Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's Time for Teacher 2.0

As anyone who knows me or who follows this blog knows, I am a big fan of Web 2.0. Whether it's Google Apps for education, wikis, prezis, or any of the myriad other applications that allow us to use the web in an interactive way, I make constant use of them in my teaching and I am constantly encouraging my teachers to do so as well.

But, truth be told, I am starting to sense a bit of Web 2.0 burnout. Yes, it is true that all of these tools allow us to create and collaborate in ways that we never dreamed of when I was a student, I wonder if most of the time the improvement is more quantitative than qualitative. For example, in the progression from oaktag to trifold board to powerpoint to prezi the medium has changed and perhaps become snazzier, and perhaps we can allow more people in more places to access and even offer feedback on our work, but the overall structure of the classroom has not necessarily changed - a prezi project runs the risk of being simply a cooler piece of oaktag. Students creating videos using flip cameras and camtasia and iMovie and then posting on YouTube is wonderfully easy - but I recall making a (poorly edited) movie twenty-five years ago for a class project.

There are those who await the arrival of Web 3.0, which does not exist, but which some imagine to be when the machines do more of the creative work. Personally, aside from being a bit scared of the resultant dystopian universe that our digital overlords would have in store for us, I think that what we really need is Teacher 2.0 - educators who not only see the "cool" factor in using digital tools, but understand how these tools can open the door to changing around their classrooms in ways previously thought impossible or at least very difficult.

A personal example. When I was first introduced to the concept of differentiated education several years ago, I agreed that it was a nice premise, I tried to understand why it was all that different from tracking (which my school already does), and I more or less dismissed it as way too labor-intensive on the preparation end and equally difficult on the implementation end for a single teacher in a classroom of over 20 students. Technology changes that equation. As anyone who has followed my PBL posts knows, I made extensive use of online materials to allow each student to progress at his or her own pace and to allow me to tailor my interactions with each student to give them exactly what they needed as a given moment. Could I have done that without my wiki, Google forms, homemade videos, and other tools that I utilized online? Yes... but it would have been difficult - the proof being that I never tried do so before.

And so I believe it is time to move into the next stage of integrating technology into classrooms (not that this is new - people are doing it already). The first stage was getting the techphobes to make use of technology in some small way, whether it was making use of the smartboard in their rooms, using the computer for organizing their classes, or having assignments be handed in online. Now that those teachers are comfortable with Web 2.0, it is time for them to become Teacher 2.0 - time for them to shift their thinking not only on what tools they use in class, but to shift their thinking on how that classroom is going to look and operate.

The only question now it how to bring about that change. Comments welcome.