This post makes up Part 2 of my report for FLE Assignment 2 – Virtual Learning Environments

The IWB Challenge has been set up to encourage teachers to try new ways to use their Interactive Whiteboards. Participants have to complete as many challenges as they can in a given time frame as well as post their own challenge for other teachers to complete. Read this page of the wiki for a description of exactly how it works.

The IWB Challenge uses various Web 2.0 tools in order to create a virtual learning environment:

1. The main tool is a Wikispaces wiki, which houses the instructions for the challenge, the participants information and the challenges that have been set. The wiki is edited by me, but will also be edited by those who are preparing and posting challenges as part of the overall activity.

Rationale: I used a wiki because of the ease of editing the pages and embedding videos, not just for me, but for the other people who will set challenges and for the participants who will edit the wiki to write about themselves and add the videos of the challenges they complete. Plus, it is a platform that many people are familiar with, and if they aren’t, it’s straight forward enough to understand and navigate. I chose Wikispaces particularly as that is the wiki service that I am most familiar with.

2. The second most important Web 2.0 tool involved in this VLE is YouTube. The IWB Challenge has a YouTube channel where I have favourited relevant tutorials I found, as well as uploaded a couple of short instructional videos on how to use the Challenge wiki. When the challenge is underway (starting on June 15th), participants will be using the YouTube Channel to upload the videos they create before embedding them into their pages of the wiki. (Videos from the first 7 challenges set are hosted on TeacherTube and Vimeo but I’m encouraging participants to all use the same video hosting service).

Rationale: I chose YouTube for a few reasons:

  • because of the wealth of IWB material that is already on there
  • it is a site that people are already familiar with
  • because of the audience that YouTube has, videos posted there are highly likely to get an audience outside the original intended group, which may help to extend the community surrounding the VLE.
  • the ease of embedding YouTube videos into a Wikispaces wiki.

3. The IWB Challenge Twitter account is for broadcasting updates on development of the project, including starting dates, when new challenges are posted, links to resources etc. The hashtag for the challenge is #iwbchallenge.

Rationale: I am already a regular Twitter user (@jessmcculloch) and I have a strong network there so I wanted to use it to get information out about the  IWB Challenge. I also created a separate Twitter account for the IWB  Challenge in order to build up a following of people who are  specifically interested in IWBs, and also so the challenge would have it’s own identity on Twitter. Twitter is becoming a very mainstream tool and using it for the IWB Challenge is one way of introducing participants to it who may not have otherwise used it yet.

4. The IWB Challenge blog and it’s associated podcast (coming soon) are going to be used to write about and record what participants are doing, sharing stories of different challenges, and interviewing participants and those who have actually set the challenges about why they like IWBs, how they think it enhances their teaching etc.

Rationale: I will use a blog as well as the wiki because the blog offers a chronological journaling type service which will be more conducive to conversation and discussion. The pages on the wiki can be updated, but in the way that you would edit a rough draft – changes will erase what was originally there. The blog allows updates of conversations, reflections and ideas with the previous ones being kept for later reference and to see a progression of idea development. I also want to create a podcast because that will offer another way for people to engage with the activity. I’m hoping participants will enjoy hearing the voices of people how are involved in the Challenge – but also it may be another way of growing the Challenge audience, especially if the podcast is available in places like the iTunes store.

5. There is also a (pre-existing) Diigo bookmarking group that will be used to collect links that participants find. The tag is ‘iwbchallenge’ and I’ll also be encouraging people to use that tag on any of the bookmarking services they use.

Rationale: As participants work through the Challenge they will no doubt come across resources that they will hopefully want to share. For those using Diigo, it will be easy for them to do this with the Interactive Whiteboards in the Classroom group. The problem here with social bookmarking is that people use different bookmarking sites, which is why I have specified the tag ‘iwbchallenge.’ I’ve then added the RSS feed from that tag on different sites (presently Delicious and Diigo) to a single page on the wiki. This will allow participants to go to just the one page to access new bookmarks, which will hopefully help them with their learning.

6. The IWB Challenge Facebook Group will be a place for further discussion and somewhere else to help get the message out about the Challenge. I didn’t realise quite how many education related ‘friends’ I’ve got on Facebook until I went through them all to see who I could invite to the group.

Rationale: There is a question of course as to whether there should be so many groups/places for the one thing – surely people will get confused? Well, some might, but people do have their preferences of where they like to be so I think it’s worth trying to cater to the major ones – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs.

All of these tools have been mashed together to create a virtual learning environment that will support teachers to learn more about the use of interactive whiteboards. The IWB Challenge space covers the points that Dillenbourg (2000) outlines, on page 2 of his article, are specific to virtual learning environments such as

  • the information space has been designed
  • educational interactions occur (or will occur)
  • students are (or will be) actors – the participants will be the centre of the challenge both by contributing videos and discussion
  • the virtual environment will overlap with the physical – by the nature of the focus, IWBs, this will happen as teachers will take what they learn from the virtual space back into their physical classrooms

To read more about the rationale for a virtual community, please go to the next blog post, A Virtual Learning Community For Teacher IWb Professional Development.

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References:

Dillenbourg, Pierre (2000) ‘Virtual Learning Environments’ on TECFA Education & Technologies: http://tecfa.unige.ch/tecfa/publicat/dil-papers-2/Dil.7.5.18.pdf accessed: 24/04/10

Nikolov, Roumen (2007) ‘Towards Web 2.0 Schools: Rethinking the Teachers Professional Development’ on DSpace at Open Universiteit Nederland: http://dspace.ou.nl/handle/1820/1064 accessed: 10/06/10

Image is author’s own.