Beginning to See the New Problems

With the use of Read/Write technologies in our classrooms, comes a whole new set of problems that our students will face–a new set of decisions to make in order for them to achieve success. When we experience these problems and make these decisions beforehand, our role as coach and mentor becomes more meaningful.

Yesterday I began the first of two one-hour sessions in a class called “Writing with the MySpace Generation,” aimed at introducing teachers to the idea of connective writing. I had taught this class previously to a group of middle school teachers, but this class is made up of high school teachers. Instead of standing in front of the room taking them through the wiki and the ins and outs of Google Documents and Spreadsheets, with the help of my wife I decided to design an activity whereby the “students” were asked to create a summary of some data that I had provided for them. They were to use Google Docs to write the summary, but they also had to incorporate Spreadsheets to create the charts then embed them in the summary evaluation.

When presented with the problem, which was by no means what they thought they had signed up for, a few things became apparent:

  • they first had to work within the application and play to see how it all worked
  • even though they were in the same room, planning out the roles and delegating the tasks was paramount to getting anywhere
  • it was extremely important to share information quickly
  • controlling who edits and when, is necessary
  • chatting (in spreadsheets) is fun

Perhaps the best question that came out of this activity, which took much longer than I had anticipated, was after the class was over:

How is this different than giving the students an assignment in school in Excel or Word and having them work on it and save it to our shared drive, where they can all access it?

The first thing out of my mouth was access. Our classes last 40 minutes, and homework debate aside, rarely do we feel that it is enough for us or them to see, touch, discuss, connect and incorporate what we would like to them to. The Read/Write web tears down those time parameters. The concept of asynchronous learning is a hard one to grab on to, as is the concept of a learner-driven classroom.

Clay Burell had commented about student trepidation a while back in regards to becoming 21st Century students, whereby they resisted as much as teachers resisted the change. It requires some different processes to be successful, but overall, I am seeing that a lot of the same valued characteristics that we look for in students today: communication, critical thinking, an emphasis on planning, collaboration all work in the Read/Write web. It’s that they are amplified by audience which gives us pause. And this is universal: student and teacher.

I am going to ask them for feedback today regarding the questions raised yesterday, and I hope to blog it directly from class (or soon thereafter). If anyone would like to Skype in (pjhiggins1), we will be in class between 2:30 and 3:30 EST. Here is the link to what I will be going through. It’s only an hour, so I am jamming a lot of stuff into that hour.

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One thought on “Beginning to See the New Problems

  1. I really like how you framed the workshop around the writing and not about the blogging or web 2.0 tools, but about the writing questions they raise or facilitate.

    That’s a takeaway I want to think about more.

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