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Web 2.0 Assets and the Classroom May 21, 2007

Posted by davidit in collaborative, Education, ICT Integration, Inquiry Model, thinking skills, Web 2.0.
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When I first saw the following video, it really blew me away, it opened my already open eyes to the potential of the web as a fantastic educational tool. In a burst of evangelical zeal I busily sent links to all my friends, encouraging them to show everyone. One of them rather sagely said that if you showed that to the staff at school I would probably confuse them at best and completely alienate them at worst! And on reflection she was probably right. I expect that many of you have seen it, but it is still worth a second look, for what it did for me was make me think how can we harness that genuine communication and collaboration power of the Internet in our classrooms. We constantly search for authentic learning opportunities and genuine collaboration and with the newly emerging Web 2.0 tools there is much that we can already utilise to ensure that this can happen within our classrooms.

Knowing quite what web1.0, as it is retrospectively known, is or quite how web 2.0 works is not relevant and in many, if not all circumstances only serves to confuse and alienate the TT’s amongst us (see below). However, it is important to know that there are some fantastic tools out there that can be used easily in the classroom, between classes and between schools. The key word perhaps to bear in mind when thinking about using web 2.0 tools is collaboration. What the proliferation of web services like Youtube, Flickr, Bubbleshare Net Vibes, Skrbl etc allow is collaboration and interaction on the behalf of the user. The user/viewer is no longer passive but is an integral part of the Internet process. Sharing information on the Internet is no longer the preserve of the nerd or the geek, we can all communicate and share. So what is there out there that teachers can use to help collaboration happen?

If you have tried to get students to work collaboratively on a Word document you will know that it is not really possible and track changes is not the most user friendly Office tool to use, especially for seven year olds. It is just an alien concept and if you used it in your class you would probably resort pretty quickly to butcher paper and marker pens for a collaborative document! Now this is fine in a class, but it does not meet the demands of A3 learning (A Cubed or Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere). The reason is that the original source document stays in class and once the school bell has gone at the end of the day no one has access to it, so students who wish to continue working on it at home can’t. This is where the new Web 2.0 tools come into play.

Google Docs: Google Docs is just like word or Excel, but it is on the Internet, the big difference is that the document can be shared, so that it can be accessed after hours, it is simple to use and only requires that the users have an e-mail account. Its main advantage is A3 access. This is an example of asynchronous communication/collaboration, but if you are working with other schools in different time zones, this drawback is negligible and could even be considered an advantage.

Skrbl: This is my current favourite synchronous on-line tool, it is an on-line whiteboard where you can post images, or files to share with others. You can write text or even draw (in a limited way). All contributors can comment at the same time, it can be chaotic, but everyone gets a chance to say or scribble what they want. It is simple to use and great fun, but also has a real purpose. Everyone can brainstorm and the brainstorm can be seen by anyone, anywhere anytime.

Talk and Write: This is a Skype tool and is really aimed at the commercial market. It is just like Skrbl only more sophisticated, the tutorial videos are easy to follow. As with all things Skype there is a free version, but your board time is limited to 10 minutes. The fees are not exorbitant for the full service, but before I paid out for it, I would use Skrbl first in order to create a habit of use.

These three collaborative tools lack one thing, partners to collaborate with. We are using these tools in a small way within school across our network, but to fully utilise the potential of these tools and to make the learning authentic we need partners. As we start to develop our inquiry model our students are starting to look beyond their classrooms and beyond the school for other students to work with, share information with and crucially collaborate with. We are bursting with ideas and programmes such as Gamemaker, Lego Mindstorms, MSW Logo allow us all to collaborate, test and evaluate projects. If you would like to collaborate with our classes, please let me know via the comments and I will mail you back.

The future’s bright, the future’s Web 2.0!

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