Crossing the Divide

On Monday I taught a workshop called Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts to a room full of teachers from my district. I knew I was taking on a lot by trying to include all three topics (and RSS), but little did I know that I could have called it just Blogs and that would have been just fine. I spent the last fifteen minutes explaining the concepts behind wikis and podcasts, providing them with a set of resources for personal exploration.

Since NECC I have been focusing a lot more on reading the ed tech blogs out there (see sidebar). I immersed my self in Web 2.0 technologies – I’ve played with Writely, YouTube, and explored WordPress for the first time. I was in a pure ed tech state of mind.

I ended up experiencing a strange sort of culture shock. Most of the participants had never read a blog. There were some who struggled with basic Internet use.

I started the workshop off with an overview of Web 2.0, discussing the greater implications, the philosophy behind it, and its potential impact on education. Inspired by Dean Shareski’s workshop wiki, I decided to start with RSS. As the participants began to set up a Bloglines account, with varied difficulty, I realized how far educational world still has to go. NECC attendees get it, that’s why they are there. Many don’t understand and do not have the time to do it on their own. Schools and districts don’t have the time or money. Budgetary constraints keep teachers doing what they have always done.

The diverse set of teachers who spent six hours in front of their computers with me on Monday started to get it. Instead of delving into wikis and podcasts, most set up an account on WordPress.com and really look at how they might incorporate it into their classrooms – in two weeks when school starts. Everyone seemed to really be focused on trying to understand this technology in their specific context. English, art, PE, social studies, science, and special education were all represented.

In the end it really made me realize we have a long way to go. I don’t believe my district is any further ahead or behind technologically then the average district. These teachers represent the masses.

The digital divide is wide and deep.

As an aside, I developed a Blogging WebQuest for the workshop. First, the participants explored the nature of blogs in contrast to the mainstream media. We used the conflict in the Middle East as the content. Second, they looked at current uses of blogs in education and categorized their use. It worked well, providing a conceptual understanding while utilizing the technology being examined (they had to post to a blog as well).

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8 thoughts on “Crossing the Divide”

  1. I’m in a hurry right now, so I didnt’ have a chance to read your wiki, but I enjoyed some of the comments they posted in http://guhsd2006.blogspot.com. It’s interesting to see blogging from the newbie perspective, in particular that of a teacher who is trying to figure out how they are going to use this in their classroom. That was an excellent idea.

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  2. It’s been a steep learning curve for me as I’ve been wandering around the blogosphere learning about Web 2.0. When I talk about it with my friends and colleagues they get that look on their faces…I’m not sure I can explain it. They are interested at first, and then overwhelmed at the idea of one more thing. I wish I had someone IRL to share this fascinating journey with me.

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  3. Welcome to the struggle to close the gap. It can seem an overwhelming job. But as some teachers begin to “get it” the excitement can be contagious.
    I appreciate you talk outline and links which I would like to share with my staff too. I have not looked at the webquest yet ( I assume there is a link though)..

    The critical issue here is that we need more basic resources that pull things together and provide a safety net for newbies when thay leave the workshop or in-service and try to manuever in this new world. Basic is a keyword here because otherise they will be lost.
    Some of what I have in mind is not only definitions but step by step instructions. For example, in the weeks since NECC I have spent a fair amount of time working with the many new things I learned about like de.licio.us and I admit that there is still some confusion. For example I am struggling with how Bloglines and de.licio.us compliment each other and work together.
    Another issue for those in the trenches is time to explore. As an administrator I strive to provide time at each faculty meeting for the teachers to work in the lab and share with each other. I hope more administrators will consider this. If we understand that curriculum and learning should drive our meetings rather than buisness (which can mostly be handles in written form) we will move forward more quickly.

    Sorry this is a long comment..There are so many ideas swirling around in my head and you happened to touch one!

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  4. Hi again..
    Just a quick note to let you know I linked to you on my blog. I originally marked your site because of the clear information on DOPA and then I encountered your reflections on in-servicing…You are clear and articulate offer alot to those of us looking for the nuts and bolts of information. Thank you!

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  5. I only began blogging about eight weeks ago. Nine weeks ago, I really had very little idea of what a blog is. Now, I think I’ve become quite proficient at both maintaining my own blog and posting comments on other people’s blogs. It’s important for teachers to realize that blogs are easy and can be useful. At my blog I am attempting to provide a set of ideas on how to incorporate newspaper articles in class discussions, every day. (Actually, this is my most recent plan. The plans only changed about eight times in the last eight weeks.) But I’m hoping to demonstrate that blogs can be easy and useful.

    Andrew Pass
    http://www.Pass-Ed.com/blogger.html

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  6. teachade for teachers

    hi there,

    We started a free site called teachade for teachers and I was wondering if you’d take a look to see what you think. Basically we’re looking to build a community of teachers to support each other through professional development and resource exchange. We’re looking for your input and suggestions on how to improve the site. Hope to see you join us and participate.

    http://www.teachade.com

    -Ben

    bmcferren@teachade.com

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  7. The problem for me is time. I spend so much time working on curriculum and doing research for my classes. But I have had a blog for a year, and have learned a bit about how to do that.

    Next step: podcasting. In between everything else.

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  8. Not only is the gap wide, some work to keep it that way, with no bridges.

    I worked the last three years in a district that gives laptops to all high school students. Just when I got all courses on Blackboard, our principal determined that we would make computers “optional” and not ask kids to check them out.

    Teachers took all sorts of messages out of that — that we should use computers in instruction was not one of them. I’ve heard of teachers who leave their e-mail programs open being chastised for quick responses to administrative queries — we learned to wait until after hours to send any responses. Then they got complaints that e-mail provided no value, because nothing happened until after school anyway.

    I think the best model is Socrates on one end of the log, Alexander at the other. If computers come between teacher and pupil, it is a problem. If computers speed the connections between teacher and pupil, or make the connections more frequent or richer, they begin to fill their potential.

    But I often wonder: How are kids supposed to learn about use of technology from people and organizations that do not use technology themselves? It’s like learning swimming from a drama coach.

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