Saturday, 3 March 2012

Our evolving classroom

It’s been an interesting week or so since my last post.  My day-time job is as a teacher, and in the lead-up to the annual roll out of netbooks for the students in my class (it takes time to image them all and what not, and thankfully we have a talented technician who handles this - as every school should) I’ve been busy trying to set up a class blog site, a twitter account and the protocols around how these things will be used.

I like using technology in my classroom - it allows for a greater emphasis on individualised learning - at least that’s why I like it.  Each student can plug into a topic or task at their own level, and they have the resources required to research different things and to different depths as their tasks and abilities require.  It also provides them with the means to express and record their learning in different ways.

I’ve been wanting to start a class blog site for a little while now - I’ve made use of the department of education provided ‘sand-box’ for secure online experimentation (called the Ultranet), and I’ve also had the kids record and cut together a class podcast for the last 5 years or so.  Wanting to add more things ‘to do’ to that list has always been tempered by the idea that I want to make the use of these things useful; not just playing for the sake of it.

Well, our new blog site and twitter feed are all about home-school communication, about building a level of contact between families and the students classroom experiences.  I’ve been impressed with how interested the students have been so far, and I’m quietly excited about the potentials these things bring.

Our blog site represents a weekly new bulletin of what’s been happening in class.  It provides a place for students to make comments (moderated), and a place where I can post links to interesting sites, freeware and other bits and pieces.

Our twitter feed is about being more immediate, I hope we’ll use it to keep those families and followers up-to-date on what’s happening in the classroom - all in 140 characters or less.  My grand hope is that our twitter feed will also allow a more immediate level of interaction between our followers and our class.  The use of hash-tags to filter responses to particular questions will hopefully be something we can explore.

Of course we’re still doing our podcast - our first episode is nearly recorded and ready to cut together.  We’re still using the Ultranet.  But each of these things is now being utilised in a more specific way to address more specific needs.  Our goal in using technology is not an end in itself - it is a tool, albeit a powerful one - that supports and extends the opportunities provided to the students in the class.  It is used to support learning across a wide range of subjects and for a wide range of purposes.  It can be used to support numeracy, literacy, science or whatever, but there are also important lessons that need be learned, for the digital and ‘real’ worlds are not as distinct from one another as they once may have been.

Technology is a fantastic resource for every classroom - it empowers individuals to gather information and produce varied responses to it.  It is a vehicle that allows students an opportunity to express themselves in different and personal ways.  It also provides a medium through which dialogue between individuals and groups can take place; it moves the classroom into the world at large, and the world at large into the classroom.

Giles Pritchard.

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