Digiteen experiences in the “Nearly Now”

My recent experiences in the Digiteen Ning and a new incident involving my students starting a Digiteen Group that made fun of Canadian Stereotypes has gotten me thinking about Stephen Heppell’s idea that the ‘nearly now‘ of online spaces has interesting educational implications.

In this post I’m hoping to refine some ideas about what are the key ingredients necessary to turn a ‘nearly now’ space into an educational space.  These reflections are all based on the Digiteen Ning platform:

  1. It is a public space.  To interact with the students on the space you need to be a member but anybody can see what is going on in this space.  In my interactions with students in the Ning and with my own students this has been a really important catalyst for real conversation because it really holds the students accountable for their own actions.
  2. There is network of teachers monitoring what is happening in the Ning and taking the time to have face to face discussions with the students to help them put their online experiences into perspective, and plan their next steps.
  3. There are a number of ways to interact and have a conversation.  In particular the ability to have forums or discussion threads on different topics seems to me to have a lot of potential for two reasons: 1) each discussion is focussed by the question quiding the topic; 2) it is a fairly immediate form of communication but there is no need for an immediate response which is less threatening and invites more thoughtful responses.

A couple other thoughts about the ‘nearly now’ that I came across recently in the Jenkins White Paper

Gee (2004) calls the kind of informal learning cultures that emerge from these ‘nearly now’ spaces ‘Affinity spaces’ and wonders why people learn more, participate more actively and engage more deeply with these spaces than with their textbooks.  Is it because it is new?

People can participate in various ways according to their skills and interests, because they depend on peer-to-peer teaching with each participant constantly motivated to acquire new knowledge or refine their existing skills, and because they allow each participant to feel like an expert while tapping the expertise of others.

I am particularly intrigued by the second notion of each participant having some of the knowledge and being motivated to share their knowledge while at the same time gaining knowledge from peers.  It’s like a big online jigsaw activity!

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