Connecting for Learning: A 21st Century Challenge

On August 21, 2010, in Julie Lindsay, by Julie Lindsay

Our first week in ITGS was all about Connecting. We are connecting ourselves to the resources needed to learn more about ITGS, as well as connecting ourselves to the people we will be communicating and collaborating with. The Challenge with Connecting is finding the right tools to facilitate efficient connections AND adopting behaviors for connected learning. Participants in online learning communities need to realize that the learning and therefore the connecting does not stop once the face-to-face class has ended. There is an ongoing expectation that a 24/7 approach will be taken and communications received and responded to in an ongoing way.  Despite our students being very connected via their social spaces (FaceBook, online games etc) they are often NOT connected for learning and do not understand how to be a connected learner. Therefore, getting started for ITGS we have started to put into place essential connection tools and strategies for this. Here is a brief review of what tools my class have started with:

Social bookmarking: Delicious is the tool we can access, however strangely the RSS feed for the ITGSopedia Diigo account is visible to all via the Inside ITGS Ning

Educational Network for community learning and sharing: All students have joined the Inside ITGS Ning, set up a profile and started to connect with the other class at WAB. Their first assignment is to connect with a partner, so friend requests have been sent, and students wait somewhat impatiently for replies. This handshake is very important when establishing an online learning community, and it requires participants to be online in order to connect. The less aware students will be the ones missing out in this first instance as they may not understand the importance responding and connecting.

Wiki-centric classroom: My class ITGS Wiki will be the center of all BISS activity. My students will join this wiki and have collaborative assignments and be expected to contribute to this knowledge base. We have also set up a joint wiki, Inside ITGS wiki, for classroom collaborations and joint communication to do with the curriculum.

Classroom Monitoring Portal (CMP): We are trying to set up an RSS startup page, or CMP. This is another essential way to connect with the outside world and with each other. This page will feed the information to us. It will contain news feeds for latest technology happenings, feeds for our online spaces, and bookmark feeds, and more! We had a frustrating lesson on Friday trying to find a tool that works in China. I want to use NetVibes or PageFlakes, but despite lots of positive energy in the classroom we could not get these to work properly without a VPN. We are going to use iGoogle I think, but even that kept going down for minutes at a time (probably because it is monitored by the Internet police and a surge of users, even a small number, shows up). I would be interested in any suggestions readers of this blog may have for an alternative. iGoogle is doable, however it lacks the public sharing feature (as far as I can tell), so I can only share a tab with others via personal emails. I really want this to be a definite ITGS portal for RSS feeds……..more about this next week.

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Getting Tool’ed up for ITGS

On August 16, 2010, in Madeleine Brookes, by Madeleine Brookes

Today was our first ITGS lesson where we focused on a cyber-orientation.

We started with our internal system, WAB Moodle which is our virtual learning environment where each physical class has a corresponding Moodle course. At WAB we use Moodle as a repository for class-specific resources, a place where homework is submitted and interact with the large variety of tools such as forums, wikis and glossaries. Now that Julie and I are flattening our classrooms and sharing our resources and collaborating in a variety of activities, I can see that the school-specific course is not going to get much mileage this year as I am hoping the most of our resources, forums and wikis will be open and available for all interested schools and ITGS students and I don’t want to be double-posting. Suggestions please!!

In terms of productivity tools, I had students set up Evernote and delicious accounts. The good news was that many students already had these in place thanks to some of our tech-savvy teachers from last year.

Evernote is a powerful note-taking tool and is free. It allows students to make numerous notebooks – we suggest at least one for each subject. Each note can be tagged and are automatically sync’ed to the server so that even if students lose their laptops or forget to backup, the notes can be accessed online and through other devices such as iPhones and iPads. This year we are promoting the use of Evernote throughout the MS and HS and have Evernote on our school image so that all students in MS and HS already have Evernote installed.

We also set up delicious accounts for our social networking. We would like to use diigo as this is the social bookmarking site used for ITGSopedia, however diigo is blocked here in Beijing. So this is our work-around for now until diigo is unblocked or we can access ‘legally’.

Finally we looked at ITGSopedia. I didn’t have time today but I will introduce the ITGS global tagging system used for the ITGSopedia diigo in hope that the students start to use these conventions in both delicious and Evernote. Time will tell!

I strongly encouraged students to use their school email addresses for these two accounts as they do have a tendency to use a number of email accounts and often forget the account name and/or passwords. One great new feature of Evernote allows encyption so students can enter their usernames and passwords into an Evernote accounts, highlight the password and then right-click to Encrypt Selected Text.

Next lesson we will look at the external ITGS resources: our ning and this blog so that we can get started with our first collaborative activity.