Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Perils of Web 2.0 and Lesson Design

Last week a teacher came to see me, quite excited about incorporating some of the new Web 2.0 tools into the classroom. Unfortunately, our General Purpose lab cannot run a new enough browser to use the new tools. This is not the first teacher to have hit this roadblock. Wikis, blogs, interactive spellchecking sites, web-based mind mapping (Mind Meister...very cool) and a host of other very useful resources...we can't use them in the lab.

In my ID course, one of my classmates raised four key factors for schools to consider. He called this an "adoptability assessment". Here are the areas:
1. Time
2. Reliability
3. Seamlessness
4. Expertise

Each of these points can be a deal breaker for a teacher trying to integrate technology into his/her instruction.

Time: Especially in senior examinable courses, teachers feel that they are on the "final exam" 100 yard dash. They feel that they can't take ANY time out to do anything that might slow the "content delivery" schedule. If there is a bit of a learning curve for the students (or the teacher), it might not be "worth it." This is also an issue with the limited amount of time any one teacher can access the general purpose lab in our school. It is so heavily booked that you are lucky if you can get 2 consecutive blocks!

Reliability: This is another key consideration. Teachers, unless truly infotech savvy, will throw up their hands if the lesson does not proceed as planned. (See "time" above) Compatibility issues (software and hardware), and school equipment that is hopelessly behind compared to what students have at home (our GP lab runs system 9.....ack) are all speedbumps. And an easy fix for a techie teacher might be an insurmountable hurdle for a neophyte.

Seamlessness: Sometimes pen and paper is the way to go! It's a great idea to use Inspiration software for webbing. But what might be a 15 minute, pen and paper activity could end up ended up taking a whole block....and that doesn't factor in additional time for fooling around, crashing, losing work, rebooting, and re-mapping.

Expertise (Gap): In my school, I am available most of the time to pop in to the general purpose lab and troubleshoot...I am often asked to do this for teachers trying out a new idea. I am happy to might be a simple printing problem, it may be that the site will not load (some hate Explorer, some hate Netscape...our lab won't run Firefox) might be that the great site that worked at home will simply not load. Ooops, there goes the lesson!

These factors may not seem "important" from an ID standpoint, but if we are designing lessons and units for real teachers to use with real students in real but usually sub-industry-standard labs, then they are very real issues.

On a related note:
Here's an interesting link to Steve Hargadon's blog that discusses this issue in a related way.
(Although I'm not sure agree with his "brain wiring" statement.) And he links to the Classroom 2.0 site that is looking for ways to help teachers do more with the technology! Take a look.

Check this out:
Also, is an easy web based mind mapping tool...