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The teacher remains central to student learning March 5, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
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From Jane Hunter

The teacher will always remain central to student learning in schools and in universities. This argument is supported in two books I have recently read. The first is William Kist’s new book The Socially Networked Classroom (2010), and the other is Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful Web 2.0 Tools for Classrooms (2009). For example, Richardson  states that “through the unique process of blogging students are learning to read more critically, think about their reading more analytically and write more clearly” (p.20).

Other education academics  who do research in teaching and new technologies like Erica McWilliam (2009) from the Queensland University of Technology posit the notion of ‘next practice’ and ‘creative capacity building’ in 21st century learning; she suggests a ‘meddler in the middle’, a teacher who utilizes an active, interventionist role in the classroom and really knows about pedagogy.

Blogs are powerful Web 2.0 tool for learning. If you hold that idea for one moment and add it to some of Kist’s, Richardson’s and McWilliam’s research – then teachers using blogs as meta-pedagogical organisers for student learning are potent ways to achieve key aims in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.

As mentioned  in a previous post, from March 2010 the NSW Department of Education and Training blogging tool, blogED, is being delivered through the Connected Classrooms Program.  blogEd provides the teachers who plan to use it with a ‘next practice’ and ‘creative’ pedagogical opportunity. The following snapshot is an example of how a high school teacher (pseudonym used for her name and the school) used blogED during the 2009 trial.

Kate is Head Teacher, Visual Arts and Computing Studies at Farley High School in South-Western Sydney region. She described her motivation for being a ‘blogger’: “visual arts, as with every other subject, lends itself beautifully to the use of a blog. Digital video drove my need to develop my computer literacy, and with the development of the new Photographic and Digital Media syllabus, opportunities to incorporate Photoshop and other software to digitally enhance 2D art forms are endless”.

Kate used the tool with her mixed-ability elective Year 9 Visual Arts class, and said, “when my students go home, I want them to be thinking about my subject more than any other subject! The blog provides a fantastic link between school and home – I set a descriptive task for homework, I had 27 hits on the blog in 24 hours”. She set daily blogs, and a weekly blog for short and longer learning tasks. Such blogs would be loaded with stimulus material in the form of video, vodcasts, links to internet sites and to still images. The students also were able to upload their own material via the concept of a “Di-Log” (a digital log or journal) when Kate gave them authoring rights.

Over the trial students’ uploaded compressed video art, scans and photographs of their artworks, and wrote recounts of their processes. “What was also interesting,” she said, “was that the more literate students were able to model better grammar for the ESL students, as they read each other’s responses. When the NAPLAN results are available, I will be able to design blog tasks that specifically address individual students’ needs in literacy and numeracy”.

Significantly, Kate saw using the blog as an occasion to enhance her relationship with students: “I know my students better after using the blog, I saw more of their personalities, all without much more of my own time. In fact, interacting with students’ written responses on a blog is far faster than taking home a stack of books”.

Three students from her class commented, “I now know more about the subject because it has a blog”; “I showed the blog to my parents to show them how well I am working in class with other students and how much work I am getting done!” and “I like how students can post comments and do their homework on the blog. You learn better since you can locate it on the Internet at home, you can’t forget your homework or lose it”.

In the later part of the trial Kate started a new blog, ‘The Hall of Fame’ – a list of students who did something well during the lesson. Students’ names were recorded on the classroom’s interactive whiteboard and noted on the class blog. At the end of the term they were awarded a merit certificate to show their parents and family that they had made it to … ‘The Hall of Fame’.

In a future posting I’d like to share a snapshot of how a primary school teacher in a Western Sydney school used blogED with his class.

 Jane Hunter

4 March 2010


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