As I head into Day 2 of the OTF “Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century” session, I thought that I would take a look back at what happened about nine months ago at the first time that Ontario educators got together to learn together about the use of Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom.
I had made three blog posts at that time talking about the excitement going into and exiting the original event.
The same excitement permeats those in attendance as the various elements of classroom use are explored. One of the differences this year involved the greater inclusion of the outside world into our learning. Last year, we had a backchannel of sorts that used Chatzy as the electronic facilitator. This year, and undoubtedly as a result of a year’s worth of sophistication of the tools, we took the conversation to Twitter, using the hashtag #otf2009. The use of Twitter has become more mature during this time with better tracking and searching features and more people online interested in finding and following people and tags on the micro-blogging service.
Exciting things are happening. We were treated to some success stories from Avon Maitland, Ottawa-Carleton, Grand Erie, and Hamilton-Wentworth. We can see the power of using these sort of tools in the classroom in order to make great things happen.
A couple of things haven’t changed though and they come through formally through big group discussion and smaller group commiserating. Internet content filtering still prohibits the access to some of these resources in some boards and the other concerns is the age old question of where do you find the time to learn about this.
If we are truly going to expand our boundaries and make changes to teaching practice for the 21 Century, both of these challenges have to be addressed. They are serious issues, require a serious approach and a serious implementation to any proposed solution. In the case of access, this is a challenge to master as not all classrooms are prepared to use all of the tools purposefully, at the same time. As with so many things, there are folks who are ready to fly with the technology and there are others who have focussed their learnings in different directions. A successful solution in this case may be accomplished by using local tools like the Ministry of Education’s Net Support School which allows for classroom or group access to various resources.
In terms of time, this is changing as well. As the discussions continue about the value of online tools, professional educators and exploring and learning about the best way to incorporate these. When I compare the discussions, it’s amazing how it has changed in nine months. Even better though, the tools themselves have become a great deal better. As with most things, they are evolving and are easier to use. In the hands of students, they are becoming just another tool that empower rather than frustrate.
There is a sense of enhanced implementation and success when you talk to folks around the room. We have expanded our horizons from the original concept. Kudos go to OTF and ECOO for taking the initiative on this learning opportunity to push the province. The challenge to all of us in attendance is to reach out and influence those that we can to come along and use modern tools in Ontario classrooms for the benefit of all students.
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