Friday, January 28, 2011

Online Class Environments (2)

Following on from my last post, and thinking about the big ideas that underpin elearning pedagogy, I've decided to create multiple online environments to document students learning journeys. This will hopefully provide them with greater opportunities to document various aspects of their learning in ways which I never explored last year.

This is a progression from last year, where my focus was on establishing a class wikispace. It focussed mainly on showcasing students finished work. It wasn't until the end of the year that I started thinking about how I could use digital tools to capture the process as well as the product.

Here is an example, click on the image to enlarge it.

The idea here was to capture a student's planning process through to her writing a draft copy of a simple informational report on a rainforest animal. The template for the planning process was created using Inspiration software. There are many resources available to help with this process. This particular template I used was one in a CD series created by Jacqui Sharp

As well as developing the process and product aspect of documenting students learning journeys via wikis, I've finally got around to establishing individual students blogs. Much has been written about the benefits students derive from blogging, and I'm quite keen to see how my students go with this ... I'm pretty sure they will love it.

For student blogs I'm using kidblog. I choose this platform as it enables the teacher to moderate blogs and restrict viewing options, plus it is so simple to set up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Online Class Environments

My physical classroom environment set-up has been put on hold for a while ... let's just say it is a work in progress. I've had more success thinking about how my online class environments will look this year. Some of the big ideas that underpin elearning pedagogy have helped me make decisions on which direction to take.

First, the notion that classrooms in the 21st century should be "open walled" enabling learning to occur wherever and whenever. I've renamed our class wiki to help promote this idea in the minds of my students - I even took a screen shot of the wiki banner, ran it through PosteRazor (which is a free mac app that allows you to blow images up a large as "printed it off - laminated it and stuck it on the "front" wall of the class.

If you have a mac go to

Looking for a web 2.0 tool?

I'm hoping this poster will help promote some discussion amongst students.

Second, the notion that social media is the means by which students today communciate and learn. I found this to be particularly true of my class last year. Out of a class of 30 students, 29 had facebook accounts. I was quite surprised (although I guess I shouldn’t have been). With this in mind, I’m going to trial a “closed platform” network for my class this year, it does have a few limitations, but the potential for creating new and rich learning experiences is huge - I’ll post more on this later.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A vision for elearning

My main focus this year is to move in the direction of establishing an authentic elearning classroom. Whether I "arrive" at the end of the year or not remains to be seen, but I see it as an ongoing journey that probably has no "final" destination ... which is I think is good thing - keeps teaching / learning fresh and relevant. The main thing is to be on the road and moving in the right direction.

One of the big "a-ha" moments for me personally, was in coming to grips with the differences between a digital classroom and an elearning one. Have a look at this slideshow, it is quite helpful.

Digital classrooms focus on the tools and their availability (1-1 computing), the mode of delivery is usually teacher instruction.

With elearning classrooms there would seem to be a "better fit" (in my opinion) with the key competencies. Children facillitate their own learning through understanding their preferred learning style and by choosing the appropriate tools to meet these ends. Social media is the medium by which they communicate and learn. Students develop their own learning pathways and document these through eportfolios. There is a focus on self reflection and assessment. Finally, classrooms become "open walled' where learning occurs whenever and wherever.

This is the challenge for me in 2011, to embrace this paradigm for teaching and create multiple learning environments where my students will have success in their own learning journeys.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Classroom Environment

The school year is fast approaching and I thought I'd better have a look at how I'm going to set up my classroom to further develop the vision of elearning with my new class. I've been doing a bit of reading about "educational spaces" and wanted to see what I could do to promote these ideas in my own classroom environment. Below is a great blog about these "ideas" The video about Ordrup school is well worth a look, I found it to be quite inspiring ...

It's really neat to see schools who are embracing this type of vision for learning ....

Anyway ... back to my class. I have a prefab with 32 students this year. My first idea was to try and get the computers off the walls - easier said than done. All the power points are located on the walls. I tried running long extension leads over the beams and dropping them down onto table groups - not a good look, as a colleague remarked ..."I'm sure that contravenes a number of health and safety laws" She was right of course .. it looked like a dog's breakfast.

As it turns out, I'd have nowhere for the students to sit anyway if I continued down this road. The desktop computers will remain against the walls ... for now anyway :-( I haven't got very far creating any secret spaces etc either ... need to really think hard about this one, I can certainly see the value in them. It's quite an art just to cram 32 students plus desks into a prefab space.

I'm still keeping a small mat space for me to work with small groups of kids ... I know, I know old habits die hard - anyway what I have managed to do is ... remove my desk from the equation. The teacher now has no desk in the classroom environment. This is quite revolutionary for me, I don't know how I'll cope, or where I'll put those coffee cups and packets of panadol !