Block 5 - Digging in the Sandbox - February 1 - 21 (3 weeks)

Flickr CC: dabdiputs

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday,

we rob our children of tomorrow" - John Dewey

Objectives of Block 5

At the conclusion of this two-week block you should be able to:
  • Articulate how the Internet is evolving, how web 2.0 provides new opportunities for learning and the future changes we may see.
  • Become familiar with, and critique, some of the tools available on the Internet.
  • Demonstrate your use of at least 3 Web 2.0 tools and share your work in your blog as part of your digital portfolio.
  • Reflect on how you would use/apply these tools with your learners and the learning theory they reflect.
  • Gain insight to how some teachers/students are using the Web 2.0 tools to support students learning
  • Join a Skype conversation to share your current thinking and explorations


Brain Blurt for February 1 - 21st

During this block:

You will be learning about, and exploring and playing with, various resources/tools available to support learning.
A few things to keep in mind:
  • Which tools are appropriate for your learning environment? Just as all physical resources are not appropriate in all physical classrooms, with all students, we have to make the same determination while exploring and critiquing virtual or web-based tools and resources.
  • They may not ALL work for you, and they may not ALL work in ALL teaching/learning situations, with EVERY learner. The teacher still has to locate, evaluate, discriminate and integrate, just like in any teaching/learning environment.
  • All of these tools can be used with learners however none of them automatically support learning, specifically learning with the curriculum. It is the teacher, his/her pedagogical beliefs and practices and the intended learning outcomes that make all the difference.
  • As you explore, reflect on how the technology can support the learning of students, parents and colleagues. How does the technology provide ways to learn that are not otherwise available?
  • Two weeks has been provided as we feel that this time we be needed to explore and build with new tools. Please do not put off your work and learning within this block due to the 3 week duration. You will need that time!
  • Submit your major project proposal by February 8th. More
  • This week’s brain blurt reminds us of the important role emotions play in our learning. So if you are feeling anxious and need a lift, have a laugh!
    But save this for when you need it – don’t go here just yet!

Flickr CC: ronnie44052

1.) The Composition of the Sand

As you begin to dig in the sand you may wonder, what is it made of?
Some of you are already gaining a sense of the sand as evidenced in Jim’s blog (Jan. 20, 2009) where he commented, “The World Wide Web is becoming more collaborative, creative, and communicative. Examples of this are the social networking sites that are used by millions….”
Jim also made a connection to Barack Obama and I think this is a perfect example of the power of Web 2.0 technologies in action.
Many credit his success (Barack's not Jim's :-) to the use of technologies that have enabled him to plan, organize, mobilize, poll, enlist support, and engage the public. The processes of reporting and the gathering inaugural images and experiences were shared among citizens and not solely mainstream news services. Give some thought to this as you explore some of the resources describing Web 2.0.

What is Web 2.0?

Explore these resources to gain a strong understanding of how the Internet is evolving, how web 2.0 provides new opportunities for learning, the future changes we may see, and some of the challenges that these changes may present.

2.) How are educators using Web 2.0 tools to help students communicate, collaborate and create?

Here are a few examples of how some educators are using new tools to harness the power of the 3 C's: communication, collaboration, creation.
Don't worry if your context, grade level, subject matter or audience is not reflected in these examples. By taking a look at what others have "created in the sand", you may gain some ideas of the tools you want to build with and the possibilities of what you can build.

3.) Digging, Playing and Building in the Sand

Hopefully the above resources have provided you with a sense of how the Internet is changing and evolving and some of the implications for the larger society, for you as an educator, and for today’s learners.
Now, you need to pick up some new tools, play in the sand, and explore the possibilities. Think about how these tools can provide new opportunities for your learners in your context, be they parents, colleagues, students or the larger global community.

There are thousands of exciting new tools on the Internet, but you do not have time to try them all. So, think about what you want to be able to do to provide more interactive learning experiences in your context. Think about what you want to create/develop in your major project and begin by playing with tools that support your learning goals. How can you build in collaboration and multiple forms of communication to support learning? If you haven’t decided on your project, email Marnie so that you can narrow this down and then focus on the tools that will be of most use to you.

Many of us have grown up learning through guidance by a knowledgeable expert, following step-by-step instructions provided with new equipment sitting along side another as they walked you through the new steps you needed to learn. Well, in some ways this is different and in some ways, those supports are still there, just different. As you begin to try and build/create with a new tool, you will be most successful if you:
  • take risks
  • search for help online as you need it (how to xyz in abc) often provides advice from someone in cyberland
  • ask for help when you need it – don’t let yourself get frustrated to the point where you give up. In this block there is a discussion tab called “Help!”
Throw out your questions - Marnie or Kyle or Shalini or any of the other class members can respond to your questions and together we can support each other’s learning as we dig and play and build.

As you create/build, share and reflect on the tools in your blog. Many tools allow you to embed the content/media in a blog by pasting code. Please, if you have questions, search online for help and if you cannot find it, post your question in the “Help” discussion tab for this block.

Flickr CC: zesmerelda
4.) Time to Play in the Sand!

Tools and resources with which you can dig in the sand

5.) A Moment for Reflection

I have just finished reading “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson, (McGraw Hill, 2008). In this book they state,
In middle and high school core academic classes in particular, students report that computers have had little to no impact on the way they learn. Teachers still deliver the instruction. Students use computers primarily for word processing, to search the Internet for research papers, and to play games. A small number of middle school teachers – under 20 percent – reported using computers for drill and practice software or for make games and the like. High school teachers report having made good use of computers to make better lesson plans and to communicate more with parents through email and blogs. But again, as Cuban concluded, ‘In the end, both supporters and critics of school technology (including researchers) have claimed that powerful software and hardware often get used in limited ways to simply maintain rather than transform prevailing instructional practices.’….
Understanding how schools have spent so much money on computers only to achieve such little gain isn’t so hard. Schools have crammed the computers into existing teaching and classroom models. Teachers have implemented computers in the most common-sense way – to sustain their existing practices and pedagogies rather than displace them. So how could schools implement computer-based learning in ways that transform teaching and learning?
(p. 83-84)”

You have explored current learning theories, you have been playing with tools and hopefully, you have been making connections to how they could be used by yourself or other educators in their learning environments. Are your uses of these tools going to maintain traditional “teaching and classroom models” as these authors have observed, or will they help you transform teaching and learning and if so how and why? Share your thoughts in your blog.

Flickr CC: kenlund
6.) Moisture in the Sand

I was reminded recently that if you want the forms you are building in the sand to stay solid and stable,
the sand has to stay moist. Our brains also need hydration to learn and to keep stress levels in check.
So join us this week as we schedule small group Skype chats to rehydrate and connect during this period of exploration.
a.) Download the latest version of Skype
b.) Create a Skype profile is you don’t already have one
c.) Check out the Skype userguide for other helpful hints
d.) Sign up for a Skype conference call (audio only) at a time that works best for you. While we can have up to 9 people in the chat, I would like to aim for 3 or 4 at a time.
e.) By signing up in the chart below with your Skype username, I will be able to invite you to the chat in Skype at your designated time.
f.) What are your needs and questions? This chat provides Marnie with the chance to check on how you are doing and make a connection beyond the written word (perhaps I am the one needing hydration ☺)
Make a note in the signup chart on the wiki so that I can provide some help and so that you can join a discussion that meets your needs. This is an informal chat and will last no longer than 30 minutes. If need be, we can schedule additional chat times for individual participants.
  • If you prefer to have a 1-on-1 chat, just email Marnie and we will schedule this so that your learning needs can be met.
f.) Skype “How To

Skype Discussion Times – (Marnie's Skype name – mmcmillan2)

First Name and Skype Name
Things I hope we can discuss

Tuesday February 3rd - 7pm
1.)darcy, darcy.helmink
2.)jim and jumba68
anything, maybe facebook?
Project, Feedburner, Wordpress vs blogger,
podcasting audio files

Wednesday February 4th - 7 pm
1.)Darrell, darnew59
2.)Duane, duane.hauk
3.)Brent Keen
class project, following blogs

Wednesday February 4th - 7:30 pm
1.)Arlene Hansen
2.)Cheryl Morin
project, Blogs
" "
First call went well but we are always learning and gaining new insight:

a.) There is a Skype Test Call which you can try out before hand to see if you audio is working. Click on it and then click the green phone to call.

b.) If you can be online at your designated time, I will call you.
Thursday February 5th - 12:00 noon
1.)Rheda, rhedamaurice
Project mainly

Thursday February 5th - 6:30
1.) Cheryl Herman latana44

Thursday February 5th - 7:00 pm
1.)Pam Sanderson

Saturday February 6th - 10:00
1.)Walter Smith
SKYPE number is wakado4023

7.) Conclusion

This three-week block is a busy one.

Make sure you have:

  1. reflected on your ongoing reading of you chosen educational technology leader(s) in your blog. What is your connection/reaction/response to what educational technology leaders are thinking/doing/promoting (self evaluate with the class rubric)
  2. demonstrated your exploration and reflection on at least 3 Web 2.0 tools in your blog (embed creations in blog whenever possible to share). Share in your blog how you might use these tools in your learning context and how that use would reflect your theoretical framework.
  3. responded to the critique of classroom uses of technology (#5 A Moment for Reflection).
  4. contributed to the thinking of others in the class by responding to others’ postings, musings and play experiences. Last week I had you begin the "critical friend" process by signing up to respond to two people in the class. From this point forward be a critical friend to different class participants - step out of your comfort zone and offer your lens to someone you may not know as well or someone in a completely different context. As identified in the Professional Learning Rubric, this is an ongoing expectation of this class.
  5. checked the class rubrics and self-evaluated your own blog contributions and the contributions you are making to others’ blogs.
  6. submitted your major project proposal to Marnie by February 8th. The proposal should be approximately one-page which includes the purpose of the project, how you would use it, why it is worthy of development and initial design ideas (even though you may not have decided on the exact tools yet).
  7. taken time to have a laugh!

Flickr CC: masmithers

As a result of your digging in the sand we hope that you have a growing sense of today’s changing Internet and some of the many tools that are available to support learning through creation, collaboration and communication. As a result of your exploration and experimentation, we hope that new possibilities have presented themselves and that you are excited about providing your learners with new ways to construct their knowledge and demonstrate their learning.

Be proud of your sand castles!