Upon reflection, my journey through ETEC 540 placed me in a position of having to think about how Web 2.0 technologies and Web 2.0 spaces can work to support students with severe special needs (hereafter ‘students’). Too often, the public education system, for example, relies on assistive technologies that are static, rigid, and user-centric (no social networking or social collaboration features), rather than fluid, flexible, and dynamic.
Indeed, ETEC 540 is a platform that invites us to explore and to investigate various spaces of reading and writing, from hypertexts to social media (e.g. blogs, wikis, tagging) and multimedia (e.g. YouTube). Although ETEC 540 is not defined as a community of practice (CoP), we did share and exchange content, information, opinions, ideas, and thoughts about, at least, education, politics, and learning theories in spaces like discussion forums and wiki postings. Here, a tremendous amount of knowledge was brought into two main social-communicative platforms that are much greater than any classroom with four walls.
In turn, this leads me back to how Web 2.0 technologies and Web 2.0 spaces can work to support the said students. The world of text technologies is one way, as evidenced by this course. Indeed, these students can participate and engage in reading and writing spaces that take place on the Web. Just as we have done, these students can do the same at an appropriate and suitable level. Here, I am very excited to know that there are opportunities for great learning, for collective knowledge is readily available.
Indeed, understanding technology is not so much about knowing how to use the hardware and the software as it is about knowing the purpose and the meaning behind the technology. Here, it is about expanding social networks, building social communities, and building knowledge. In this regard, the said students should be apart of this experience as well. Indeed, reading the various posts in the discussion forums and in the Weblog has led me to believe that there is room for such changes in thinking and in understanding how everyone can participate on and contribute to the Web… and have a positive presence.
I share the belief that text and social technologies are evolving in that they are becoming more pervasive, interactive, and accessible. After all, for this course, I have used Web spaces and Web tools that have connected me to my course mates, which, only a few years ago, did not exist in this particular fashion. How beneficial this would be for students who would otherwise not have an opportunity to experience this type of social interaction, positive engagement, and shared communication. Indeed, what resonates with me is that this course has taught me that this journey is only the beginning. That is, I would like to continue to bring what I have learned here into my classroom, into my school, and even into my district, for I believe that both text and social technologies complement and support differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). After all, these technologies allow for interaction, communication, and collaboration as well as knowledge building and sharing in a way that no student needs to be left behind.
You are very right. These technologies do allow for interaction and communication in a way that students and their diverse needs in learning can change the way education is being delivered. Your image of the empty chairs remind me of Wesch’s blog entry and the discussion of even how our classrooms are being transformed and the idea of school is simply not keeping with our desire to learn. Differentiated instruction and UDL like you say can be completed by the technologies available today.
The typical schoolhouse, with its classrooms and physical walls, just does not understand the changing world of education outside of it. This why students are bored, disinterested, unmotivated, apathetic, indifferent, and uncommitted. Schools are not organic, free flowing, dynamic, collaborative, cooperative, holistic, flexible, and open. Overall, 21st century learners are in 19th century schools!
Your post made me think of something I have come back to several times during the course: What if using text as a primary mode of communication in education actually created the group of students we call ‘learning disabled’ or ‘special needs’? What if 8,000 years ago those ‘said students’, or at least a portion of them, would have fit right in and been model apprentices?
I grew up with a sibling with learning disabilities, and once he is freed from the bonds of physically writing, he can compose text better than most. He has even been published online.
Who knows? But at least it might be an interesting point to debate.
As per your question, welcome to the world of holistic education, founded by the Aboriginal Peoples of North America whereby only internal gifts shine through every child by way of song, dance, print, drawings, speech, sign, narratives, and so on. Here, intelligence and education are shown in many ways other than strictly print or text.
In fact, this is how I operate my classes… as long as I am addressing the Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLOs) of any given curriculum, I have autonomy regarding how I would like to facilitate the learning process. My formative and summative assessments revolve around this; all my quizzes and tests — for a lack of a better term — are open book and collaborative. There is *no fear* in my classes!
Interesting discussion… 🙂
I like your approach to education- open-minded ! I also feel that social networking sites allow students with different talents to express these in their classes through personal expression and creativity. It is amazing what students can come up with when they are given some freedom and the teacher facilitates the learning process.
This is why I am interested and intrigued by the MET program. At the post-secondary level, this degree program is outstanding. After all, this program allows us to flex and to prime our strengths in many ways, even though the basis of all our digital artifacts is text. In sum, the MET program is also open-minded.
In other words, the world of education is slowly and steadily shifting towards greater flexibility, choice, options, and various ways of showcasing intelligence, knowledge, experience, ideas, skills, and talents.
Like us, our students should also be given a variety of choices and options to demonstrate their learning so that they can feel proud and pleased by their successes and accomplishments.
Overall, these are exciting times in education even though they are filled with challenges and obstacles.