26 July 2012

Web Time

I have recently spent a month in Nepal, mostly offline owing to electricity cuts and lack of internet access. Initially I was overcome by the strangeness of digital silence, of not being able to log on, to connect, to update on a regular basis, as is my daily custom. Nevertheless the silence from the digital world, accompanied by the stark educational realities I daily encountered in Nepal, provoked questions and hypotheses I was not immediately ready to answer. 

As such, my questioning and hypothetic answers remain in progress. My mind hovers on the needs we have established today in our routines and classrooms. Does digital education really improve motivation? Does digital education in fact develop cognitive development? How is it that learners in developing countries still manage to succeed in education when there is no digital connection easily at hand?

Accompanied by such questions, I also considered what digital elements surround us, what digital activities our learners engage in and the steps it takes to move away from mere digital noise to creating dynamic digital learning environments - for as many teachers know, learners may be savvy with social networking (e.g. Facebook) and texting, but how to cross the bridge to make them understand that they can use the digital world for learning as well? Are we able to distinguish what digital references really foster learning or are we engulfed in a world of apps for fun and other possible digital wastes of time?

In no way would I deny my students the open world of digital learning, with all the tools available for creative learning, critical thinking skills and so much more. However, reflecting on time one spends on the web today, let me share this infographic:

Where do your students find themselves? How do they spend their time on the web? When is a teacher crossing the line of public into private spheres when he/she wishes to know the answers to these questions more clearly?

Reading online is a major skill today and The Book  Genome Project is an excellent place for learners to begin exploring books, with Book Lamp , the accompanying site to browse for authors and genres. 

And of course, it is not only reading skills that the web helps us with - writing is another of the major skills that learners need to constantly develop. 

Writing Prompts is a great site of inspiration for both teachers and learners, offering a variety of writing prompts for essays and stories. Learners can even create their own writing prompts to exchange with another class, thus making the writing process more interesting as later they can read the other class's writings. 

Data may never sleep and time certainly does not slow down. Summer days will turn into new classrooms and faces before one realizes that summer holidays are over. Interactive Postcards  by ReadWriteThink, is a positive way to begin writing activities while bringing back summer memories that can be shared and enjoyed. 

Web time. One of my goals for next academic year is to encourage students to spend more time on productive web time, to instill the perception of  web time as a learning environment and not just an appendix to classroom tasks. 

What are your objectives for your coming academic year?

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