Will students be using their laptops primarily for taking notes in lecture?

Above is a common question I hear these days as we unfold our new 1:1 laptop program.   No, not primarily, I explain, and then launch into a slightly too-elaborated explanation of empowering our students with the digital tools they need to best implement Aristotle’s advice (yes, 4th century BCE Aristotle) of learning by doing– learning to create, to communicate, to collaborate in the most modern ways by doing all these things digitally and on-line.

I think we have a problem in education, that of the misunderstanding of the potential uses and value of digitally integrated learning, and I think the solution lies at least in part in rallying around the concept, and incredible power, of the Web 2.0.

Naming things is significant; a name might be simple, might be short, might be seen as jargon, but with a name something becomes referable, deployable, scalable that much easier.   Web 2.0 is this term, and offers this power.

Over the past few years I have had heard the term;  it was zinging around out there on the periphery of much of my very much developing thinking.  But lately it has meaningfully converged– this is the term, so simple and short a term, to capture a concept that has become so very significant to me.

And yet, I fear that still only few educators know the term and understand its implications for teaching and learning.   Eric Sheninger, who is an excellent New Jersey principal and blogger/tweeter, recently tweeted that he interviewed four different Science teaching candidates, and not a one knew what web 2.0 meant.  I think this needs to change.

The concept of Web 2.0 has been becoming more compelling to me as I think about how to frame and articulate the way I hope we increasingly will use our laptops in learning at St. Gregory as we advance our 1:1 program we are calling Wings.  Web 2.0 is meant to contrast with Web 1.0, which was and is the internet as a consumption tool, something we used to view what others published on-line, or to purchase goods.  Web 2.0, however,  is where we all become the publishers, the creators, the communicators and collaborators—and where we exploit this unbelievable tool and resource to become ourselves contributors to knowledge and collaborators with the world.

From Wikipedia (itself, an example of web 2.0):

A Web 2.0 site gives its users the free choice to interact or collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumer) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumer) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them. Examples of Web 2.0 include social-networking sitesblogs,wikisvideo-sharing siteshosted servicesweb applicationsmashups and folksonomies.

Web 2.0 as the organizing framework has been prompted for me in several places of late, and none more so than in the outstanding thinking and advocacy Clay Shirky is offering; I think his book Cognitive Surplus is a hugely interesting articulation of the potential of the interconnected and creative web.

A second prompt arose in the learning I am taking from Schrum and Levin’s book, Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement. Their chapter 3, New Tools for Collaboration, Communication, and Creation, has been quite valuable in outlining and framing the concept and significance of web 2.o in learning, and I will quote:

The new tools of Web 2.0 fit in with the new ways of working together, of encouraging learners and teachers to construct effective experiences, demonstrating their skills and knowledge in authentic ways, and creating learning environments that support effective assessment and outcomes.

Schurm and Levine do a fine job of tightly integrating two themes in educational reform that are both so important to me, and yet which I have not always recognized the linkage: the importance of learning of 21st century skills such as collaboration, creativity and communication, and the value of integrating on-line learning in our classrooms.

A third inspiration for me has not been in a book but in an experience.   I know that my thinking about what and how we teach is often informed by what and how I am learning, and in July I had a really awesome learning experience at a bloggers’ “unconference” in Boston, experiencing for myself how my own growth can be enhanced by digitally enhanced collaboration.

Finally, there have been a number of really useful and informative articles and posts I have encountered this summer, which I am eager to relay to others as they think about how to develop their own Web 2.0 classrooms and schoolhouses.   One, in the New York Times, offers Tech Tips for Teachers: Free, Easy, and Useful Creation Tools.

New technologies are a powerful way for teachers to take their instruction to the next level. With so many choices, the trick is to locate user-friendly tools that allow you to craft differentiated learning experiences that engage students and help them develop 21st-century skills.

In that spirit, below are five ways to support student creation and “public displays of learning” using online technology tools.  If you’re a Luddite, not to worry: these tools are easy to understand and easy to use, and they can make your classroom more interesting, interactive and student-centered.

Tools suggested by the article include Glogster EDU, wordle (which are always really intriguing), a ComicCreator, a Time-line creator, and a Mindmap generator.

Meanwhile, edudemic offers a really great overview of the 100 best and free online learning tools; t/h/e journal provides a nice piece, Ed Tech Teachers Choose Top web 2.o Tools. Both pieces have helped develop my ongoing thinking about this, and inspired my energy about this.

Over at a wikispace called Cool tools for Schools, there is a great aggregation of Web 2.0 tools, organized for teachers in a handy way for all kinds of classroom uses.   This site could be a one-stop shopping site for educators, and even for students who wish to help their teachers understand better how using web 2.0 can help them in their  learning.  Inasmuch as it is a wiki, educators can visit here and contribute their own ideas to strengthen the site.

Onwards with Web 2.0 learning.  Enjoy the musical video below for another take on the revolution.