Since 1986 when I first starting teaching, my brain has taken a sabbatical in the summer. I've done some short pro-d workshops, but have not taken a class in 23 years. I enrolled for this class with mixed feelings, Throughout my years of teaching, I've come to know myself better as a learner, and I was excited about getting to be a student. Our home on Cortes does not have internet service, so I was a little concerned about how I would 'keep up.' I use technology in my classroom and consider myself capable, but not yet competent, so I was unsure of how I would manage the course load without the tech. support that I can access at school. Overall, the experience has been worthwhile and illuminating.
My biggest stumbling block was not with the actual course, but with my internet accessibility. I found myself frustrated knowing I could be working on my class if I had internet at home, but only being able to work on it when I planned it in advance and went to work. It was only during a week I spent in San Diego doing a workshop when I had wi-fi in my hotel room, that I realized what I was missing. I feel I lost what is probably the most rewarding part of taking a class on line which is the flexibility to work on it anytime. I would constantly write myself notes and reminders so that when I was working, I'd remember all of the things I'd thought of when I couldn't work. It also got annoying when I posted a blog, then found more information a day or two later that would have been fabulous to include. It became easier when I printed off some of the resources, and typed my blogs off line, prior to posting. Things I sorted out as the course progressed. Although the lack of time for thorough research at first exacerbated my frustration, I soon became philosophical and realized that although it wasn't going to improve my mark, I was still learning.
As Steven Lee pointed out in Coming of Age, we learn best when we actively construct knowledge during group social interaction and collaboration.
I have been running weekly tutorials in my class for several years now and did not need to be convinced about the power of collaboration in learning. My experiences in this course reaffirmed that yet again. I began by collaborating with my daughter as I wasn't entirely comfortable with signing up onto the various technologies.
As m knowledge and comfort level of the web technologies expanded I found myself preferring to do things on my own. Something I know occurs when I teach. You have to provide scaffolding and support in order to allow students to gain knowledge and expertise.
Reading my classmate's blogs and discussion entries, I was very comforted to know that others were going through the same frustrations and highlights as I was. Knowing that I was not alone made me feel better about what I was doing, and like I really was part of a class rather than a student in limbo. Some of their findings are things I will use later such as the internet safety article by Shariff Shaheen and the 100 best blogs for librarians.
Being able to ask questions and receive timely answers added to my feeling of being connected. It was not as rewarding as a face to face discussion as I would often think of more questions which I would have asked in a conversation, but felt like I was being too picky when typing out a whole new response on line so didn't bother. A fault in me as a learner.
Once I sorted out the way the eclass page was set up, and how to access page 2 and 3 of the WebCT/Blackboard, life became easier as well. I missed the first discussion because I had not figured out all of the eclass page yet. My advice to other students would be to carefully go through the entire eclass site. It also took me a long time to sort out the U of A library, and I'm still not clear on how to find certain items. My own lack of technology knowledge was the most frustrating part.
The most rewarding part, was the amount of new information I received. It was overwhelming at times, and my first order of business once this course ends is to sort through all of my notes, check all the things I made notes to check, read all the things I bookmarked and delete all the things I know I won't use. My paper file is a jumbled mess of notes and to do items that I need to take time to arrange. Once all of my personal information is organized, I want to make a Web 2.0 overview for my colleagues so that they can look over it and then ask about any thing that interests them so we can work together to use it. I will also let them access my blog, so they can see what I did this summer. My district is doing three pro-d days prior to the start of the school year, and in one workshop a librarian from an adjoining district is doing a Web 2.0 overview so hopefully that will also inspire some teachers to learn more.
I have all sorts of plans for specific things I want to do with the technologies we've learned. For myself, the pro-d available through blogs and nings is the most exciting aspect. I will also try more twitter to give it a fair chance. For my students, I am hoping to use wikis for increased collaboration and blogs for journal entries. For my colleagues, I would like to increase our ability to have meaningful discussions and collaborate more probably using wikis and blogs to start. For the library, I want to encourage more use of web 2.0 technologies for effective research, including checking through virtual libraries, and also teach students about bookmarking and RSS feeds. For my school, I am going to learn more about our district technology policy and work with our technology expert to create lessons that help teach appropriate internet behaviour for our students.
One of my biggest fears coming into this course was the security issue. I agree with Miguel Guhlin who said the act of use casts out the fear of change. It has. I now see that Will Richardson was right in saying that we fear them (Web technologies) because we don't know how to use them. My fear has diminished. Richardson also states that it is imperative we be able to teach our kids how to use them effectively and appropriately because they don't have models to follow. We can't do that if we don't learn how. I have seen what is available and the type of safety precautions that are out there, and will continue to explore and use the Web 2.0 technologies, sharing with others as I become more comfortable and when I see opportunities for the technologies to have a purpose and make our busy lives easier.
My brain was not on sabbatical this summer. It was engaged and working overtime. I found myself getting more and more comfortable in front of a computer screen, and I am starting the year with all sorts of new, exciting and helpful tools to use. I need to make sure I approach this carefully and slowly so that I don't give up in frustration. It has indeed been a worthwhile and illuminating endeavour.