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Thank you to Bob Sprankle at Seedlings for this great Web 2.0 tool. Students can type in text or upload Word or pdf documents to the Read the Words website. A ‘voice’ is chosen to read the text. The resulting sound file can be embedded into a blog (as I have done to the right) or downloaded as an mp3 file to listen to. A great motivator for students to encourage a more effective proofing and editing process as well as providing a bit of a giggle :-). Free registration provides a wider range of voices. Below is the text from my Read The Words audio – a reworked excerpt from a paper Lesley and I wrote for AAEC conference in 2006.

The use of ICT tools such as word processing, graphics packages, database and spreadsheet applications, has often been proposed as evidence of technology uptake and integration into learning and teaching. While many worthwhile uses have been made of these tools, their integration has largely been as an optional ‘add-on’ to an unchanging traditional teaching environment (Bottino, 2003). In contrast, I recommend educators take advantage of the potential of new technologies, including Web 2.0 tools and provide a variety of multimodal ICT project-based learning activities to enhance children’s learning. There are many benefits associated with this approach. Students have a high level of engagement while they are actively designing and making multimedia presentations for real audiences. Teachers report that not only are students gaining a greater depth of understanding of curriculum areas but their collaborative, communication and problem-solving skills are also being developed. Research also testifies that students display increases in mental effort and involvement, interest, planning, collaboration and individualisation (Lehrer et al, 1994). The acquisition of ICT skills and confidence, independence and risk-taking when using technology were also a valued consequence.

New media, Web 2.0 tools and software have many beneficial impacts in the classroom. Key aspects of this kind of learning is not so much the technology itself but the interaction of the learner with the technology (Gros, 2003). Using ICT has tremendous potential for reaching, motivating and fully involving learners. Any teacher who has used ICT project-based learning strategies should be able to attest to the power of a project topic to capture a student’s energies and enthusiasm for exploring knowledge (Richards, 2005). Project-based activities encourage collaborative talk around the computer screen. Students also freely and easily share resources and skills. Multimedia projects can encourage students to be better learners as they are getting immediate feedback as they work through their project and reflective evaluation from peers and audience when they have completed their product.

The most successful classroom projects involve the interweaving of learning, student engagement and presentation. Teachers provide a framework for students to scaffold their learning by balancing support and the explicit teaching that needs to occur. The result is not only improved learning outcomes but your students will learn to use these emerging technologies and communicate effectively in ways that are visual, dynamic and interactive.

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 A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most of the information is researched via the web. The model was developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March at San Diego State University in 1995 (http://webquest.org/index.php)In an interview with Linda Starr of Education World,  Bernie Dodge discusses some of the key aspects of using WebQuests (complete interview). 

Bernie describes why WebQuests are not just internet Treasure Hunts or research projects … The key idea that distinguishes WebQuests from other Web-based experiences is this: a WebQuest is built around an engaging task that elicits higher order thinking of some kind. It’s about doing something with information. The thinking can be creative or critical, and involve problem solving, judgment, analysis or synthesis. The task is more than simply answering questions or regurgitating what’s on the screen. The benefit to using WebQuests is that it puts more responsibility on the learners themselves. Usually, a WebQuest includes the following:

Introduction: an engaging first statement that draws the reader in while setting the stage for the WebQuest – includes the central question around which the WebQuest revolves.

Task: a description of the end result of the students’ work; the culminating performance or product that drives all the activities of the lesson.

Process: describes step-by-step how the learners will accomplish the task. Includes online (and offline) resources, role descriptions (if any), and guidance on individual steps in the process.

Evaluation: a rubric or other means to evaluate the final task.

Conclusion: final statement that may include reflections on the lesson or extensions of the content for further exploration.

With today’s Web 2.0 tools, a WebQuest can easily be set up on the internet, include multimedia and hyperlinks and be an exciting, engaging activity for students across the curriculum. It can form the basis for a COGs unit, a G&T activity in Literacy and Numeracy or a group activity in any KLA. 

Bibliography

Linda Starr – Education World

WebQuests in wikipedia 

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