outer realms of the blogosphere that I find out how many people are actively digging into the potential of classroom 2.0.

  • Vicki Davis over at the Techlearning blog has written about The Five Phases of Flattening a Classroom. It's a great skeleton of a "how to" guide in terms of using social networking in the classroom, starting with an intranet approach while you teach students the ethics of on-line communities all the way to student managed social networks in the classroom. I find all of this very thought-provoking in terms of how I might use this with both students and teachers.
  • The readwriteweb has some links and ideas for writing a novel on-line. Some are tools which allow for collaboration, but others could be used by individuals wanting to find an audience (and/or publisher). I'd like to explore these a bit more. Again, I see the classroom and school potential...but I also wonder if there is potential here for grad school candidates working on dissertations or other teacher/author possibilities. As for myself, I'm a little ways off from putting a book together for the educational field---although I'm pretty sure what I want to write about. (Fair warning: My educationese term is going to be "congruence." You heard it here first.)
In all of this, I wonder what has to be in place for these sorts of experiences to happen. Obviously, there are hardware and bandwidth needs. I don't want to discount those, because most schools and districts receive no designated funding for technology. And with the ever updating tools we need, I don't know how to secure a stream of funding that would keep up. Secondly, just because the tools are there doesn't mean that people will use them. Teachers don't just need training---they need buy-in. What is the advantage of a "flat classroom" over one where kids can do projects that don't need anything technological? Meanwhile, kids need some basic technology literacy skills, too. While I think that even kindergartners would be engaged by putting pictures and words together on-line, they may not have the necessary keyboarding skills (mousing should be okay). How old do students need to be before they have the technological background, enough skill with reading and writing, and enough maturity for a social networking environment? What do we introduce first? It is also one thing to talk about all the "digital natives" who enter our schools these days...and quite another to realize the divide that exists between those children and children that age who haven't even seen a book before. Is a lack of technological skill going to be another factor associated with children of poverty? The mind boggles. (I smell several dissertations worth of research here, if anyone is looking for a project.)

I would be really interested in visiting classrooms where Classroom 2.0 features are in place. I've been in education long enough to know that the conditions in one school which allow programs to thrive are not necessarily transplantable...but every story has an idea or two that might be adapted. For now, I'm happy to marvel at the edublogging I see in the area of techy things for the classroom.


Michaele Sommerville said...

Thought provoking- and relieved someone out there (YOU!) are including kindergartners in your range. I've asked many of the same things- more obvious questions for me as I've relocated from state to state, school to school, kindergarten room to kindergarten room and the diversity in prior schema, exposure and basic availability of technology has been astounding to me. Each school has been a rather isolated bubble- correction...each community has been an isolated bubble...by choice, slow, careful, and in some cases, fearful to welcome the paradigm shift that has and will continue to happen with or without them.

As for kindergarten, students are usually eager to use sounds/letters in journals, on notepaper, on a computer screen, online if possible too...as long as there's not a spellchecker beeping at them! :)

The Science Goddess said...


I can only imagine the annoyance of a spell-checker!

My friend has a 3 (now 4) year old who is quite good with using a mouse and often refers to sending e-mail (not that he knows his letters, mind you)---so I know it's possible for young minds to use the basic equipment.

I wonder if a different (non-qwerty) keyboard would help? I am sure that 5-year olds could learn to "hunt and peck," but why let that get in the way of them being able to use the technology?

Michaele Sommerville said...

Exactly! Kindergarteners and pre-schoolers are used to hearing and learning about the alphabet in its sequential ABC order. While environmental print, their names, etc. "mix the letters up," they locate and identify the letters on alphabet strips, wall posters, puzzles even...IN ORDER. A keyboard set up that way would be a HUGE help!