Saturday, 1 March 2014

Rockstars of the Digital Classroom!

Another one of those things that would have been unimaginable only a decade ago - an  international micro-conference!  Wendy Gorton of Wikispaces fame collected together teachers using digital tools in the classroom and created a virtual meeting place where they could all share their processes and practices.

Garth Holman is a teacher deep into how #edtech pushes pedagogy in Ohio.  Jessica Sullivan is living in eternal summer in Caracas, Venezuela where she is leveraging social media and digital tools to produce students who are actually digitally fluent!  Our kids should be so lucky.

That it is possible to put something together like this with little more than an internet connection and a few laptops is astonishing.  Wikis themselves are a web-specific evolution in information sharing, a crowd sourced medium for self publication.  The social power of wikis are still reverberating around the world.  Garth talked about how his students create learning content and then set it free online, my own students do something similar using wikis.  As a way of creating shared notes and interconnecting information, wikis leverage digital learning spaces in a way that many other digital tools that act like paper analogues do not.  If you're using Google-docs to replace handouts you're not getting what the new medium is capable of.  Many teachers use digital tools as a replacement for paper, but that doesn't use the fluidity of digital information to best effect.

Besides exploring the limits of digital information sharing and delivery you've also got to consider the best digital tool for the job.  If you're only using a single digital tool you're probably finding it difficult.  When trying to use Google-docs to create shared notes you've probably run into the chaos that ensues.  Wikispaces lets you create working groups and lock out areas of a wiki so only the production team in that subject can edit.  As each student builds their own interlinked page in the wikispace, they are able to produce collaborative, supported material without stepping on each other.  Diversifying your digital learning toolbox is vital.  If you're not picking the best tool for the job you're going to run into organizational problems.

I'm doing a presentation at the upcoming elearning Ontario symposium on creating a sufficiently complex digital learning ecosystem.  The idea that a single system (D2L) or a single platform (GAFE) can give you a sufficiently diverse digital learning environment isn't just simplistic, it's also a bit monopolistic.  As a digitally fluent teacher you should be able to reach out online and find the digital tools that suit your learner's needs best.

In addition to regularly using Wikispaces, I'm also a big fan of Prezi and blogging (platform irrelevant).  If you're looking to leverage digital tools in learning, offering a broad ecosystem of digital tools is the first step towards a student centred, diversified learning environment.  All of the teachers above talk about how they are using Twitter in addition to a variety of other digital tools to make that happen.