Web 2.0 with Brett Gosselin

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April 27th, 2011
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Week 2 with Brett Gosselin, ESL teacher from Klein ISD in Houston, TX.

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So lets continue our discussion of Web 2.0 tools, shall we? I decided that since there are so many different audiences who could be following this blog, I’m going to segment my contributions into sections from now on. Jump down to the area that most pertains to you so you don’t have to put up with all of my babbling. Make sure you check the discussion at the bottom though, that’s for everyone.

Newbie Tip of the Week

Last week, a commentor noted that the most effective way to introduce technology into your classroom is in baby steps-I could not agree more. Start small, choose one thing to work on and don’t worry about anything else until you are happy with that one thing. Here are some guidelines to follow when deciding what and how to implement:

1. Go web-based when at all possible-There are some cool programs that are available to students offline which work great for big projects, but if you are looking to amp daily activities, online is the way to go. This is an arena that your students are already comfortable with and find interesing-you don’t have to sell it to them.

2. Ask yourself-is this really enhancing the learning or is it just technology-Sometimes we can get so worked up with using technology that we lose sight of the intended learning objective. I know from experience with a prezi nightmare I tried out at the beginning of this year. I really wanted to use the prezi meeting feature (it allows users that you invite to view what you are doing within a prezi in real time. You can also choose a couple of students to be editors to represent their group by adding their responses to the prezi). This would have been great except that it was blocked to students. Instead of scrapping the idea and looking elsewhere, I kept it going, leaving my own prezi up on the SMART board and having members of each group come one at a time to add their groups ideas to my own prezi that was being projected to the class. It was awful. If you have ever seen a multiple-car pile up, you can visualize what the front of my room looked like when students were trying to use this program. Best of all, I was being observed because I opened my big mouth and bragged about this website and its projected success before I actually tried it out-not good. Don’t do that.

3. Look for collaborative sites- This is the ideal. No matter what, we want our students to communicate about what they are learning. That does not always happen within the context of a pen and paper activity. To achieve this, you can start with something as simple as a chat session in Edmodo. With my ELLs, I will often put pictures of what we are discussing in edmodo as a note and then have them discuss what they see, how it relates to the story, or provide descriptions. Had I done this sans internet, I’m confident I would not have had the same level of engagement. Other collaborative sites to check out would be prezi.com, livebinder.com, typewith.me, scrumy.com, writeboard.com, and a ton of others that you will find as you go. Like I said, start small, choose one, become that expert on that one site and then worry about what else you can do.

Tool High-Light of the Week: Edublogs

It was difficult for me to decide on what to begin with as there are obviously so very many resources available to us online, but I felt that edublogs was a good place to start as it is so versatile, and the kids love to do it. Seriously, you should have seen the look on my students faces when I told them they were going to write their own blogs; it was one of those smiles that they were trying to hold back but came out anyway (it is school after all, it’s not supposed to be cool :). If you have not started this practice with your students, I highly recommend it as the benefits are huge and it is relatively simple to implement. Some ideas:

1. Response to learning-We all know that reflection after learning is key to retention. If that’s the case, why not have students post what they have learned blog-style? It’s simple, it accomplishes the same goal, and it feels more like communication than education to the students. Eveyone wins.

2. Practice writing-I am sneaky with my students’ blogs; I make them practice their formal writing but in a way that doesn’t seem like formal writing. For example, with ELLs, the five paragraph essay is a big task to accomplish. However, these students (as many others) function well with visuals, so I give them the same topic they would have to write an essay about but have them begin with a blog. We just finished a research project about the juvenile justice system where the students worked in groups to each post a different aspect of their argument. What they didn’t know was that they were outlining their essay in the process. This way, they have all the organization and ideas in place and can focus on voice and diction when it comes time for the essay.

Here is an example of this project. Keep in mind that these students are teenagers who have only been learning English for one year.

http://kfeslperiod6group3.edublogs.org/

3. A place to display their accomplishments-because of all the media that can be accessed through a blog, this is a great way to create portfolios or gallery walls showcasing a student’s best accomplishments. This also means that they would have to do a lot of other web-based activities in order to link their work to, so it would be a good challenge to keep them going on the web (on a side note, it is possible to put documents into a blog if you want to, you just have to add an extra step. Try using a site like issuu to make your students documents web-based and then they can link or embed them in their blog).

The best part is, this can all be linked into edmodo using the RSS feed subscription so your students will automatically see what their classmates are talking about. It also helps them to feel like they have an audience and there is a purpose to their work.

Clearly, blogging is one of my favorite activities to do with the students as they are already so prone to this form of communication. Edublogs is a great site for this as the registration is very easy and they have the options for both an easy and advanced admin page. This way, all students with all levels of computer literacy can easily participate. Try it out if you haven’t, or, if you have, let us know what you have done with blogs for your students.

Discussion Topic for the Week

Alright, today’s topic:

What is one web tool that you have used successfully in your classes?

Thanks everyone! Y’all come back now, ya hear! (I had to, sorry)


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