Last week I attended the 30th annual Microcomputers in Education Conference (MEC). Over the past 18 years I have been in Arizona I have attended the conference a number of times and each time I walk away with something new to think about. This year was no exception, in fact there were three things that stood out to me; STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), cyber safety, and accessing Web 2.0 in the classroom.
I attended a few sessions on STEM these were popular sessions due to funding and the Obama Administration making a commitment to education in this area. I think that there will be some great applications created or refined for classroom use that support this movement. Definitely an area to watch this year.
I also attended a session on cyber safety shared by a local FBI Special Agent who has worked in that field for over 15 years. What stood out from that session is education, education, education – share with students and parents what is shared on the web is always on the web and have open discussions about the do’s and don’ts. Teens and sexting is getting a lot of momentum and the consequences are tough – and there is no going back.
As I went from session to session, one thread that kept coming up in various conversations was accessing Web 2.0 technology from school. Many educators are finding that resources that they would like to use and teach with are being blocked from use at school. One teacher even shared that Google Images was blocked and if she wanted to share pictures from the civil war- she has to search for them at home, download and save them to a flash drive- in order for her to use them at school – not necessarily a step that all classroom teachers will do, nor why should they have to go to these extra steps? Shouldn’t teachers have different permissions than their students and shouldn’t they be allowed to review educational content to use in their classroom while in their classroom?
Of course, over the three day conference we did not find a solution to accessing Web 2.0 technology, but we did talk about the role of educating administration; both at the building level and district technology support, as well as parent on why these tools and access to these materials will enhance students’ educational experiences. For instance a project that many parents can relate to is preparing a book report. I know many have written a standard report, or made a mobile or peep-hole box or a poster – but what about going green and created the project using an online tool? Glogster has even created a free education site to help allow their product to be used in the classroom and is a great way for students to express their understanding of the book they read. Or what about Prezi? Or GoAnimate? Or for those auditory learners check out My Podcast.
Possibilities and choices for a classroom teacher are vast, but the restriction is being able to access the site at school. So as educators we need to make sure that those who support and make decisions about technology make informed decisions. I thought the following two links were helpful while framing my rationale on supporting Web 2.0 classroom and what to share with parents and students.
bNetS@vvy; Tools for Adults to Help Kids Connect Safely: Not Your Parents’ Internet Understanding “Web 2.0” Safety
The Educators’ Royal Treatment; Educator sand Education Leaders Share Ideas and Success Stories: Help Students Understand Their Web 2.0 Footprint
Technology will only continue to move forward. How can you make sure that progression is supported in your classroom? I wonder if these same discussions are happing at conferences across the country. I think it will be interesting to see the discussions that come out of ISTE 2010 this summer and if administration and parents are more supportive of technology in the classroom.