by Angela Christopher
All Rights Reserved 2008
My journey with Web 2.0 began in May, 2008. I began this blog, started experimenting with some really cool tools and found pockets of people - no not pockets - corners of the world filled with people who have similar professional interests.
The seminar I've been taking at the University of Memphis is titled "Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0." I must admit however, that I am still very much a novice. The great thing about 2.0 is that everyone else is on the same journey, just in different places along the path to learning - We are a community of learners. I have discovered that it is okay to admit when I am unsure. I have also learned that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for guidance and help from the digital community. In fact, the community embraces newbies! The concept of of collective knowledge and the benefits associated with the collective, collaborative aspects of Web 2.0 is the glue that binds this community of learners. My professor, Dr. Clif Mims, is known for saying Web 2.0 "It is what you make it," and I couldn't agree more. If I chose to to use the 2.0 tools for purely socialization, it would be more than possible to meet a WHOLE new group of folks. I could make it superficial, I could make it solely about my hobbies, motherhood, religion, or practically anything else that interests me. After listening to Dr. Mims describe his own Personal Learning Community (PLC), I realized that building connections with others like me would not be random or by chance. First, I needed to have some idea about what I wanted from the digital community. What types of individuals would I want to hear from? What kinds of blogs did I want to read? What type of Twitter feed did I want to see running on my computer everyday? After thinking about these questions, I realized that I could embrace many types of communities and I did not need the digital community for personal socialization... So I began to reflect on my professionals interests. Although, I grew up in the Memphis area, I now live and teach in a small rural town, and the art and technology communities within the town are also pretty small. In fact, I am only just now beginning to meet the few other art teachers in my district.
So this where I began to network and build my own PLC: I looked for other teachers and artists, and I was especially interested in meeting educators who were teaching with technology. Even as I began to follow such individuals on Twitter and began reading their blogs, it took a while for me realize that teaching with technology is not just about teaching students to use software. Teaching with technology is about collaboration. It is about choice. It is about learning. It is not about the tools.
In education, we have always used textbooks and text resources to guide our curriculum and enhance teaching and student learning. Every quality teacher or administrator will tell you that true learning doesn't happen from textbooks alone. Teachers must facilitate the learning. They must actively engage their students in the learning process. So it is with technology. Technology is not going away - it is here to stay and our students are using it for socialization. Last night, a classmate mentioned that text messaging today, is the equivalent of passing notes when we were kids. Yet, as I have discovered with my own PLC, technology can be so much more. Online, students can learn about tolerance, respect, and collaboration. They can also learn that everyone makes mistakes, and it is okay to ask for help... all while using tools they will need in college and in future professions. In addition, our children can learn that there are other students across the state, country and globe who have similar and very different experiences. Today, the world is one huge classroom and we are doing our children a disservice if we don't jump on board. Many students are already on the ship... without a captain.