Thursday, February 14, 2008

Journal #1

In his article Social Networking, Jim Klein discusses the SUSD Student and Teacher Community Network that he and two of his colleagues built for their school district. The team consisted of two IT staff members and a curriculum specialist. The team used open source technologies. In order to meet the legal and educational access control and accountability requirements of the district, the group settled on a base platform and then modified its code accordingly. The results were an incredibly flexible and easy to use student and teacher community site, at no cost to the district.
There are now 350 teachers and 450 students who are members of these networks. Teachers and students are using the sites for newsletters, updates, announcements, file sharing, Internet lessons, lesson plan presentation and sharing, video podcasting, creating communities of interest, posting student projects, collaborative research and more. The sites allow their members to share their thoughts and their knowledge in a safe and controlled environment. Students from all over the district get the opportunity to view and comment on the work of their peers. Communication is improved and a real and relevant sense of community is created. Aside from these many benefits, teachers who regularly use the sites to enhance their teaching have also noticed a significant increase in the test scores, the achievement and the writing and language fluency of their students.
The SUSD Teacher and Student community sites are a great example of how technology can enhance learning and help create a sense of community by eliminating traditional geographical and social boundaries. They would a wonderful tool for all school districts.

Question 1:
This is a great tool, but how can we asure that, in using it, we do not put students from lower socio-economic backgrounds at even more of a disadvantage by providing a tool and a resource that many of them won't have access to at home, while their wealthier peers will?
In order to avoid creating a situation where some sutdents will benefit while others won't, should acquaint his or herself with the pre-existing technological skills and experiences of his or her students. The teacher can make sure that he or she takes class time to introduce all students to the site and help each one of them create his or her own account. The teacher could also regularly provide class time to access and work on the sites, and perhpas allow students to reserve computer time after class either in the classroom or at the school library.

Question 2:
How can the integration of this kind of technology increase test scores, student achievement and writing and language fluency?
Student and Teacher community sites such as the one described in this article, would encourage studetns to become active learners and spark their interest in what they're doing and perhaps boos their confidence by tapping into the younger generation's love for and ease with technology, and giving them more opportunities to discuss topics or concepts that they don't understand. Giving students the opportunity to post questions, comments and suggestions to their peers and teachers online would encourage students to read and write more, esepcially since the reading and writing would be done in a less formal, and therefore less daunting, format.