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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Social technologies



Ewan has a neat article about social technologies and what they mean for learning. He says:

So not only do these technologies cater for a need until now unfulfilled by the on-off yes-no I-O binary of technology. They are also allowing us to socialise in a different way. Where technology has thus far helped us in a changing world, social software tools are being proactive in helping us work, rest and play the way we want to and not, for the first time, the way that the rest of society wants/expects us to behave. Suw reveals some truisms: people have less time to socialise than before; taking breaks is frowned upon; where are we getting our social input? Her answer: we’re getting our social input on short text messaging, MSN chat, on multiplayer games (World of Warcraft), on blogs (and on leaving comments on Flickr: I’ve added this last bit since discovering the friends you can make through a mutual passion for taking pics of Paris).


Here are some points I've noticed in my classroom that are very salient for me. I am using Wikispaces and podcasting extensively but only have been since December. What has resulted is a richer learning environment, greater retention, and genuine excitement.

The most amazing thing is that we are doing our 3 week of SAT skills review -- it used to be the most boring, painful experience. Now, we are all having a great time! Here is how I believe our SAT review project paralells to Ewan's article:

1 - Focus on Outcomes rather than Techniques
2 - Provide Options for Learning
3 - Respect Parallel Thinking and Multitasking
6 - Provide active learning environments
7 - Allow learning to be social
8 - Provide opportunity for reflection

Each pair of students has a section to review on the Math section. (I amusing some Triumph material, SAT I for Dummies -- a great book and real SAT books.) The students do three things with the material:
The wikispace is intended to be a quick review for students when they take it later. For many of them this is their only year with me to get a review. I have two of these sat.wikispaces.com and the Westwood wikispace. (I'd probably say the first one is the most complete. You can see the division of the topics by going to the wiki.)
  • Create a script for the review podcast
Students are turning in a script that is a brief review. They are being pieced together so that they can have about a 30 minute review to download into their iPods and listen to on the way to the SAT to refresh their memories. These podcasts are hilarious and informative. I'll post when we upload the first one sometime next week.
  • Using the material -- conduct a class review
The students use the material to conduct a review for the class. They can use the fun review games on my computer (Hollywood squares, Jeopardy) or give a quiz to measure the class' comprehension. They are graded on well the class learns. One of the teams did such a good job -- they created their review in a Hollywood Squares game and went around the school taking pictures of "celebrities" -- the principal, teachers, administrators to be the celebrities on squares. The review was so much fun and very informative. Much better than I would have had time to do.
  • Individual Work
If projects are completed or "spare time" emerges, the students work in the Coach Software to work on their specific weaknesses. We've found just the use of the Coach software to significantly improve our scores.

These activities are basically being conducted at the same time with different deadlines for each portion of the project. I am taking grades on the teaching, the in class review quizzes (if I feel the material was taught effectively), the wikispaces, the podcast scripts, the podcast recordings, and the amount of time spent in the Coach Software reviewing and taking quizzes.

The students are spending a lot of free time discussing these items, working on their projects, and yes, even laughing. Last year at this time I was hating life.

I believe Ewan and the other educational experts are on to something. I've been seeing it in my classroom! I am seeing the results on improved testing and retention. We'll see how they do on the January 28th SAT.
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