This is a short article I wrote for the November 2010 Educational Technology Newsletter of Gadsten City Schools in Alabama. Feel free to republish this with attribution. This is cross-posted from “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.”
Personal computers have been with us for over thirty years.1 In the last five years, mobile devices like smartphones and mp3 players have become much more common in our homes and classrooms, but it is still rare to find classrooms in our schools which regularly share student work in an INTERACTIVE online space. While it has been possible to publish text as well as multimedia on STATIC webpages since the mid-1990s, the opportunity to publish interactively is still relatively new. A great deal of FEAR as well as IGNORANCE limits many educators from sharing online as we can and should. I challenge you to think about the ways you and your students can publish and share your work interactively in the weeks and months ahead. Think of this as “online show and tell.” Not only can we provide safe, moderated spaces for student work to be showcased for peer as well as parent feedback, we SHOULD provide these “digital sand boxes” so students can practice the skills of responsible and ethical digital citizenship in our information-rich, attention economy.
In his pre-conference keynote for the (free) 2010 K-12 Online Conference in October, Canadian educator Dean Shareski argued sharing is a moral obligation for teachers.2 In Dean’s words, we are each a “remix” of ideas and influences which have touched us along our own journeys of learning as professional educators. Today we have opportunities to not only be influenced by other educators separated from us by space and time, but also have opportunities to share with others working in contexts very different from our own. No matter where we are in our professional careers, we can always get better.3 While we may think our ideas are imperfect and not worthy of sharing, the fact is WE ALL GET BETTER when we share. The simple act of putting words onto paper (or in this case, a screen) models the kind of reflective practice which we want our students to demonstrate as lifelong learners. Vibrant learning communities like Classroom 2.0 (www.classroom20.com) with almost 50,000 members as of this writing in late October 2010, provide welcoming online spaces for educators to collaborate and share.
The interactive web shows no signs of going away. Interactivity is not only a hallmark of the most utilized websites on the Internet today, like YouTube and Facebook, it’s also increasingly a characteristic of websites which students and parents alike are learning to expect. Newspaper and magazine websites which are static and non-interactive are going the way of the dinosaur. Our school and classroom websites need to embrace the interactive potential of the social web as well. In today’s classroom, time seems more precious than ever. How can you, as a classroom teacher, reasonably expect to regularly share content created by your students online?
One of the first steps in this process is creating your own, professional space for sharing and reflection. While blogs have been around for awhile now, I’ve been amazed in the past year at the simple, straightforward way the website Posterous.com empowers people to share online. Virtually every educator in the classroom today can competently use email. Posting text, links, photos, and even audio recordings or video to Posterous simply requires that you use email. You do not even have to setup your account in advance: Simply send an email with the information you want posted to the web to firstname.lastname@example.org. Posterous will automatically create a website for you with the information you’ve provided, and you can add some changes and customizations to the site later. When you’re ready, you can also permit students to add posts to your Posterous site or another Posterous site which you create for FREE to serve as a class website. If you can send an email message, you can post to your Posterous websites. Unlike an email message, which has a defined number of recipients, a post on a Posterous site can have an unlimited number of visitors and can be archived for years instead of getting buried in people’s already overloaded email inboxes.
Posterous is one tool which permits teachers to create online platforms for publishing and sharing. Visitors to your site can comment, but you can configure Posterous so those comments are MODERATED. This means comments will not show up on your site until you APPROVE them. I’d encourage you to look at different examples of elementary, middle school and high school teachers using websites like Posterous, WikiSpaces, and Blogger to share their ideas as well as the work of their students online. I’ve compiled a list of world-class educator sites from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain on the following page I encourage you to visit:
In addition to sharing text with images and video, we need to find ways to empower students to also share their recorded voices online. iPadio.com is one of my favorite websites for doing this, since it is free and permits phone-based recording, or phonecasting. Free iPadio applications are also available for iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches) as well as Android phones. The link above also includes a classroom iPadio site which students in Britain used to share reflections on a field trip they took with their class to Normandy.
Whether or not your students are able to take a field trip to an engaging destination, chances are good they can be richly engaged with assignments which challenge them to reflect, synthesize, and share their ideas online using multimedia.
Where is your classroom’s online portal for interactive sharing? If you don’t have one already, I challenge you to create one in the next two weeks using Posterous. It’s free, and literally as easy to use as sending an email message.
We’ve been living in the 21st century for a decade now, and it’s time more of our classrooms looked like it. The good news is that process is not only easier than ever, it’s also easier to receive support as well as great ideas from colleagues around the world. We’re living in the best era of human history for learning. Help contribute to the learning revolution, by sharing your own ideas with others on the open web.
1 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_computer#History
2 – http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=610
3 – Rushton Hurley speaking in Holland, Michigan, on 22 Oct 2010. http://www.speedofcreativity.org/?p=4686
Wesley Fryer writes the blog “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.” On Twitter as @wfryer, he describes himself as an “educator, author, digital storyteller, husband, dad. I’m here for the learning revolution.”