- What pushed you to begin using collaboration with digital tools in your classroom? Fear. Will Richardson gave the key note at a VAIS technology conference in 2007. I had never seen blogs and wikis in action before. Will used a wiki to present from and shared so many examples and made such a compelling argument about the future of education that I really felt that I was doing my students a disservice for not knowing what these online tools were and how to incorporate them in my lesson planning.
- Tell us about the first time you used a collaborative tool with students. I tried to hold back and learn things for myself, like how to use a blog by creating my own, but I was so excited to share the possibilities with my students that I created a wiki for a literature circle unit on Black Ice with my juniors that first year. The collaboration was already happening in the concept of literature circles, but I just added the element of recording and posting group work online so that they could see it and I could double check and participate in their work as well.
- Student responses to using these methods within your classroom? I teach in a 1:1 laptop school so my students are used to learning and using new tools whether it's a new way to use Word or a new online tool. And they were accustomed to using their computers in different ways for different classes. When I remember to go slowly and make the curricular goals for using a particular tool clear, then my students are very receptive and even apply the tool independently in their own projects and learning outside of my classroom. When I let my enthusiasm for a particular tool supercede the learning goals of the lesson, my students begin to grumble and complain that the extra work of learning to use the tool is not worth their effort.
- When you are designing your curriculum, what factors go into deciding whether or not to include a collaborative element? Now, more than ever I start with the biggest questions and course goals and work backwards. When thinking of my new novel course I ask myself: how does this help my students understand the development of the novel or help them to begin composing their own novel? Can this tool help acheive our course goals efficiently or will too much class time (and student energy) be spent on learning the new tool. Of course, I have the luxury of teaching my students for two or three years in a row and the luxury of an English department that works collaboratively to build on skills from one course to the next. ( Thanks Susan Carter Morgan and Susanne Nobles!).
It would be much harder for me to do what I have done so far with my students, in less than two years, if I did not have the help of my collaborations with other teachers at my school and online with social sites like Twitter (jclarkevans) and various NINGs. But, most importantly, I have students who work hard, take risks, and really try to get the most of their learning experiences at school. In return, I try to work hard, keep learning, and do all of this for them.