Learning and technology (and the internet)

How can we, in our teacher/librarian roles, help the teachers incorporate the new technologies in their classrooms? This was a question that I have been asking myself over the past few weeks. Many teachers seem to be fearful of the technology and then “what happens if it doesn’t work?!!” We need to reassure teachers that, if you understand the reason behind using the technology, if the technology is a means to an end, not the end in itself, it doesn’t matter when gliches occur. Students can even be of help, if you are happy to work with them to overcome problems.

I was giving some research skills lessons in some year 7 classes recently. One of the objectives was to investigate how to use the 2 visual search engines, Viewzi and SearchMe, as well as some databases our library subscribes to. Upon finding the information they needed, the students were to use various note taking techniques to record the information they found. Unfortunately for the classes, and the teacher and me, the school’s internet connection was down due to circumstances beyond our control. In another case the class hadn’t been booked in for on-line searching. I had to alter my approach but we still managed to work on the skills I was wanting the students to learn. We worked on some documents I hade prepared and then carefully prepared questions, and worked out keywords, for the internet searches that we carried out in following classes. We also made use of a little tool called Zulupad, to work on a timeline for the events in their class novel. Zulu Pad is open source software that allows the user to create links that open up onto new pages.  It is a bit like a portable wiki.  This is a simple little piece of software and I like the use of it in a number of circumstances, such as building vocabularies and note taking. We have used it in some language classes, as well as research classes

This week I had a problem with not being able to use my computer with the data projector. So I asked a student to volunteer and we continued on with the class. I had numerous offers from the students to be the one whose work was shown on the big screen. The others were all focused on the task at hand and we carried on as usual, in fact it was great to have a student at the front so that I could stand at the back of the room whilst directing the class.

In each of these cases it was not the end of the world when the technology did not work as planned. I knew what skill I wanted the students to learn and had other alternatives ready. This is the “trick” to success. I have worked for a long time in the area of student research skill and I am comfortable with technology. A few hiccups does not mean that using the wonderful array of technological tools are too difficult to handle. So, going back to my first question, what can we do as teacher librarians to help the classroom teachers? Work with them in the planning stages, helping them to develop the required learning outscomes for the topic, team teach and share the experiences with them.  And show them the possibilities that are open to them when they use the many and varied tools out there in Web2.0 land, and that most problems are not major, and can be useful, in the learning environment.