As I continue to explore the world of Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) the amount of materials that allow for creative instructional lessons is seemingly limitless. Over the last week I have been exploring the idea of incorporating Web 2.0 resources into my classroom. Web 2.0 is, “a second generation of Internet-based learning services that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.” (Discovery Education) These resources range from simple blogs for the students to share their thoughts, to full on video creation. What is truly exceptional about these resources is that that they allow the students the flexibility to demonstrate their learning in ways that are not possible with more traditional methods. Dare I say, that gone are the days of simply writing an essay or giving a presentation to the class.
Speaking from firsthand experience I have used a number of these resources successfully in my classroom. The web application Voicethread is one of my favorite resources, because it allows those students who have difficulty writing their thoughts down, use their voice to give their reports. Students simply upload an image and then record themselves talking over that image. This has proven especially successful with my ELL students who are fluent in English but still struggle with the written part of our language. My other new favorite is to have my students create wiki’s for a project topic. The flexibility of the wiki allows for students to present their information however they see fit, and also to embed a number of other resources that would not be possible in other formats. This all leads me to the main question, why use Web 2.0 resources for IBL?
As I have learned, a IBL lesson must engage the student and allow them the flexibility to explore the topic however they see fit. As they explore and learn the student must be able to communicate their knowledge in ways that are comfortable and authentic to the student. Today, 96% of all students engage in social networking and 57% of teenagers create online content. (Discovery Education)In all honesty there is only so much flexibility in a traditional project of creating a poster, presentation or paper. These staples of education allow for the student to present their knowledge, but in a very limited fashion. As I have found from teaching, students when given the opportunity will more often than not surprise you with what they create. By providing them the opportunity to create a product using the Web 2.0 resources out there, their creativity is exploited, not stifled.
This leads me to the next burning question that I have about successfully using IBL in my classroom. My concern is, how in this digital age can an educator successfully use the tools available while also staying within a school districts outdated technology policies? I teach an a very technology oriented district that supports and encourages the integration of technology resources into lessons. Yet, even my district blocks a number of websites that would be beneficial to students because of security threats. I am not talking about threats from hacking or viruses, instead these are threats posed to my high school students because they are posting things online. For example, Google sites and Google docs are blocked from student access because the district cannot control the content being posted to this resource. Youtube is another resource that students cannot access from school, yet sometimes this does provide valuable resources for the students to use. My fear is that a great resource will become available, only to find that it is not supported or blocked by my district. Which, in my opinion, defeats the entire benefit from Web 2.0 activities and hurts the student’s chances and opportunities for IBL lessons.
Discovery Education, . N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://cdwg.discoveryeducation.com/web2.0/Web2.0.pdf>.