Discover what smart strategies, solutions and practices you can be implementing to prepare your IT infrastructure for the inevitable technological changes coming to your campus.
One hundred years ago, many teachers taught classes within a certain geographic area. They were limited to talking with local people and following policies created by area administrators.
“It’s only been in the past 10 years with more of the advent of Web 2.0 that distance has really become a speed bump rather than a roadblock to long-distance collaboration between educators who are interested in the same topics,” said Jason Flom, a fifth-grade teacher at Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee, Fla., and founder of the blog Ecology of Education.
Blogs, forums, list serves, chat rooms, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools have expanded the learning scene for educators. Now someone in Australia can collaborate with someone in the United States and trade ideas. And that’s crucial if teachers want to prepare their students for life in a global community.
“It’s really important to go over and see how other people in other states, other countries and other continents do early childhood and elementary education, because it’s done differently in different places,” said Alice Mercer, a computer prep teacher at Oak Ridge Elementary School in Sacramento, Calif., who created the blog Reflections on Teaching. “If you’re doing it the way that’s mandated where you’re at, you may miss something that could be a really great idea.”
Networking online allows educators to discover what others are teaching, share their thoughts and fears, and realize that they’re not alone, said Michelle Everson, a lecturer at the University of Minnesota. She belongs to list serves and started a Google group last year to connect with other educators.
“Sometimes it can be sort of isolating when you’re an instructor if you don’t feel you have anyone to talk to and anyone to bounce ideas off of or get feedback from,” Everson said. “It can make you a better instructor if you have that community where you can go to.”
When Scott McLeod wants to learn more about preparing education leaders to teach their students how to use technology, the director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education doesn’t read scholarly journals. The peer-reviewed academic literature doesn’t give him what he needs, so he goes to social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook as well as the blogosphere, where he started Dangerously Irrelevant.
A lot of smart people are finding great resources and sharing them with others for free online, but many educators don’t take advantage of them, he said, adding that they aren’t trained, don’t want to take risks and don’t understand the value of online social networking.
“We need to help students master this space, which means that we have to become more proficient in it ourselves,” McLeod said, “and I think most K-12 educators and most university professors have no clue about this stuff, so how are we going to prepare the next generation?”
Within minutes, an educator who has built an online personal learning network can access instructional resources that are research driven and right in the moment of what’s working, said Chad Ratliff, founder and publisher of the blog Edurati Review. Twitter especially has become a portal to instant knowledge and information.
“To say I learn something new every day is an understatement,” Ratliff said. “It’s more like you learn many things every day, and they open up just fields and resources that you never even knew existed.”
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