Databus Issue: 2008 2 07/17/2008
Web 2.0Greg Lindner - Director of Technology Services Gail Desler - Technology Integration Specialist
Redefining Classroom Access and Boundaries PDF
A reality for IT departments is that our students are becoming increasingly sophisticated consumers and producers of digital content – within and beyond the school day. From finding a backdoor into personal social networks such as MySpace or Face Book, to text messaging classmates from out-of-sight cell phones, or even uploading clandestine scenes from the classroom onto YouTube, students are frequent flyers across cyberspace. Since it is not always possible to stay even one step ahead of them, it makes very good sense for IT departments to team with classroom teachers in a collaborative effort to teach students how to use the highly interactive nature of Web 2.0 (Read/Write Web) safely, effectively, and ethically.
Although "teacher tech use is on the rise,"1 the tools of choice tend to be limited to Web 1.0 (Read Only Web) and often have more to do with "automating" than requiring students to use higher order thinking skills.2 Technology integration might mean students using an electronic workbook rather than the paper and pencil version or having the option to do a PowerPoint presentation instead of a poster. According to PEW 2007 findings, 64% of our teenage students, on the other hand, have already created online content to be shared broadly with their personal Web 2.0 communities.3
A given about technology is that the tools are always changing, making efforts to keep up a daunting task for today's already overloaded educator. Add to that challenge, all the MySpace negative press and hysteria, it is little wonder that many teachers have not felt the need to jump onboard with Web 2.0 tools such as blogging, podcasting, and interactive videoconferencing. Yet these are some of the very tools that provide students with opportunities not only to consume information, but also to evaluate, problem solve, collaborate, and create – "tools for the 21st century."4
We would like to showcase three projects that make visible how Web 2.0 tools – in the hands of talented, pioneering teachers and with district, regional, and statewide IT support - are expanding classroom boundaries in the Elk Grove Unified School District.
Read Around the Planet Project- (http://www.twice.cc/read/)
Franklin Elementary teacher Julia Fischer will introduce her 1st graders to Web 2.0 as they join another 1st grade somewhere in the world to share reading via interactive videoconferencing (IVC). Through the Read Around the Planet Project, which is the Web 2.0 extension of the National Education Association's (NEA) annual Read Across America celebration, Julia's students will move beyond the adopted reading textbook as they develop creative ways (i.e., skits, choral readings, interviews) to share what they have been reading with their partner class. As their partner class reciprocates, the Franklin students will have opportunities to make the inter-textual connections that boost literacy skills and spark an interest in reading. Through the blogging, podcasting, or even traditional pen pal connections, the two classrooms can continue their literary connections beyond the February 25-May 4 IVC dates and even reconnect for the spring 2008 round of Read Around the Planet.
Ms. Fischer's classroom will also take a number of virtual fieldtrips to California's State Parks through the PORTS program (http://ports.parks.ca.gov/). As with the Read Around the Planet project, the PORTS field trips will be extensions of the first grade Open Court Reading curriculum. Students will meet state content standards for English/Language Arts and Science as they travel from their classroom via EGUSD’s network, then via BESTNet and finally via the California K12 High Speed Network (K12 HSN) to explore the tide pools of Crystal Cove State Park and visit with the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park.
"I am very excited to be able to bring these new technologies into my classroom," says Fischer. "My students live in a small, semi-rural, somewhat isolated town; so the opportunity to take learning beyond the walls of the classroom could truly make a difference in their lives."
Youth Radio Project (http://youthradio.wordpress.com/)
Jim Faires enters his 2nd year with a project that connects his 6th graders at Butler Elementary to classrooms in Oregon, Colorado, Mississippi, Michigan, Massachusetts - and as of this year, Spain. Using the mediums of blogging, podcasting, and eventually videoconferencing, the Butler students are sharing their thoughts on topics ranging from Internet safety to local holiday traditions. The purpose of the Youth Radio project is to utilize the connective power of Web 2.0 to give voice to young people as they research, share, and discuss issues in their own communities.
Jim and his students will connect to an international audience on February 21 to share the Youth Radio project during the 2008 Megaconference Jr. (http://www.megaconferencejr.org/), an annual event designed to give students in elementary and secondary schools around the world the opportunity to communicate, collaborate and contribute to each other's learning in real time, using advanced multi-point video conferencing technology. This will be the second year for Butler students to participate in the Megaconference Jr. During last year's event, Jim's classroom shared the Youth Radio project to classrooms in Australia and Taiwan.
Jim Faires embraces Web 2.0 as a tool for change. "Through the Youth Radio project and international events such as Megaconference Jr., my students are fast becoming expert communicators in a digital world as they plan, script, and shape audio and video to fit their intentions. The opportunity to present their project to a "live" international audience has motivated them to meet and exceed California State Content Standards for English/Language Arts. More important, as they join a global community, they are building real world skills needed to succeed in the 21st century."
Youth Voices Coast to Coast Project (http://youthvoices.net/elgg/)
Florin High English teacher Bob LeVin is in his third year of connecting his 12th grade students with students in other parts of the state (Lompoc) and nation (Utah, New York, Georgia and Alaska) through the Youth Voices blog. Three years ago, the Youth Voices blog was solely text based and basically limited to posting and/or responding. This year the project includes student use of new Web 2.0 technologies such as a Youth Voices wiki (http://youthwiki.wikispaces.com/) to host multimedia pieces produced with iMovie or Movie Maker 2; Voice Thread (http://voicethread.com/) to create visual podcasts; Tagzania (http://www.tagzania.com/) to design interactive "community walks"; and Google Reader (http://www.google.com/reader/) to facilitate research-based writing.
Youth Voices students are also encouraged to blog their senior research projects across the Youth Voices network. "The transparent nature of blogging will make it easier for teachers to follow their students from process to product. But the real value of blogging their projects is that students will be writing for and receiving feedback and encouragement from their peers, a authentic audience they genuinely care about," LeVin explains. "Each year the technology tools become more powerful, more participatory, and more accessible, inviting students to go beyond standards and benchmarks in ways not possible through more traditional methods of delivering English/Language Arts curriculum."
During the 2005 CUE Conference, Florin High School students joined other Youth Voices sites to co-present a session on videoconferencing in the classroom. Back then EGUSD was just starting to work with videoconferencing and troubleshooting the connections took some time. Despite the fact that it took quite a bit of trouble-shooting to make a successful connection between Florin High School, Galileo High School in San Francisco, and Maple High School (via the Center for Teaching for Social Justice, UC Santa Barbara) and that less than 15 minutes into the CUE session, connections went down at the Palm Springs Convention Center, all involved in the event had a glimpse at the possibilities for online collaborations afforded by increased bandwidth and the interactive technologies of blogging and videoconferencing.
Teachers like Julia Fischer, Jim Faires, and Bob Levin are providing students with opportunities to both consume and produce information as they learn to participate safely, effectively, and ethically in Web 2.0 projects. Our Technology Services department is committed to supporting teachers in their efforts to prepare students to live, learn, and thrive in the 21st century.
EGUSD’s Technology Services department is a consolidated department consisting of technicians and teachers all united to meeting the needs of those we serve. This is one of three reasons why EGUSD is prepared to work with Web 2.0 technologies. Having teachers and technicians on the same team allows us to see both sides of issues and work towards meeting the instructional needs while still maintaining safety and acceptable bandwidth for all users.
Another reason EGUSD is well prepared to work with Web 2.0 technologies is that the vision of the department over the last several years has been to build and improve our network in order to meet the needs of our students and staff. To accomplish this goal, we have upgraded our secondary sites to 100 mb fiber connections and are in the process of upgrading all elementary sites to at least 10mb connections. We have also worked hard over the last four to five years to make BESTNet (http://www.bestnetsacramento.org/about.html) a reality. This network is a collaboration of the local cable franchise agencies and the Sacramento Education Cable Consortium (SECC) K20 members. This network currently connects EGUSD to our county office and the California K12 High Speed Network (http://www.k12hsn.org) via a gigabit connection. By the end of 2008, all secondary schools in EGUSD will connect to BESTNet via a gigabit connection. By committing to enhancing the network, EGUSD is well prepared for the current and future Web 2.0 technologies.
Finally, EGUSD has reviewed its policies and updated them in order to prepare its students for the 21st Century. We have closely looked at Internet Safety and have prepared classes for teachers that balance Web 2.0 technologies with Internet Safety. Additionally we have convened committees to look at student web publishing standards in an effort to support Web 2.0 technologies in an appropriate manner. Our district, like many others, has been actively working to promote Internet safety. We readily admit that Internet monitoring (policing) activities such as blocking student access to inappropriate sites continue to be a necessary duty for Elk Grove's Technology Services Department. However, a progressively larger percent of time now goes to supporting teachers in projects such as those just described that provide students with guidelines, models, and motivation for becoming "prosumers" (producers + consumers) in an information age. While we do not yet have the research in place to analyze the full impact of Web 2.0 technologies on teaching and learning, we recognize that integration of these technologies into classroom practice is an important step in preparing students to be competitive and successful in a technology-driven, quickly changing "flat world."5
With EGUSD’s collaborative and unified approach to technology support (teachers and technicians in the same department responsible for all technology), our network capacity (EGUSD’s network, SECC’s BESTNet, and the California K12 High Speed Network) and our review of policies surrounding web publications, classroom boundaries are being redefined. Within the instructional day and setting, students can put information literacy and digital citizenship skills into practice as they logon and contribute to online learning communities that cross culturally, linguistically, and geographically diverse boundaries.
1 Ascione, Laura (2005). Teachers' tech use on the rise. Retrieved on December 27, 2007 from http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=36530&CFID=2397478&CFTOKEN=85207302.
2 Richardson, Will (2006). Teacher tech use on the rise…so? Retrieved on December 27, 2007 from http://weblogg-ed.com/2006/teachers-tech-use-on-the-riseso/.
3 Lenhardt, A., & Madden, M. (2007) Teen content creators and consumers. PEW Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved on December 30, 2007 from http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/230/report_display.asp.
4 Partnership for 21st-Century Skills (2007). Beyond the 3 R's: Voter attitudes toward 21st century skills.
5 Friedman, T.L. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the 21st-century. New York: Picador.
Greg Lindner is the Director of Technology Services for the Elk Grove Unified School District. He serves as Chair of the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium and has played a significant role in making BESTNet a reality. Mr. Lindner is current Secretary and a long time board member of CETPA (www.cetpa-k12.org). Mr. Lindner has over 20 years of experience in K12 schools having worked at the district, county and state levels.
Gail Desler is a technology integration specialist for the Elk Grove Unified School District. She serves on the Applications Coordination Committee for the California K-12 High Speed Network and is also an American Memory Fellow to the Library of Congress and a technology liaison to the National Writing Project. Her 20+ years of classroom teaching assignments range from grades 1 through adult. Blog = http://blogwalker.edublogs.org; Twitter = http://twitter.com/gailhd