On Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 November 2009 we held web to classroom workshops with primary and secondary teachers. The aim was to find out how teachers are using the web in their classrooms and how we can work more closely with them via our own website.

My notes/impressions from the workshop.

Secondary teachers:

There was a variety of ways teachers work with their students in the classroom. Moodle appears to be a popular tool for working together [Moodle is "... a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System or a Virtual Learning Environment. It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites."]. YouTube was another popular teaching tool.

Teachers also often have access to sites that tend to be locked (such as YouTube), although access didn't appear to be a huge problem, as most students can always access these sites at home. Students do have ideas and knowledge about palgiarism, authenticity and valid, reliable sites.

I asked them what they felt were the big trends/issues around the web that will impact on them for the future:

  • year 9 laptop program will impact on teachers' practices - there will be more two-way interaction and students working both with each other and other schools
  • all have mobile phones so mobile web will become important
  • wireless schools - no longer are students/teachers tied to a classroom or even their own school environment
  • students don't tend to comment on websites unless their peers have - that then gives them the confidence to comment themselves 
  • students value their social networks and peers rather than "experts"
  • teachers are no longer 'repositories of information' but are facilitators of students' learning - the realtionship is more two-way and equal
  • there is a move towards digital books primarily to reduce bag weight
  • students expect instant feedback as they are used to this in their lives
  • students want to learn and prefer sites that are interactive
  • still some resistance among teachers who fear change, but all recognise that the change is coming!

Primary teachers:

The primary teachers had different experiences. Access to computers and the web was variable, although it was commonly agreed that most, if not all, students and teachers have web access. The amount of computers available varied, for example from one school with a Year 6 one latop per child program, to those with labs, with setups in the libraries and all had computers in their classrooms. Some used Macs and others PCs, all had access to interactive whiteboards with the use of them (and their overall usefulness) the subject of some debate! Many were using wikis with their classes and also invited parental involvement in this. Connected Classroom was also being used (some had done classes here) and this seems to have potential to increase, as well as driving physical visitation (and something the Museum could explore further I think).

Their big issues for the future:

  • challenge is for those teachers who don't want to engage with this technology - it's not age-related, many are fearful, are tied to 'traditional ways' of doing things and see it as a threat ("they dont want the parents in their classroom" was one quote that resonated with me)
  • interactive whiteboards are good but will need to have the students doing something at the same time
  • we are now dealing with "digital learners" - kids in future will never not have had their hands on something that doesn't plug in
  • need to address the needs for kids to be physical and outdoors - don't neglect this
  • kids (and us I believe) are now totally multitasked - where in the past this would be seen as a negative we now need to see this as this as the norm
  • social and collaborative learning is now the way we all learn
  • childrens' brains have changed to accommodate the ways they now learn and engage
  • they don't need to retain/remember information as they can just go back and access it again
  • we have moved from a one-to-many form of teaching to a many-to-many approach and a more equal arrangement (and a more empowered one too I suspect)
  • the beauty of sharing online is that students can see each others' work and learn from that

My overall thoughts/themes/learnings:

  • I was reminded about the importance of the web in all of our lives, and the central part it plays for young people especially. A few years ago we did a study with students and asked them to complete the sentence not being able to access the web is like not being able to... and this blog post outlines some of what they said.
  • Digital leaners need to be catered for and we'll need to change our own mindsets and work practices to accomodate and interact with them.
  • The Connected Classroom will be a way for us to connect physical and virtual experiences for schools (and drive visitation which is an important revenue stream).
  • Social media tools will be increasingly the way we communicate both within the school environment and outside - need to assist kids in thinking about 'respectful' ways to communicate online.
  • Wikis in particular can open up the classroom, not only to shared learning between teachers and students, but with parents and the extended community who can also participate.

A final thought. Working directly with audiences as we did today through setting profiles, showing sets, talking and getting feedack is such an important part of our jobs, and it was great to have this opportunity to work and learn together. Teachers are active and engaged users and really care about their students' learning. I really enjoyed the two days and would like to thank all for your input and enthusiam.