Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back to School in a Web 2.0 World

The sight of big yellow school buses and children with backpacks walking the sidewalks are emerging throughout the United States and several other countries. In many schools, teachers have already been working in their rooms for weeks preparing for children to fill their classrooms. But the preparation is no longer limited to an isolated teacher sorting through the bulletin board supplies alone in his or her classroom; more and more teachers have been using Web 2.0 tools to reach beyond their classrooms to prepare for a successful year.

About a month ago, Steven Anderson, (aka as web20classroom on Twitter ) sent out a tweet looking for some great First Day Back activities. He also put this request on his blog. For those who have heard of Twitter but not tried it yet, check out this great Twitter in Plain English video from the folks at Common Craft.

Steven's personal learning network did not let him down. Within a few weeks over 50 people had filled out the simple GOOGLE FORM with wonderful tools, tips, tricks, resources, and advice for the first day of school. (It's not too late to add your own first day favorites.)

As soon as you fill out this form with your own advice, the results automatically appear in Steve's Google spreadsheet. With just a couple keystrokes Steve was able to share these suggestions with you by making his spreadsheet visible to the public over the Internet. This simple easy to use way of collecting information is being by used educators daily to collect and display data from their colleagues and students.

Steve used his blog to highlight a few of his favorite suggestions such as the way Ms. DeSilva uses to "post a welcome sticky on the board explaining to students that I would like each of them to drag a sticky to the board and on it to introduce themselves and tell us something about themselves that they would like to share with the class." Steve also shares the full list of suggestions with you by linking to the published Google spreadsheet.

Within minutes of exploring these suggestions I found myself gleaning lots of advice from educators from every discipline sharing their First Day Activities on a collaborative First Day Wiki set up by geometry teacher Dan Myer's (not to mention all the first day suggestions offered within the comments of Mr. Meyer's First Day blog post.

If your first days of school activities got your year off on the right foot, why not share them with other educators by adding to this wiki. If you've never contributed to a wiki before, here's your chance to share with others outside your school wall. Commoncraft video “Wikis in Plain English” offers an excellent introduction to the world of wikis.

And if your first day didn't quite turn out as well as you planned, don't despair, many of these suggestions can be used any day or even help you start over as suggested by Alice Mercer, Larry Ferlaza and others on the Starting Over Page of the First Day Wiki.

As we move beyond the world of Web 1.0 (the sermon) and surround ourselves with the tools of Web 2.0 (the conversation) , I encourage you to experiment with tools like Twitter, wikis, and blogs to join the myriad of educators who are changing the culture of teaching from one of the loneliest and most isolated professions to one connected with colleagues from all over the world and with rich resources provided by YOU using today's collaborative tools. For more information in creating this culture, check out Alan Novembers article "Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning or just jump in, reach out, and connect and get your school year off to a roaring start.