Sunday, January 27, 2008

play makes learning powerful

I have a confession to make--I am determined to make this EDES 545 learning experience as powerful as possible for me---so that means I will learn by PLAY. In my experience, whenever I get my knickers in a knot about learning new technology, everything takes at least three times as long---sometimes more. Because of my, shall we say, vintage, technology has not always been my friend. However, I have learned a lot this last year from watching the high school students cram into Stelly's Secondary library where I work---they make a beeline for the computers--and where do they go to first?

They head for the social networking sites:Facebook, bebo, meebo. What they mostly look at is pictures of themselves and their friends. From this observation I know that using any photosharing site will have quite a bit of appeal for most high school students.

According to the 'rules of Stelly's library' students are NOT to be on these sites--mostly because it is assumed that if they're on bebo, they are not doing academic work. This is something I want to change--but I need to find the right person to collaborate with first, for what I have in mind. I want to work with the coolest First Nations teacher to design an assignment so that the FN students can legitimately be on the photosharing site. I want to use the technology to engage these students who don't have computers at home. These students want to do the same things the other kids are doing and I can imagine all kinds of powerful cultural presentations created on bebo/facebook/myspace....

I should back up here a little to talk about the make-up of Stelly's. Our school sits in the middle of farm fields,with the Saanich fairgrounds right across the street. Even though we are located only twenty minutes from downtown Victoria, BC we are a rural school. Our students come from both mutli-million dollar waterfront homes and four First Nations reserves. Some of our students regularly travel to Europe, and beyond, others don't ever leave the Peninsula. The diversity of our student composition is extreme.

I find myself especially drawn to befriend and support the students who don't have it all. So, back to bebo. The First Nations kids tend to use this site predominantly. I don't know why yet, but I want to design a project where they tell me why they should have access to this site.


Joanne said...

Hi Stephanie,

What a great idea to have students do a project (persuasive letter writing, debate, etc.--lots of possibilities) about why they should be able to access these various sites at school. To me it is an access and an education issue--blocking these sites (that the kids then use outside of school) does not give teachers and t-ls the opportunity to teach kids about this new online world. How to be safe; how to evaluate sites, etc. For some kids, as you point out, the only place they have access to the Internet is at school and if they cannot participate in these online environments at school, they are missing out on some potentially powerful learning and social experiences. I would be interested in knowing more about an assignment that you design for this purpose!


Val Martineau said...

Hi Steph:
I love the focus on play. It's fun learning so much by doing (although I must say I spent too much doing via photosharing exploration and not enough discussing this week). If we're having this much fun exploring new technology, its easy to see how much fun the kids are having or could potentially have if given the chance. You remind us not be afraid to have fun while learning and while teaching. What a concept eh? I must admit there was a time when I was more of an old-school teacher. It never suited my style that well but I felt it was the 'right' way to teach. Thank goodness for me and more importantly for my students I have seen the light and come to my senses! Find the best ways to learn that have sound pedagogy and go for it.

Great mother/daughter shot at the top of your blog. I like your colour choice and the style of font etc. I will have to take Tom's advice and try photobucket. I am finding with myspace I am asking my 20something relatives for advice and suggestion. The kids are such great resources and eager to help. Inquiry is key.

Yes restrictions to access is an issue. Highschool students in our district are blocked from using Facebook, MySpace etc. If a student goes on one of these sites they immediately get kicked out. It is very frustrating and shows a lack of knowledge of the educational uses of socialnetwork sites, photo sharing etc. on the part of the higher ups. I realize there has to be some monitoring or safeguards in place as there are potential pitfalls and areas of concern, but there also needs to be an opportunity for teens to express themselves and explore in a safe, monitored environment.

What a terrific idea to work with First Nations teacher and students to generates a collaboartive, creative learning situation that is learner centered. This is such a great opportunity for students who don't have access to computers at home. It puts them on the same playing field as their peers who may have greater access to technology at home. Good luck with it and let us know how it goes.

Funny as it is, elementary schools do not have these blocks. I guess the reasoning is they aren't needed. We do have some filters however, as just last week a teacher asked me if there was a book that went with the video called "Talking about Sex to your kids." Upon searching for it, I was kicked off my internet as I had typed in the word Sex. I phoned the district help desk and it wasn't until the following day that I was re-connected to the internet. How ridiculous is that?

elizabeth said...

Hi Steph,
I can see photo-sharing being a very effective tool to have your FN kids use to share their culture. I agree that kids should have access to these tools at school, especially when it is the only exposure they get. We can use these tools to connect kids while teaching critical thinking skills. Collaborating with a like-minded colleague is a great first step.

Elisa Orton said...

Glad to hear someone wants to have fun. So many are afraid to have fun anymore because they are so busy trying to be successful... isn't that success should rally be?

Great idea to have students demonstrate the reasons for allowing permission to sites. Much more powerful than coming staff. Gives students much more ownership for using sites appropriately.