Present Pedagogical Ecosystem

Social networking is not a bubble filled with colleagues we know. It’s precisely the opposite – an enormous, continuously changing environment in which we choose to collaborate and learn from people we may not know personally. It’s a new pedagogical ecosystem that takes down classroom walls and makes our teaching transparent. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable to appreciate the power of social networking in education. Unfortunately, many teachers are afraid to take that risk today.

Edmodo is a great example of a dynamic online environment that helps build a learning community in which every member is given a voice and empowered to influence another. I’ve used Edmodo for two years, and I find it to be a perfect platform for teaching digital literacy and writing. Either it’s a brainstorming activity or feedback on a rough draft, Edmodo offers features to do it effectively and efficiently. There is something special about being able to post a question, sit back, and watch kids think and communicate online. I know who my students truly are because Edmodo conversations let the students run the learning show while I am offstage, assessing their skills and academic performance. I love the annotating tool within assignments, too. This feature allows me to comment on student work submitted in any format (documents, Power Point presentations, images, and etc.), converse with a student about mistakes, and continue a one-on-one writing conference in this manner. One click, and students are able to see my notes, start revisions, or ask questions. As each draft improves, Edmodo keeps track of all submitted versions which enables me to see how well students analyze feedback and are able to improve own work. In addition, a few Edmodo apps that support writing instruction in a classroom are available for purchase. Teachers can join Language Art or Writing communities to collaborate with other professionals on specific topics, strategies, or lesson ideas.

To me, Google Docs are a well-packaged collaborative platform, and its possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination. I know many of us create documents and presentations to share with others, but we often forget the purpose of this tool: creating something together, revising, and perfecting it. I imagine Google Docs being an engine for writing instruction. For example, a document can be a place for groups to brainstorm ideas, categorize them, and develop a plan in the pre-writing stage. While writing rough drafts, students can evaluate each other’s work using requirements of a rubric and provide specific feedback to improve it. Writing itself can be collaborative: students may work in pairs to develop a story. Teachers would not need to carry thirty composition books home to read and comment on student writing. Instead, they can dive into it with Google Docs, comment on strength, and define weaknesses upon which students can act immediately.

I also imagine teachers writing together with Google Docs. Why not to set up a document that would serve as a lesson plan template? Teachers can divide and conquer multiple subjects or units at the same time. While one is developing lessons for math, another teacher finishes language arts activities. With no emails or hard copies, both have access to the ready-to-go  lesson plans. Google Docs can help us teach kids how to plan, execute, and evaluate work that is accomplished collaboratively. The same approach can be implemented when developing teaching or professional learning resources. Collaboratively created presentations and documents can then be implemented in classrooms and/or become a part of the school resource library. Below is an example of a short presentation that offers some suggestions on how technology can be implemented in writing instruction.

Honestly, I do not even remember what I did to gather and record information before I learned about Google Forms. Did I take notes on every response and then manually combined them into a data sheet? That’s a scary thought…Today, I use Google Form almost everyday. For example, I fill one out every time I observe teachers and provide feedback on their technology integration strategies. I have developed a simple form and set it up so the feedback is automatically emailed to teachers as soon as I click the submit button. The feedback is immediate, and I have a summary report for every observation I conduct. Then I analyze the combined data, represent it in numbers and graphs, and share it with the staff. I have implemented other forms for the kindergarten registration process, app suggestion surveysthe end-of-the-year technology check list, and many more. Just like social networking tools, Google Docs are a convenient way to support creativity, communication, and collaboration among teachers, students, and parents.

YouTube Kind of Love

YouTube is huge, powerful, and not always beautiful…kind of like love. We simply cannot avoid it. Educators may be skeptical about its content, but they use it in lessons anyway. Many teachers love YouTube, but kids live it. They have accounts, subscribe to channels they love, comment on others’ work, and  publish their own videos. I observe students going directly to YouTube, not Google, to search an answer to a how-to question. When asked why, they say: “I want to see it.” And they are right – most of us are visual learners, and a good YouTube video will teach more than a thousand words of a well-prepared lecture ever will.   

Right now, I am working on building a unit on explorers with our fourth grade team. I took a chance and YouTube-ed the topic. With a click of a button, more than thirteen thousand videos were at my fingertips. Yes, it took me time to find what I wanted: a video with relevant and reliable content. I discovered Colonial America, a great resource, but not necessary a video production. It’s lengthy and includes names of explorers that, according the Social Studies Georgia Performance Standards, fourth graders do not need to know. I think it would be beneficial to break down the video into smaller segments using TubeChop and show them throughout the unit. I also found Discoverin’ America, a song written by students and presented in a video format. The content is relevant, and kids who love music would definitely make a connection with this resource. I have to say that videos suggested at the end were not necessary for the eyes of elementary students; therefore, I would suggest usingSafeShare.TV to create a safe link to the video, leaving out any advertisements, comments, or suggested videos. 

YouTube resources for professional learning can be easily accessed by teachers at any time anywhere. Just like other social media tools, YouTube can be a powerful place to build a personal professional network in which teachers can subscribe to channels, read and post comments, and connect with professionals around the world. About three years ago, I met Meg Ormistong, a presenter at GaETC. She had a YouTube channel, and we were invited to subscribe to it. This was my first encounter with connections on YouTube. Now I have a whole list of educators whose YouTube presentations I follow. It helps me stay connected and learn from great instructional technology leaders like Jamie Vandergrift. She has her channel directed towards professional development for her teachers. Social Media for Professional Development is a great example of her work.  

One of my favorite how-to channels is ExcellsFun. I’ve never had a formal training on Excel, and it is challenging for me to create forms with formulas needed to track and analyze data in the Data Team process. This channel has helped me learn how to create sophisticated formulas, link data, and create graphs. 

Sometimes, we all need a good laugh. We often go to YouTube to find and share funny videos via emails, Twitter, or Facebook. To stay focused on academics, I thought it’s a perfect time to watch State Scores Arrive at the Bunker and smile…