Quick! Get everyone on that bus!
About six years ago, when I was EAL coordinator at a school in Vietnam, I used to send out a weekly EAL strategy to staff by email. Someone mentioned I should start keeping a blog with these strategies and eventually that’s what I did. I still keep the same blog and I can see now how my blog has changed from a place where I shared someone else’s strategies, to a place where I acquire, select and filter, contextualize and present information and then relate it to teaching and learning. It’s become a place where I document learning, where I can have a voice and invite others to (hopefully!) join me in the discussion. My blog moves my learning forward. I suppose reflective practice is not new- the difference is now I potentially have an audience.
One thing I distinctly remember of that time in Vietnam, is that the school had just created the position of technology facilitator. Looking back, the school had a very well though-out plan for integrating technology and I realize it cannot have been an easy job to get everyone on board (thansk for a job well done @chamada). I was one of the skeptics. I could be heard saying:
- Twitter? Nobody needs to know what I do! Twitter is for show- offs! (I laughed hard at the T-shirts available in Thailand saying Twitter? Twatter!- Yep I could totally find myself in that! Hilarious!)
- Online collaboration? Surely that can’t replace the face-to-face collaboration that is so important for language development? I believe in constructivist learning!
Although I did try new things using technology- I set up wikis, used some tech tools in class like back channelling and Google Earth, used Diigo to find great resources (my first introduction to curation!) I didn’t yet grasp the idea of online communities and blogging. I wasn’t documenting learning for the purpose of learning. Once I started on Twitter a few years on and read other educator’s blogs and saw what was happening in other classrooms- that’s when I really started to understand what new media is, what networked literacy means. I started to understand that online communities amplify constructivist learning. And this is what Ben Sheridan’s example in his post, the class connecting with archeologists, illustrates so well.
The other big thing that’s changed in the way I view learning and literacy is that I can now participate. If I want, I can create an online presence. This changes the whole dynamics of literacy and how we teach it to our students.
There is way more focus on visual design. As I was designing a website for a PD event at school, I was asking myself all kinds of questions: How does the parallax image on my front page affect my audience? Is it easy to navigate? Is my mission clear? Do I need to be consistent in the use of terminology? How will my credibility change if I change the font? Some of these questions are the same when creating traditional text, but now we are much more concerned with the design of things- and this takes time, particularly if we want to be a player in the field! Just yesterday I saw this reflected in my students when I asked them to put together an annotexted recording of their literature circles discussion to show other students in the class. A lot of time was spent on its presentation, before they continued annotexting their discussions.
So my take-aways?
- We’re already too late. We need to teach children about their literacy, not ours. As an EAL teacher I have tried to get classrooms on board with Twitter and blogging, but I need to do much more. We need to teach kids to be effective prosumers. As a mother of two teenage boys who hang out, mess around and geek out– I’m reminded of this every day.
- I think understanding technology and its value for learning can be put on a continuum. It depends on mindset, previous experience and the things you are introduced to where you are on that continuum. I still work with many skeptics, like I once was. A school needs to do everything in its power to get everyone on that bus!