Influencing Others

Graham Wegner keeps coming up with thought provoking posts and his latest post on how to get all teachers online is no exception. Graham brings together a compelling argument that as the online environment is very much part of our student’s everyday life teachers have a duty to enable students to make sense of and use the best aspects to their benefit. The question then is why aren’t more teachers doing this?

Over the last couple of years I have been beavering away in a number of forums trying to get more teachers online. I have presented at the school level through to tertiary level pre-service students with audience size ranging from just a handful through to a “scary” 130+. On each occasion it has been relatively easy to get the enthusiasm levels up. I can draw on enough different examples of online practice from personal experience to get the conversation started without even going out to check the wider online environment. the problem is in getting teachers to take the next step into using it productively.

Last Thursday I ran another session at school for any staff from my school who wished to attend as well as six others from our school network, (there were supposed to be twelve others but ?????). By the end of the hour all participants had their own blog via our Departmental blogging GlobalTeacher, (a great initiative in itself and a major “selling point”). At least two of the participants from my school will almost certainly get their blog populated very soon and I am sure that the others will soon follow. Despite this small measure of success the majority of teachers in our school still have only a passing appreciation of the opportunities that are possible using online environments. For some of those others that can see possibilities there are still a swag of reasons why it is hard to get to the next stage including;

  • the time needed to enroll their class
  • finding curriculum justification for using these environments, (our guidelines suggest that it isn’t until the end of year 9 that students need to know how to blog, which means some of my year 4’s from last year were very advanced??)
  • remodelling an often very restrictive timetable to enable students to contribute
  • planning to use tools that most teachers have played with only minimally, (we can all use a text book because we’ve practiced it so often)
  • dealing with the issues of safety
  • building in monitoring procedures
  • overcoming the fear of having things go “wrong”
  • dealing with networks that may or may not work, (this week for the 4th week in a row for four different reasons I was unable to get all five grades in our senior unit started with their web based projects)

and they’re only the ones that I can think of. I’m sure if I asked around I would get lots more. In fact that would probably make a great meme, perhaps each of us in schools could ask a colleague who doesn’t blog, (but has at least some passing knowledge of the blogosphere), their five top reasons why they have yet to begin an online environment.

Reinforcing the negative element, Bud Hunt reports on a very unfortunate end to a collaborative experience. Ben Wilkoff’s experience serves as a cautionary to make sure that as we venture beyond the classroom online motives and behaviour can be interpreted in many ways. On this score I have just taken to including in all of our latest spaces a set of “rules” for using the spaces.  Hopefully this will provide some guidance for not only the students involved but also the parents.

Least such experiences be the catalyst for pulling up the drawbridge and logging off for god on a more positive note,  Doug Belshaw has 5 nice ideas for following up after a training session he ran recently. These make for nice reading and follow the adage that all the best professional development activities leave teachers with something that they can take back to their classrooms the next day.

BTW if you are interested in some, (admittedly older but still usable), notes that I have used in my PD sessions on edublogs, wikispaces, audacity and some other bits and pieces under the Problems and Promises tab above.

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3 Responses to Influencing Others

  1. Ben Wilkoff says:

    Thank you for bringing my post into your fantastic and expansive look at the reality of having teachers and students in an online collaborative environment. If you are interested in my set of rules for student content creation or in the School 2.0 within a School that we are trying to start, you can head over to http://academyofdiscovery.wikispaces.com

  2. johnp says:

    Hi Ben,

    Actually it is the rest of us who need to thank you for your candour and honesty in explaining your recent experience. Some of us might have licked our wounds and retreated back to the cave. What you have done though is not only alert the rest of us in education to yet another wrinkle in the ‘sphere’ but also provided us with a real story to confront the peddlers of internet predatory doom that are already starting to speak louder.

    Hey the Code of Conduct is so extensive pity help any attorney who has to front you guys :). My little list pales by comparison…..

    I can’t wait till your next collaborative project gets up and running. By way of encouragement, my 2006 grade 3/4 had lots of fun doing a collaborative blog with a school from Guernsey last year at http://manila.bellaireps.vic.edu.au/commonwealthgames/ fortunately we never had any problems with parents OS.

  3. Ben Wilkoff says:

    Thanks for the compliment. We really have tried to get everything in order to make collaboration safe and engaging. Because we are still writing a lot of the flat-classroom elements of the Academy of Discovery, we are open to all sorts of new projects with multiple grade levels. If you know anyone who is looking for a contact in Colorado and enjoys talking about 19th century literature, Utopian societies, Persuasive writing, Blogging/Podcasting, Apprenticeship learning, or the 1940s; please ask them to take a look at the wiki.

    I also think that your collaboration on a sporting event is great. If you are gearing up for anything next year that you might like an older perspective on (7th/8th grade), let me know about that too.

    Also, I talk a lot about other wrinkles in the “sphere” on my Discourse about Discourse Educast: http://bhwilkoff.podomatic.com

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