The wow factor

I’ve been involved recently in an online ‘think tank’ on teaching in a web 2.0 world. The discussion has been very far ranging and interesting to say the least and centred around the ‘digital revolution’ and its impact on learning and teaching.  It is widely agreed among educators that hardware on its own is not the revolution.  The revolution is how Web 2.0 is being used, adapted, moulded and applied to learning by creative and innovative teachers. But there are far too few such teachers!

One suggestion for the slow uptake of ICT in schools is that many teachers are asking ‘what’s in it for me?’  We can no longer support learning environments that cater to the whims and demands of adults.  In a contemporary learning environment, the question should be ‘what’s in it for students?’.

A major part of the problem, is that many teachers have not been exposed to the ‘wow’ factor of Web 2.0.  The reality is that the innovation and application of Web 2.0 is not being controlled by tech companies but by users – teachers and students.

The more we find ways of sharing the ‘wow’ factor across the profession, the more likely teachers will adopt, experiment, adapt, share and lead other teachers in this journey.

John Connell has a post on a new project called Social Media Classroom, which has been co-created by Howard Rheingold – author, virtual sociologist and lecturer in collaborative media/digital journalism at UC Berkeley.  It is well worth spending eight minutes listening to Howard talk about a new toolset for teachers and the potential of cooperative (online) classrooms. He shows just what inquisitive teachers are capable of!

How can we expose more teachers to the ‘wow’ factor?

11 thoughts on “The wow factor

  1. We have recently thrown out a professional learning blog to teachers using “wordpress”. Its not out on the cutting edge but it’s a good way to introduce staff to some basic web 2.0 tools.

    The purpose of the blog is to generate discussion and perhaps professional arguments around the subject we are all so passionate about “Learning”

    Hopefully one thing will lead to another.

  2. St Aidan’s has just completed an extensive refurbishment, resulting in 6/7 grades now working in open learning spaces.

    There has been a very positive reaction from the parent community regarding the open spaces and teachers and students are enjoying the opportunity to work in teams with far more flexibility in groupings, thus catering for differentiated learning and individual learning styles.

    The ‘wow’ factor is most certainly alive.

    Teachers and teacher’s assistants are working enthusiastically to embrace Web 2.0 and integrate ICT into the curriculum.

    In order to raise awareness and spark enthusiasm, I have facilitated a number of workshops for staff around 21st century learning and teaching.

    In addition to this, many teachers stay back each Wednesday afternoon to workshop different aspects of Web 2.0 technologies, including the use of the Interactive Whiteboards. These sessions are part of a special project facilitated by one of our teachers Michael Manton. Attendance at the sessions is on a voluntary basis and they are very popular.

    The professional sharing amongst staff has been tremendous and they have been really keen to take on board new ideas in order to enhance the learning and teaching for the students.

    Teachers have commented that during this year particularly, where the students have had greater access to relational technologies, they have been far more engaged in their learning.

    We know that we have a long way to go and there is so much more to learn; however, we are on a journey together and the fact that we are making learning and teaching more relevant to the students is sufficient motivation for us to continue and further increase our knowledge and skills.

    ‘WOW’! These are most certainly very exciting times in the schooling process.

  3. Enjoyed hearing Rheingold’s account of the importanace of sharing social media rhetoric with students. Could not agree more.

    Greg, witnessed a few ‘wows’ during some NSW CAP workshops last week in Wagga Wagga.

    The ease, simplicity and practicality of Posterous surprised the teachers. They were up and running in no time. If a teacher can use email then they can develop and evolve their own social media rhetoric using Posterous. An excellent entry level tool.

    The elegance of WordPress surprised them. Why waste time with Dreamweaver or Frontpage? Develop a sound web presence and interact with the community as well.

    The NSW CAP collaborations that were shared also intrigued them.

    Follow up is key now.

  4. I agree that exposing teachers to the ‘wow’ factor of Web 2.0 is a good engagement strategy and if in doing so it ignites a fire in those teachers to begin exploring the many exciting possibilities these technologies afford contemporary learning and teaching, great. It is keeping the fire burning that seems to present the bigger challenge! Isn’t it interesting that students know the answer to the question ‘what’s in it for our students?’ – that’s the reason so many of them use Web 2.0 tools as part of their day to day lives – regardless if they are using them in school. From my experience there appears to be fewer teachers who can make the connection between the ‘wow’ factor of an ever-increasing number of Web 2.0 tools and how they can best be used to support contemporary learning and teaching. The excellent work being done by the PBL staff at PMHS, by Jan Radford from Delany College and Francis Manning at HFS showcase the possibilities these technologies afford educators when these connections ARE made. I believe the challenge is to build on the initial spark generated by the ‘wow’ factor while at the same time avoiding teachers becoming ‘wowed’ out by the barrage of web 2.0 tools – or in some cases using that as an excuse for not engaging with them. It is here I believe tools like SocialMediaClassroom have a role to play – a powerful collection of integrated web 2.0 tools with a focus on learning and teaching. As I haven’t yet had an opportunity to explore the environment first hand I cannot comment on the flexibility / customisation (or lack of) that it might provide. One of the great advantages of Web 2.0 tools is their openness and connectedness. I am keen to see to what extent SMC adheres to these principles – but from initial reading it looks promising and anything that helps teachers engage with the powerful capabilities of Web 2.0 – connecting students, their learning and the world, has to be a good thing.

  5. Surely Dr Ricketts is not assuming that parents will not think beyond the wow factor? We need and will demand results. If not now, very soon. The WOW factor and the use of technology (that has been utilised for quite a while now in other schools) does not make up for the lack of positive data out there on open plan classrooms.

  6. Julie, at the risk of endless repetition the issue is not the open planned classroom. It is about the quality and nature of the teaching in today’s world. We are seeing, and the evidence is there, that teachers working together in teams make a significant difference in improving student learning outcomes. The focus is clearly on the how of teaching not the what. Why don’t you look at the work of the New Zealand Govt in this area. This is the most recent evidence

  7. At St Agnes we have spent the year renovating our spaces for learning to enable students and teachers to experience learning in a connected world.
    The technology that is part of this experience opens the world for us to expand our learning.
    Response from staff and students to our open learning areas has been very positive.
    Students enjoy working together and in their words “have control of their learning with their teachers”.People working together and reflecting on the journey is a win win situation for all.

  8. I think that any teacher who asks the question ‘what’s in it for my students?’ rather than ‘what’s in it for me?’ is able to be introduced to the ‘WOW’ of web2.0. Recently, we had a project across our year 9 grade that required the students and teachers to use NING a social networking web2.0 tool. This provided students with an environment to share ideas, thoughts and research in a non-threatening setting, outside the traditional classroom structure. Many students were online at various times and especially on weekends contributing to their own work or critiquing the work of other students. I have never before seen such engagement in the students, especially for year 9. This engagement was also present in a number of teachers who said “they found it addictive in commenting to the students work, giving them feedback and helping their progress”. However, there were some teachers who resisted using the tools and there did not provide any help for the students. In a traditional classroom environment those students who have a teacher who constantly asks the question ‘what’s in it for me?’ are disadvantaged and there is often no relevant data on the effect that they cause on the student learning. We are all experts on eduction, having all been educated and we know that unfortunately there are teachers out there like this. The use of technology and open classrooms (team teaching) gives students a greater opportunity to connect with teachers who ask the question ‘what’s in it for the students?’

  9. Learning spaces are not physical anymore than they can be controlled, patrolled, walled in or walled out. Open Classrooms are nothing new, except this time TCP/IP changes what we mean by learning and space. It has nothing to do with technology – which is ubiquitous in students lives, it is about having effective ‘media literate’ teachers, recognition that time served does not now mean experience. I’ve talked about this recently and I have to take issue Julie, its simply about knowing how, when and wear to move between instructional learning, discovery learning – and maintaining engagement using media that students are most comfortable with – be that a forum, a ning, second life, google. I do wish people would try not to use the term Web2.0 and ‘technology’ as this in not central to the issues facing students. Our systems are not designed to accommodate innovators in the classroom. There is a significant glass ceiling to overcome if you want schools to remain relevant. We can afford to bumble on for a decade or more over this, the point is kids can’t afford to – and there is a massive lack of real, practical experience in the classroom to model to teachers – bottom line. Fix that and you might see change – but then you have to find people to do that, and significantly change the terms of reference in terms of HR policy in my view. Time served is widely reported as being a poor reason to hold management structures in place. How many senior decision makers are under 40?

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