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Learning Web 2.0 From Your Students in 4 Steps

Learning Web 2.0 From Your Students in 4 Steps

I’m asked all the time how I can stay current on all the latest technology that my students are involved with. The answer, as I shall explain, is simple and takes only three steps (maybe four).

It’s true confession time. I learned about face-book from a soccer player. He couldn’t get off the site long enough to participate in class. MySpace was the same; one of my sorority girls updated her page each day before class. YouTube I attribute to one of my students showing me my first YouTube video after class one day. This is just a sample of the technologies that I’ve used and the students who have introduced me to them. So how can I turn all of these introductions into familiar technologies? Simple. I start with just a couple of steps that are easy to use in any classroom.


Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to a student about an article I had read. When I remarked that I should have bookmarked it, she replied “Did you tweet it?” My first response was “No.” (I make it a policy not to directly ask my students for these terms because if they ask me to define a term, I tell them to look it up. For me not to do the same is a bit hypocritical.)

Google It

Back in my office a few hours later, I sat down at Google and typed in the question still on my mind. “What is a tweet?” After skimming over a few suggestions, I elected to check Wikipedia. I knew from the sentence that what I was looking for was a verb. So, as I skimmed the explanations on Wikipedia, I found only one verb:

“To send a message via Twitter.”

I followed the link, skimmed the Twitter information on Wikipedia, and then I did the unthinkable. I signed up.

Use It

Now, it’s easy to find out what your students are talking about with these technologies, but the first step to learning the technologies is to experiment.

So, what happens if you get to the site and you still can’t figure out what’s the attraction to the site. What if you can’t figure out how to navigate the site itself? Then, you have to do take the difficult step.

Talk to Your Students

Remember, students know things that we don’t. They have their finger on the pulse of Web 2.0. If we’re learning about the existence of the technologies from students then they are obviously using these technologies? Why not give the students the chance to teach us something?

So why am I advocating eavesdropping on students to find out about technologies? It’s simple. As teacher’s we’re automatically slightly out of the loop with Web 2.0. We come home at night and we do “adult” things (cooking, grading papers, reading books). But most of our students get online after dinner and homework. Why? To tinker with their social networks and their web pages. Just as we were the pioneers of the Internet, our students are the pioneers on the Internet. If we cannot admit that our students know something that we don’t, what kind of teachers are we?

I remember being in high school and teaching my English teacher how to do something to her VCR. It was a very satisfying moment for me; I taught the teacher something. But even more gratifying was when she came back to the school the following week and thanked me. I had taught her how to do it right. The best teachers I had growing up were those who allowed there to be a give and take between their knowledge and that of their students. The worst teachers? Those who assumed they knew it all. To truly become the technology savvy teachers that we wish to become, we have to talk to our students. We have to learn what is important to them outside of the classroom. Then, we have to figure out which of the technologies they are using can be incorporated into the classroom. Not all of the technologies they play with are appropriate in the classroom. But if we don’t use the ones that are appropriate, then we lose a chance to engage students. It only takes one technology to engage one at-risk student and change their mind about staying in school.

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