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Name: David Truss
Website: My 'Pair-a-Dimes' for Your Thoughts blog , My Home Page with links to many resources,
Science Alive Wiki http://sciencealive.wikispaces .com/, My Delicious http://del.icio.us/dtruss
Educational Institution: Educational Institution / Association, Coquitlam School District #43, BC, Canada
Teaching Environment: Primarily Middle School, currently a Vice Principal (as of Feb. '08).
Web 2.0 Focus: I used wiki's for two Science Classes ('07-'08), as well as Blogs,(for 2 years), for a two week cross-disciplinary project on da Vinci for our Renaissance Fair.
Description: Blogs: My experiences with technology have not been easy for me! For my own blog, I spent many late nights reading html that I didn't understand and pulling my hair out as I tried to do the simplest of things. My blogging platform, Eduspaces, lacks many of the widgets, and plug-ins that other platforms such as EduBlogs and Blogger do, but it is what I started with, and what I ended up using in my class. But despite the frustration in trying something new, with limited expertise, the experience was very enriching for both me, and my students. Why blog with students? Let them tell you… Here now are a few comments from a voluntary reflection my students did:
Cynthia, "I learned more by sharing than by searching."
Mona, "You actually get to learn with each other and help others learn."
Michael, "I really liked the use of blogs and forums for this project. It really keeps everyone connected even outside of school."
Lily, "It was fun doing this project and I enjoyed this kind of learning experience when you get to find your own knowledge rather
than laying it all out for you. I feel that I have achieved something really good each time I've found some interesting facts on the blog
and the dialogues, which made me put more time into these things. I realized that this could be another way of learning new things and
also communicating with each other rather than finding information by yourself… I wish that people still contributed to the blog either on
the forum or on the dialogue next year!"
Wiki's: When my school's ancient computer lab had issues with several different blogging platforms I decided to try wikis. The idea behind my class wiki was to bring Science Alive by having students explore an area of interest and conduct an experiment to engage themselves and their peers in their topic. I wanted them to demonstrate their higher order thinking skills and we looked at the new Blooms Taxonomy with the skill 'Create' being at the top of the list. As I mentioned in a reflective blog post, "I let technology supersede pedagogy," and could have provided the students with more scaffolding, but overall it was a very rewarding experience that students really enjoyed.
Here is a very short summary of our classroom wiki experience (from the same blog post mentioned above):
• Students really liked this project. Some of them considered it the best ever!
• They loved that they got to choose their own topics.
• They felt challenged.
• They hated the issues we had dealing with crappy computers, and yet they were willing work through the frustration.
• They thought this was a valuable experience... so much so that many of them wanted to do another similar project and/or suggested that I should do this again next year.
• And finally, using their words: They enjoyed being able to share their ideas, "What I am most proud of the most from the page is when I
was how I typed out information to let others read it and learn from what I learned," and being able to see what others did, "I thought
this was a great project because it was always fun, and when you needed inspiration, it was easy to just click on someone else's page,
and see all the neat stuff that they've done, and then it makes you want to make your page just as good (or, it did for me)." Also another
student commented about how a different group's project touched him, "I learned a lot of stuff over the period of time that was given. I
especially enjoyed learning about the diabetes because my aunt has diabetes so it was interesting to see what she goes through and how
she's affected". I'm proud of my students and I am very happy with our first attempt at creating wikis. I believe that for many of my
students we truly did bring Science Alive!
Teaching and Learning: Both blogs and wikis allow students more freedom to explore ideas beyond the curriculum. They also permit students to learn from each other, and engage one another in their learning. The parts that you don't see in the blogs and wikis are the dialogues that I am able to have with students in my class about what we are learning, the excitement that students show when they have discovered something (on their own time) and share it online, or the richness of the questions they ask after staying up late and working on thier blolg posts or wiki pages.
Preferred Applications: Eduspaces for Blogging (home of my blog) and Wikispaces for wiki's
Mentor(s) and Hero(es): Gary Kern, a former Vice Principal and good friend, pointed the way about a year before I fully engaged in using technology, and he was the person who introduced me to the world of Web2.0. It was an Alan November webcast, that he did for our district, that inspired me to start using technology with students.
Favorite Web 2.0 Applications Right Now: I can't live without de.licio.us social bookmarking. I work from a number of different computers and the idea of bookmarking on just one of them seems archaic. Also, I RSS feed a few people on delicious,
they help me stay up to date on what is new and point me to things that I never would have found on my own.
Final Comment: I am not a technophobe, but technology does not come easily to me. For example, I spent almost two hours trying to put a Table of Contents into my wiki page only to discover that all I had to do was type 'toc' inside of two square brackets and the job was done for me! In helping others I have learned that fear tends to hold people back. I think however, that there are enough people working on classroom projects now that there is always help an e-mail or phone call away. Also, my network of online friends have offered unbelievable support. It amazes me that I have a stronger connection to an administrator in Saskatchewan and an English Language Teacher in Argentina than I do with some teachers that I have worked with for years! For every frustration I have had dealing with technology and the world of web2.0, there have been countless rewards, and tools to make life easier. Seeing my students engage in their learning in exciting new ways has really inspired me as a teacher. I am excited about what the future of education holds. I believe that if we put the time and energy into these tools, the benefits will be seen in the quality of our students work, as they engage with each other and the world!