I think we have progressed well from chaining books to desks; If you think back to the debate over the printing press you would have been shocked to hear how resistant people were to the printed word. However, what it did do was revolutionize the way people thought about writing and the printed word. My own background is tied up with the printing press in India, when it was first introduced by William Carey and I have always enjoyed delving back into the family history to inquire more and more till I reached a dead end. Then as I was leaving to go to Jordan, I wanted to leave my car with someone and came across a young doctor, who needed one. As conversations do, they meandered though familiar topics and I discovered that he was William Carey’s grandson. To say I was excited would be an understatement! I plied him with questions and finally got to unravel the history of his family and where they are today. Authentic and real situations compel us to explore further. I discovered my own family artifacts, the museum that held information about Carey and personal stories of his triumphs and failures as told by people that were close to him and how they carry his legacy.
The Learning Journey with Signposts
To be steeped in the story and search the depths, so I could write and share it was based on the authenticity of what I was researching; it was close to my heart and I understood what Max, in Kadjer’s(2007) article was trying to articulate when he called his blogging ‘2 am writing’. What an amazing insight into the world of someone who writes to communicate and get ideas on the go and genuinely seeks to learn the ‘parts that he doesn’t know’ as yet. Writing as you can see is personal; it brings with it images, ideas, thoughts opinions and colours that weave through to make it rich and give it depth. The multi-modal media assist words to be painted into being; it teases out ideas that are conceptual and in their infancy and gives them a persona, so to speak. I have often used Quentin Blake’s video as he illustrates characters for Roald Dahl‘s books from TES Connect to hook in thinking about characters and used it as a scaffolding tool. However, very quickly I realised that the students and I wanted more interaction and I discovered that iMovie and digital storytelling tools brought out a different kind of story. Freed up to narrate and collaborate, I could count on a richer product and ownership which bore the stamp of the authors.
When I moved to teaching middle and High school students in an international school in Jordan, I could not keep up with providing the tools and we had very few resources so sharing devices became the way to go. The projects were authentic; setting up businesses to raise money for a centre that had been flooded in by the snow. We rolled up our sleeves and had just as much fun cleaning as planning the businesses from scratch. Business cards, folders, websites, bake sales, shopping trips to buy supplies; all became a part of a literacy learning, culture immersing journey. I am sharing one of the presentation movies (with stop gap photography) made with a regular camera by one of the teams. They were Grade 8 Students and this was the final presentation, after a semester worth of work.
As peers step into the online learning arena students, I feel, need a bit of space to interact, flex their thinking and make meaning of new ideas being thrown around. This might look messy in the beginning, which I discovered the hard way, but given time and with a bit of perseverance, the ‘interaction allows students to create knowledge and negotiate meaning, thus making the interaction both more engaging and more rewarding’ (Bibeau 2001). If you step back and watch this unfold, you will notice that out come the phones and tablets; I call this the ‘getting comfortable stage’. Then they proceed to the main task at hand and hone into the task if there are pointers or signposts along the way of what it should look like and directions for the next step. I call this the ‘moving around stage’– which can be accomplished very easily with some QR codes stuck around the room. The learning is accelerated with ideas being thrown around, photographed, texts being sent on Facebook and lots of conversation about how they want it to be different and ‘innovation’ usually features somewhere along the line. Entwined right through is ‘the helping to track stage'(notice I say helping): I have found Pam Hook’s talk on ‘anyone can learn to learn’ extremely powerful and usually demonstrate this using a skateboard (though I am no orator or a skateboarder) and open up the dialogue for taking skills to the next level; learning and practicing what you don’t know. And yes, there have been a few falls!! This of course lends itself extremely well to humour and setting up ePortfolios (Pathbrite), so they can see the step by step progression. Of course now having discovered Blendspace as a repository and a fantastically collaborative tool, I am sure it will find its way into my collaborative classroom.
Oblinger (2003) says that expanding the learning outside the geographical and temporal boundaries may bring on a positive response from the learners. I know we personally don’t limit our learning to time-and-space bound activities and perhaps providing students the authentic ability to interact with real world issues that are ubiquitous might be successful in contextualising their learning (Ellison, 2008). As argued Mishra and Koehler (2006) and quoted by Ellison (2008), blogging will not automatically increase students’ learning and must be augmented by content and pedagogy. I personally blog to inform and share but the richness is always in the responses and the collaborative negotiation of thought and ideas that I share with my colleagues.
Ellison, N.B. (2008). Blogging in the Classroom: A Preliminary Exploration of Student Attitudes and Impact on Comprehension. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 17(1), p. 99-122
Kajder, S. B. (2007). Unleashing potential with emerging technologies. In K. Beers, R. E. Probst & L. Rief (Eds.), Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice (pp. 213-229). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.