I had an interesting conversation with our Elementary Curriculum Advisor Guru teacher ( I forget what her official title is – but this one sounds good) the other day. We were both at Learning2.008 in Shanghai and were reflecting on our time at the conference.
The conversation began with our mixed feelings on our individual “take-aways” from Learning2.0. I had feelings very similar to Jenny Luca, whose post, Learning2.008 – my take sums up those extremely well. I too, didn’t learn anything new that wasn’t already on my radar. It was an honour to have conversations with like-minded and extremely talented and grounded colleagues. Connections were strengthened by the opportunity to meet face to face people already an integral part of my PLN, and strong new connections were made, enhanced by the face to face connections. The chance to “give something back” and “pay it forward” was a delightful experience. Affirmation abound, I’m still on the right track, have a sound pedogical purpose for using technology in the classroom and am still looking for ways to “kick it up a notch”. As far as walking away with something practical – David Jakes’ two sessions I attended on Digital Storytelling were most beneficial for me with ways I can help my students enhance and add to the quality of the writing we have begun with Lucy Calkin’s Writer’s Workshop.
But I digress ……… back to the conversation the other day. Eventually the conversation rounded a corner into something like some teachers being sucked into the “WOW – gotta use all those amazing tools” stage of Web2.0. I surprised (I think) said Guru by announcing – I used to be that one of those teachers. (And this is why having conversations, having the time to have conversations and reflecting on one’s journey is so important). I realised just how far I’d come in my own learning journey and identified the “tipping point” for me into a sound pedogical reason for doing all this Web2.0 stuff in the classroom.
In my first year of really discovering Web2.0 tools I was extremely fortunate to be teaching an extraordinary class of motivated, willing, curious 11 year olds. They soaked up whatever I threw at them and asked for more. It didn’t matter whether I knew how anything worked – we just figured it out together. It was an amazing journey for all of us (give or take the odd student not that keen on the Web) but for the majority we surfed this big wave, having a whale of a time in discovery and learning mode.
I assumed it would be exactly the same the following year. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My next class didn’t want a bar of technology, the web or anything remotely close to a computer. Zip, zilch, nada! No matter how I packaged it, what reasons I gave for it, nothing, and I mean nothing interested the majority of this class. I even tried reverse psychology and packed away everything and bought out one thing at a time, thinking that I’d overloaded them with the abundance of “techie-looking” equipment scattered around the class.Nope, no good either. I was heartbroken but I also learned a valuable lesson. It was no longer about the tools – it was about the using the right tools for the job. In the case of this particular class, they didn’t see the technology as “how we do things round here”. I’m really not sure how they saw the technology. It suddenly occured to me that, for this class – technology was not the best tool in my teacher’s toolbox for the job. That didn’t mean we stopped using the technology altogether – because I still firmly believed that Web2.0 had a place in learning, but I began to consider, very carefully, what tool I bought out for the class to use for the learning that was going on in the class.
This became my tipping point and facilitated my change from being a teacher who was sucked into “WOW-gotta- use-all-of-these-amazing-tools-as-much-as-I-can”, to a teacher who now uses Web2.0 tools and technology when they are the best tools for the learning. The beauty of all the amazing tools that are out there and the amazing teachers that are sharing what they are doing with those tools, means that there is almost the perfect tool for the job, no matter what you are learning. You just need to chose the one that mets your needs as a teacher, mets the needs of the learning and the needs of the learners.
Now, I’m teaching in a different school, in a different grade, and in a different country but my pedagogical thinking about Web2.0 tools and their place in the classroom remains the same. I just had bend in the road to negotiate in order to continue on with my own learning journey.Image attribution: aftab