Introducing Web 2.0 to Staff

April 13, 2008 at 6:12 pm (professional_learning)

One of my most important and powerful strategies I have found in sharing professional development with others is leading by example.  If I want to encourage technology integration, I must be walking the walk as I talk the talk so to speak.  I must serve as a role model for curriculum-based (core, complementary, ICT, inquiry) technology integration where the technology serves as a tool, a platform (Warlick), with a learner centered focus (Subramaniam, 2006).  The technology must be a means to an end and not an end in itself (Knezek, Christensen, Bell & Bull, 2006).  I think because most of the Web 2.0 tools are so easy to use that the tools become invisible; For example, they make all the strands of the langauge arts curriculum – reading, writing, listening, viewing, speaking and representing – more visible and meaningful as they more readily connect to real life when there is a live global audience.  The technology allows us to do things that weren’t possible without it (Knezek, et al).  The real audience makes every task more authentic, always being curious who will respond and what they will have to say.  As my students are engaged in the tools and share their experiences with their other teachers, they too will become curious as to what we’re up to.  It has been my experience that this kind of word-of-mouth enthusiasm, such as that now found on the internet, is contagious and leads to a tipping point (Gladwell) in integration of technology. 

There are so many fabulous YouTube videos (like Stephen Heppell that I learned about via the TL-DL Blog), TeacherTube videos and Slideshare presentations that could be the starting point for discussion, such as Fisch’s Shift Happens.  These can be found on any specific Web 2.0 tool or skills of 21st century leaners (ALA, pdf) in general.  I am always envious of those who work downtown and can attend brown bag lunch time speaker presentations at the public library, city hall or CBC stage.  What if the brown bag speaker presentations came to my classroom via such as Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation entitled Do School’s Kill Creativity? which we watched at the end of one staff meeting?  Could I “screen” one of these one lunch hour a week? Absolutely!  (Anderson, 2003).  

I like the idea of speed or lightening demos to present a Web 2.0 tool to a group in five minutes or less that I learned about through the  EduBloggerCon wiki.  Anderson (2003) calls these “Ten Minutes of Tech on Tuesdays.”  A five or ten minute edtech component could be added to each monthly staff meeting agenda in addition to the troubleshooting that already takes place.  The brown bag lunch time presentations and the lightening demos could both be used to maintain momentum. 

I must be ready and willing to answer questions as they arise providing just-in-time PD, turning inquiries into lessons (Anderson, 2003).  On Friday a colleage emailed me about some pictures saved from Google images to use in a Photo Story assignment.  Were these within copyright?  I hopped on the internet, went to my blog, to Valenza’s blog and scrolled to the posting on copyright (thanks, Steph for reminding us about this post on Web CT).  I copied the link, explaining in the email that I had just read about this very topic, adding in links to Valenza’s copyrightfriendly wiki and the Flickr Creative Commons Attribution page.  I never would have been able to do this at the end of January!  

Part of assisting colleagues in understand why integrating technology is so important is to demonstrate the links to core curriculum, complementary curriculum, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Outcomes and Focus on Inquiry (pdf).  This is particularly important with the new constructivist, inquiry based curricula that are now being developed (Anderson, 2003).  Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe talk about backwards design in Understanding by Design (2005, 1998).  We must identify the curricular objectives that we want students to achieve with every task that we design that integrates technology. 

I recall a day I spent collaborating with two other teachers in the fall.  At one point, all three of us were working away at different computers trying to find exceptional websites for students to consult for this cross-curricular, interdisciplinary project.  I wish I had known about social bookmarking then instead of writing all the websites down on paper!  That would have been a perfect time to model and provide a hands on learning experience with this tool that, as Chris Harris puts it, has the potential to be “a powerful research network.”  Richardson puts his finger on it saying, “We can build comprehensive lists much more effectively than any one of us could working alone.”  By visiting a social bookmarking page students wouldn’t have to type URLs into browsers, something Friesen (2003) says should never happen.  I’m glad that I now know what social bookmarking is so that we can take advantage of it as a tool for organization, sharing and an archive the next time we collaborate.  Similarlily, when our class was in the midst of our wiki discussions, my colleagues and I were reflecting on our body of work, something that could have been done in a wiki, like these table discussions, rather than chart paper, serving as an archive and place to continue the discussion

Which Web 2.0 tool would I choose to present to staff?  Unfortunately, I can’t pick any one tool.  To explain why, I keep going back to the article by Knezek, Christensen, Bell and Bull (2006) “Identifying key research issues” where they say, “The use of technology in each subject area needs to address the learning issues specific to that subject area.”  If I combine the needs of different subject areas with the differentiated nature of professional development that occurs at our school and the different levels of comfort in working with technology, one Web 2.0 tool will not fit all.  I must take into consideration the learning context that exists.  While I can facilitate general discussions regarding integrating technology and introduce staff to each Web 2.0 tool and its place in helping students master skills for the 21st century, I believe that I must leave it up to the individual to decide which tool they wish to learn about.  This has been how we approached integrating reading strategies across subject areas as well as adopting best practices in assessment.  People need time to digest and come to their own understanding of what works best for them.  In the end, we all end up in the same place, however, we all take different paths to get there.   

I also think about Michael Fullan’s presentation that I was fortunate to hear at the provincial Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) conference in February, the video of which is available online as well as the handout (pdf).  Fullan says teachers much participate in professional learning which occurs in context rather than professional development which occurs out of context.  Top down and bottom up must meet in the middle.  This is a shift for me from the beginning of the course where I believed that teachers must determine the direction of their personal professional growth because in my experience directed PD is not very fruitful.  Yet, I don’t know when I would have learned about Web 2.0 without this course.  I wouldn’t have been able to work from the bottom up because I had no idea what I was missing out on.  To me, the outline for this course provides an element of top down.  The way I chose to learn about each of the Web 2.0 tools represents me working from the bottom up.  The two meet in the middle and, as Fullan says, “the learning is the work.”  I can introduce my colleagues to the skills of 21st century learners and each of the Web 2.0 tools formally (eg. staff meetings and pd days) and informally (eg. email, lunch time conversations); it is then up to each individual to determine which tool they are comfortable with which also meets the curricular outcomes of their specific subject area.  Others can then take over the staff meeting lightening demos, or even have their students present, showcasing how each subject area is integrating technology.  This could also form the basis of full day PD Day as well as student-led conferences or demonstrations of learning. 

Before determining where we need to go with technology we must determine where we are.  Many colleagues are already using YouTube videos in core and complementary classes to introduce topics and spur student discussion (Subramaniam, 2006).  Throughout this course I have been sharing my blog with my colleagues as well as subject area links where appropriate.  The math department was greatful for the uses of Flickr in math links.  One social teacher has already talked about using a VoiceThread in Social Studies.   



  1. Eric Pingel said,

    Very timely post for me. I am currently leading a committee through a refresh of our district technology plan. We have chosen to adopt ISTE’s NETS and are no going to discuss teacher training and what learning activities represent each grade level / department. I love your idea of professional learning and bringing training with context. I encourage you to listen to Jeff Utech’s ( Deck podcast dealing with Shifting Our Schools (SOS). Start with the first episode from january. You’ll like what you hear.

  2. arllennium said,

    Hi Eric,

    I’m glad that you found this post useful. I, too, love Fullan’s distinction between professional learning and professional development.

    Just last week, I was helping some students with a cross-curricular project where they had to conduct a poll. I pointed them, and their teacher, to that I learned about via Joyce Valenza’s

    Several groups created their survey in an account that I created within a minute of selecting the site. After creating their survey, they were given a link that they then emailed from their personal accounts to friends and family to complete. The students then came back to me to get a print out of the analysis of the results of those who responed to their email request to complete their survey.

    Another example of training in context.

    I look forward to checking out Jeff Utech’s On Deck podcast. Thanks for pointing it out to me.


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