Last year, there was no technology in my classroom. The closest any kids came to a computer was one little boy I had take an online colour blindness test on the computer on my desk. Pretty sad considering my self-professed love of technology, but quite simply, I couldn't figure out how to integrate technology into my early childhood classes with just one computer in the room. And honestly, even if I had a couple extra machines, would I have done anything besides load some games? I doubt it.
This class-- the readings, the discussions, and best of all, the blogs-- has inspired me to change all that. I've got an old laptop that will be living in my classroom and it will be our gateway to web 2.0. I'm going to convince our tech guy to let my classroom be the home base for the digital projector, because I'm going to use it... a lot! Here's what I've got planned so far:
-a "what did we do today?" blog composed by students at the end of each day
-videos to go with each letter/sound we learn, similar to this great teacher tube video
-an alphabet voicethread that I will create for students to comment on for each letter/sound
-a group project to create a counting video
-I will invest in a pair of kid's digital cameras to use as a journalism centre (pictures for our blog!)
-those pictures will go to our (password protected) classroom's Picassa account for parents to view and print
-each student will have a voicethread portfolio that will be continuously added to and parents will be able to view (Thanks for the inspiration, Val!)
I'm excited. This course has made technology seem, well, within reach. While I had a working knowledge of most of the web 2.0 tools we looked at coming into the course, I didn't have an appreciation for how flexible and powerful they could be. Blogs were just an annoyance, now they are a way to reflect on my learning and listen to what others are learning. Photo sharing was just for baby pictures, now it's for teacher-parent communication. Video sharing was a way to waste a few hours fooling around, now it's a way to learn about other cultures and showcase student learning. Wikis were for school calendars, now they are for everything!
Several times during this course, I found myself saying "how did I not know about this?"
The most important thing I have learnt in the past three months is that it is very easy to not keep up with what is happening with technology, and more specifically, technology in schools. There are always new ideas, new possibilities, and new tools being developed, and if you keep your head down to long, you are going to miss them. While I've always proudly considered myself to be a lifelong learner, I realize now that that doesn't mean just going to conferences and taking courses. It means keeping up all the time and being willing to take chances with new ideas. For all my time constraints and whining about reading blogs, I'm going to try to keep up with a few. I've subscribed to Wesley Fryer's podcast as well as David Warlick's. And I really am going to make an effort to spread the tech gospel: take my last post about PD, and change each 'would' to 'will.' I'm pretty nervous about it, but if I don't take the chance, who will?
At the start of this course, I was scared. Sure, I knew a bit about the tools we would be looking at, and reading articles about technology in schools was right up my alley, but having to explore a new technology in depth just about each week on top of readings and discussions was overwhelming. I reacted predictably, by being primarily an observer rather than an active participant. I regret that, but then that's the story of my school life. That said, this blog has given me much more confidence to share my thoughts with colleagues. Yes, it's an assignment, but making it available to others in this class, and the world, has encouraged me to think and work harder. Which is exactly why the tools of the read/write web are so powerful for teachers.
If I worked harder, if I thought more critically, then yes, I believe these tools can transform how our students feel about learning. Next September, I get to set that transformation in motion. Excited? You bet!