It is my pleasure to be presenting a seminar to English teachers at the Christian Education National (CEN) NSW conference, held at Covenant Christian School, on 28-29 June 2010. What you will find here are some additional notes, and any links that I mention. There will also be a link to my Prezi (sadly they can’t easily be embedded into a WP blog). We will also be using a Google Wave to make collaborative notes during the session. If you would like access to the wave, please message me, and I’ll add you to the wave.
Why use technology?
There are many, many reasons why we should use technology in the classroom. In fact, I’d almost go as far as to say that if you aren’t, then you are short changing your students. The educational benefits are there, and they are many. Technology is the language that our students speak. It is the world that they live in.
In fact, a recent study of 8-15 year olds in the UK found that 40% of girls identified Facebook as one of the most important things in their lives. (This compares with 6% of boys.) While I’m not directly advocating that we need all use Facebook in Education (there are some awesome uses!), what I do believe we need to draw from this is that we’re missing a wonderful opportunity to engage with students if we don’t use technology in education.
I was at a conference recently (Computelec 1:1 Journey) where they suggested 3 stages in the implementation of technology. The first is using technology to sustain what you are already doing. (Which there is very little point in…) The second stage you might be at is to ‘Supplement and Extend’ your existing activities with technology. Definitely a step in the right direction. The final stage you can be in is to ‘Subvert and Transform’ – where your teaching is radically different, and the learning experience is radically different. To get there, we need to be willing to completely re-learn and probably redesign our whole teaching practice. As Barrett Mosbacker explained during his Monday keynote address: the students no longer need us for information; they have that in the palm of their hand. What they do need is for us to show them how to USE this information. How to integrate it, to create with it, to understand it…
Technology should not be seen as an add on to teaching. Again to paraphrase Dr Barrett Mosbacker – “Technology integration is the seamless and thoughtful embedding of tools and resources in learning and assessment. Technology should be as automatic as picking up a piece of chalk.
Hopefully we’re all sold here on the need for technology in the classroom – specifically in this instance, the English classroom. So, let us have a look at just a few of the plethora of technologies available to us.
A blog is designed to be a reflective tool. A place where you can share your thoughts and reflections about anything. There are many different flavours around, some popular blogging engines being WordPress, Edublogs and Blogger. They are all very good and could be used in a variety of classroom settings.
This takes us to microblogs, such as Twitter. I think EVERY teacher should be on twitter. Not only is it a reflective tool, but it is a fantastic professional networking tool. My personal learning network (PLN) on twitter has been just as valuable over the previous 18 months as the 10 odd days of external professional development that I’ve done over the same time. There are a number of ideas also for using twitter in a classroom environment on my Prezi.
A wiki is a tool for collaboration. A number of people, all working on the same document – often simultaneously. Imagine students working together on a large creative writing project, adding to, modifying, critiquing other students’ work.
Google wave is like a wiki on steroids. Hopefully you’ve been a part of collaboratively editing notes from this session on our wave. If not, contact me and I’ll happily add you to the wave.
This is an English teacher favourite, and is for good reason. The most common use is to have a student put themself into someone else’s position, and tell their story using pictures, some sound or music, and their voice. A quick google search will find more digital storytelling resources than you can ever use, so I won’t list any here.
What I do want to encourage you with, however, is to teach your students how to use media with permission. That is, not just grabbing any old picture from a google search, and a bit of music from iTunes or their mate’s CD collection and use that. Creative Commons is a fantastic way to find material that is licence specifically for re-use. Similarly for music I use Jamendo.
Podcasting can be used in a few different ways. Students can create podcasts of specific content for revision, host discussions, interviews etc. You could podcast parts of your lesson – no problem if someone’s away, listen to the podcast for the main points. It is very easy to create a simple podcast using software such as Audacity or Garageband. You can then upload to a site such as Podomatic, from where you can get a link so it can be directly downloaded (and subscribed to) from iTunes. Imagine the extra flexibility this gives students to learn.
In an English class? Absolutely! Search for .kmz (zipped) or .kml files and see what you find. Try ‘Shakespeare .kml’ or ‘keats .kml’. You might find maps relating to the particular person’s life. If you want to get more advanced, have the students create their own!
Ever wanted to write a missing chapter to one of the Harry Potter books? You can do it here… 461000 other people already have! maybe you might like to choose an added chapter from a text you have studied and critique? Fanfiction is a treasure trove for the English teacher.
Wallwisher is effectively an online post-it note. Use it as a homework reminder. Or collaborate on a storyboard for your film making project.
Some Final Thoughts
I hope you’ve read this blog post alongside my Prezi, and with the Google Wave that we collaborated on. Please remember, that with any technology integration project the learning is the important thing. When you start the project, decide first what learning experiences and outcomes you want your students to achieve. Once you have clearly set these goals, you will be in a much better position to choose the most appropriate form of technology (if indeed technology IS appropriate) to engage your students.