All of our EDTECH 541 classmates have responded by comment to this Voicethread, providing rationale for the integration of the Internet into our curriculum. You can find my comment 19th in line - it's the long one.
Social Networking. Over the past few years it has exploded in popularity, and the number of teens connecting socially over the Internet continues to grow. As educators we must acknowledge that the culture of information and sharing is changing and decide how this will influence our pedagogy.
One ongoing debate in schools, particularly high schools, is whether social networking should be allowed in school, and to what extent teachers can or should integrate it into educational activities. On the one hand are those who would deny access, using firewall and filtering software to completely block social networking sites from the school network. On the other hand are those who feel students should not have limits imposed on them and that they will rise to their full potential only when allowed unfettered access to everything available on the Web. I believe that, as with most debates, the best course lies somewhere in the middle. As Aristotle advised, "Everything in moderation."
Consider a fourteen-year-old student, climbing behind the wheel of a car for the first time. It would be irresponsible and dangerous if as adults we allowed him to take off for a drive, wherever and however he wanted to go. The car is a powerful machine and a student needs to learn how to control it. He also needs to learn the rules of the road - and how will he learn these things without specific instruction? I've never heard of an inquiry-based Driver's Education program, and if I do, I'll keep my distance. Why should we treat the Internet any differently? Like a car, it's shiny, fast, exciting, useful, and potentially dangerous.
Of course, the high school classroom will certainly not be the first time students step behind the wheel, as it were, of social networking. But more than likely they have not fully learned how to use it responsibly and it is our job as teachers to provide that instruction. Many amazing educational opportunities exist that make use of social networking, and they present a wonderful opportunity to teach content, technological responsibility, and global awareness all at the same time! It's like teaching a Driver's Ed. class down the Pacific Coast Highway - the students can learn the skills in a safe and monitored environment but have fun and learn a lot from the scenery along the way.
One example of such an opportunity involves a use of facebook to create character sketches in Literature. Mr. Featherstone shows a great example of engaging students with the media they are comfortable with while very intentionally and specifically addressing school appropriateness. Read the assignment description here on his blog. More great opportunities can come with software that allows connections with other students globally. The Taking IT Global community offers educators a place to create safe, controlled online classroom environments and connect with globally like-minded teachers around the world.
To continue the driving analogy, most Driver's Ed. programs have specially-designed cars with an extra brake pedal for the instructor (and sometimes a governor on the motor for parking-lot practice). In the same way, teachers may be wise to chose online tools and social sites that are designed specifically for education and do not provide the temptation for students to wander off into unrelated territory. For example, edmodo is a site that offers private and secure microblogging and social networking in a way that teachers can supervise. As Picardo writes (2010), students actually appreciate doing school work in an online environment that is separate from their own personal social network but structured similarly. As adults, we separate work and play, and students should have that freedom too.
Other social networking alternatives like ning or grou.ps are quickly intuitive to students and allow socializing, collaboration, and discussion, but are separate from students' own personal domain of socializing.
"In a sense, our students have tasted the proverbial honey and the move towards this type of social interaction in the field of education is, in my view, inexorable. Educators would be unwise not to take advantage of their students’ willingness to communicate and their desire to participate via this medium." (Picardo 2010).
Teachers are faced with a certainty: the new paradigm of Web 2.0 is upon us, and students are thinking and creating differently than we did in school. Our pedagogy needs to reflect this change. However students are still students, and are still developing emotionally, ethically, and cognitively. They need us to guide them and teach them how to safely navigate this "brave new world."
Picardo, José (2010). “Microblogging: making the case for social networking in education.” Retrieved from http://www.boxoftricks.net/?p=1727.
Educational technology is a broad concept naming the intersection of hardware, software, peopleware, and pedagogy. Under the umbrella of educational technology lies one of the most ubiquitous educational tools of the digital age - instructional software. Follow a high school student through his daily schedule and you will quickly see the importance of instructional software - art students create digital portfolios; teachers give Power Point presentations; science students peer inside the cell using online simulations; young writers peer edit and collaborate using Google Docs. The list could go on. In terms of depth and scope, no other development in the digital revolution has made a bigger impact on the education process than the adaptation and implementation of instructional software.
Instructional software can be roughly broken down into five categories:
The advantages of using instructional software are many, and are related to type of software in consideration. Drill and practice software as well as tutorials provide immediate feedback and save teacher time; simulations allow students to experience and observe phenomena that would be impossible or too dangerous in real life; educational games offer a fun way for students to reinforce knowledge and skills; and productivity applications allow a host of digital production techniques - giving students an opportunity to create and share in an authentic way far beyond what paper and pencil can accomplish.
For a presentation that explores each of these categories a little more deeply, click here.
Resources for teachers:
Roblyer, M. & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.