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How Do You Web 2? Pepping Up Your Next Project With A Podcast
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I think it is time to conduct a survey. It would be interesting to know what proportion of teachers have used Web 2.0; blogs, wikis, podcasts and social networking, in their teaching program and compare it to the number of students who have used Web 2.0

If you are a student reading this, I'll let you in on a secret. At least once already during your school career, one of your teachers has been learning what they wanted to teach you just days, or hours, before they did. This happens for two main reasons; curricular changes which necessitate teaching something you learned a loooong time ago if ever and the natural tendency of teacher to teach first and be content specialists second.

As to the first, I recall seeing the word enantiostasis appear on a Biology curriculum long after I passed the 10 year teaching mark and my reaction was, "what the heck is enantiostasis?" A little research later and bingo, nicely worked into a lesson on regulating salt levels in estuarine fishes. The second happened to me more regularly. My philosophy has always been 'learning is for life' and so if there was a subject or class which needed to be taught, 'I'd front up and have a go'. This first happened in my early teaching career when this newly qualified Science teacher was asked to teach a computing science class. Back then a major achievement was to write a Basic coding program so that when you hit enter a sentence would be repeated over and over from the top to the bottom of the screen. I think it's best if we don't discuss the content of some of my students' sentences. I recall looking through books of programing code so I could ensure I knew more than my students the following day. Of course, you never do. Not even if you majored in the subject at university. However these side trips prepared me to be a teacher first and content specialist second.

This same approach is needed for many teachers when they approach Web 2.0. With one subtle difference. Today's students are programmed to explore something until they figure it out. They play quest games and have to solve problems to progress up the levels. They have the patience to shoot literally millions of pixels in a quest for a better rank. There are plenty of Web 2.0 tools for science educators, so let's give them a Web 2.0 tool and see what they make of it.

Podcasting is fun. Listening to a digital version of your voice is quite confronting for the first time and there are so many ways of saving and using audio it should almost be a must nowadays. I have spent the most time with Audacity, though many colleagues also like using Garage Band. Audacity is freeware and allows students to record their voices, remove the background noise, cut out any undesired sections, add a music track underneath, mix the tracks together and publish them either as wav files or mp3. The advantage of the latter is that they can be played on mp3 players. Podcasting is a great resource for opinion pieces, mini-documentaries or interviews and students enjoy making them. In fact, I find the students who wish to produce something of even better quality will search for, and even buy, better quality software (and a decent microphone) in order to further improve their final product.

Of course this is exactly why Web 2.0 is such a valuable learning tool. It creates sufficient interest, providing the tasks are sufficiently open, that students can extend themselves and their knowledge of the software and its applications in any direction interest takes them. Guiding students as they collaborate, share ideas, pass notes and gather knowledge is a richly rewarding experience.

We have been relieved of the burden of knowing all. In many ways, the teacher's role could be an amalgam of wikipedia, google and a gps. We know what information is out there, how to find it and where the most important pieces might be located. However there is no need to feel overwhelmed. Our students are generally happy to be taken on these journeys, all their teachers need to do, is manage them along the way.


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