Using Web 2.0 tools to teach my courses not only enhances my innovative potential in designing lessons, but helps motivate student creativity in project based assignments. As an educator at an online high school, I have designed my courses to allow students options for completing work. I developed a blog with short tutorials on how to use certain Web 2.0 tools and I allow them to choose from any of the methods described on the blog to complete projects. Not only has having these options helped my students, but the tools that they are learning to use spark creativity.
For example, standard word processing software, such as Microsoft Word, offers a fundamental tool for students but not much intrinsic value. However, using blogs can tap into something very important for high school students—the chance to be heard by more people than just the teacher. If students are allowed to complete essay projects in a blog rather than in the more traditional format, student bloggers can write out their ideas so the world can listen. The result is more thoughtful and more creative writing, which helps promote student literacy.
For years MS PowerPoint has been considered the "creative tool" which propels students to become more creative in their presentations. But again, PowerPoint and similar presentations are often viewed only by the teacher and the class. But the Web 2.0 presentation applications, such as Slideshare and Zoho Show allow students to create presentations and share them with the world.
The above illustration comes from one student's Slideshare slide show about Portugal. Using the program requires that students build their project in PowerPoint (or similar software) first and upload it; but knowing that they are uploading it promotes ingenuity during the original creation.
The above illustration is from a student who used Zoho Show to create her project, About Me. Zoho Show is less popular but does allow the students to build their project in a web based application. So, those who can't afford presentation software for their computer, and thus would never complete this type of project, now have a new opportunity. Also, both of these sites allow students to view other people's amazing visions. This opens the floodgates for their imaginations.
Some of the most interesting student work I've seen at my school has come in the form of video projects. Students have easy access to video cameras today and often make movies for their own entertainment. Many students are comfortable playing with editing software and because of free video hosts like Youtube and Google Videos, anyone can post to the web. Allowing students the option to create video projects and then share them in an online network is exciting. Animoto is a newer video production website that allows students to upload pictures, select music, and easily produce a short 30 second movie. It's hard to assess student learning in a 30 second project, but using this tool to replace a paragraph or two of an essay or as an intro to a presentation project gets students interested in the assignment.
Up until last year, student collaboration has proved difficult in an online high school. However, with the increase in usability of wiki's and the ability to create my own social network using the Web-based network-builder Ning, it has really begun to take off. Wiki's can act as editable databases, processor documents, multimedia hosts and any number of additional functions. The idea that people can constantly transform information on a page through real time collaboration is very exciting. Students can post ideas and get feedback from other students with whom they are working. They can bounce ideas back and forth expanding or narrowing their original concepts. Our social network gives students a place they can go to make friends, socialize, and work together. They can discuss their ideas, share research, and collaborate. The key, though, is that they make friends first and the social part of the network allows them to do that in a more natural way than my saying, "partner up with someone and work on this project together."
Implementing Web 2.0 tools in my courses has given me an opportunity to open the doorways of creativity and have students walk through it rather than supplying the gentle motivational nudge to which I'm accustomed.
Finally, if you want to get a real hands-on feel as to what this is all about, please spend time at First Day of Kindergarten, the blog I've created to help students learn to use Web 2.0 tools for their projects.