Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom

I participated in another Knowschools session last week entitled Learning Unleashed. The conference was moderated by Sandy Hirtz, who also created the Learning Unleashed ning. The main idea that I took away from the conference is that educators, for the first time, can use Web 2.0 tools to extend student’s learning beyond the walls of the classroom and the school. I already knew that, but my thinking on the topic definitely changed as a result of the conference.

I have fully incorporated the use of technology as a tool to enhance learning into my teaching style and my belief system as an educator. My perspective, however, shifted last week when I fully realized the potential of expanding the learning out of the 77 minute classroom block of time and into an online learning environment available for access 24/7. Through blogging, wikis, nings and sites like Tapped In, communities of learners can participate in learning whenever they want, wherever they are. All they need, of course, is some form of a computer with a decent internet connection.

One great thing about last week was the many new ideas and resources! There are so many new ways to create communities for learning online. Sandy did a great job of collecting and organizing a huge list of new websites to investigate. Add to that all the sharing of ideas and websites in the forum discussion threads and the end result is an injection of new resources and an opening of my mind to new possibilities in my teaching.

Now that my mind is open to the idea, I find myself sifting through the idea of opening student’s learning beyond the schedule and space of a classroom. I like face to face interactions with students; I think teacher/student rapport is key to creating the mutual understanding necessary for real teaching and real learning to take place. I wonder how an online experience can replicate that. And the one idea that keeps pushing it’s way into my thinking is that I need to remember that the technology is the tool to enhance the learning.

Just a thought (or a few) to turn around in my head for awhile…

So Many Web 2.0 Choices…

One of my professional learning goals for the first semester this year was to learn about blogging and other Web 2.0 tools that I could use with my art students. More specifically, I want to enhance their learning associated with perceiving and responding to their own and others’ artwork.

My goal for second semester is to implement the technology to start transforming the learning in the classroom. The problem is, there are so many Web 2.0 tools, I can’t decide which technology to use! So, I decided to use technology to decide on technology. Here’s my first Wordle created from this post:

I could create a blog using Edublogs. I’d probably format it similiar to Huzzah, Technology in our classroom, and Clarence Fisher’s Thinwalls blog. These blogs are designed so that each student has their own space to work within and call their own. I believe that this student ownership over the space would lead to increased student motivation and, in turn, more engagement and enhanced learning.

I could, however, use a classroom Flickr account for the same purpose. Students could upload photos and photos of art projects and use the comments section as the space for artist statements and responses. If I decide to go the blog route, a Flickr account could be part of the blog space, too. I’d like to experiment with different ways of using Flickr as a tool regardless.

Many people I’ve discussed the project with have recommended Voicethread. Of the three, this is the only tool I haven’t used and the one that I know the least about. It looks like you upload a photo, then people leave an audio comment about the image. It sounds like a good match for visual arts. Once again, if I decide on the blog, then I could embed a Voicethread into a posting.

I have to decide…soon. Any ideas? One person (thanks Marianne!) suggested that I let the students decide. I like that option. I think it’s important that students take part in the decision making in the classroom.

What do you think – blog, Flickr, Voicethread or a combination of all three? I’d love any insight you have or helpful tips you can offer. Which Web 2.0 tool would you use?