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Teachers on the PLAYground

A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia I teach 60 pre-service teachers (undergrads) a one-credit technology module (Integrating Technology Across the Curriculum). I interface with students from English, History, Music, Fine Arts, Dance, Sciences, and Mathematics for 15 weeks online, during their field work semester, but prior to student teaching. While online teaching has its challenges (as I wrote ten years ago), it also provides a luxurious space that I liken to a digital sandbox where my students can play, experiment and explore.

This semester, I had students discover Web 2.0 tools on the PLAYground, a social learning and curation platform developed by my colleague Erin Reilly, Creative Director at the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. The PLAYground encourages creativity, connection and collaboration—processes that are very difficult to assess in schooling. I asked my pre-service teachers to create an introduction to a curriculum unit plan (aligned with Common Core standards) by developing a “canvas” of embedded video, image galleries, RSS and Twitter feeds, and other web-based media (“Discovering Web 2.0 on the PLAYground”). I required students to participate in each other’s canvases to provide both student commentary and peer critique. The second half of their work within the PLAYground was to remix a canvas from another content area, in order to think in ways that are cross-disciplinary and collaborative (“Remixing Technology and Curriculum”). What is most impressive about the PLAYground is the built-in analytics that gauge the 4Cs of participatory learning (e.g., Collaborate, Circulate, Connect, and Create). My assessment of pre-service teachers’ use of technology is not merely based on how much media they create, but also on how much they engage with their peers.

Stay tuned as the semester progresses for updates and discoveries.


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