I have just finished marking my student’s reflections from last years Digiteen project and am feeling a need to write my own reflection on the project. In general I was happy with how the project went in my class. My students learned a lot about web 2.0 communication and collaboration skills, and in some areas their thinking was challenged and learning took place. In other ways, however, I felt like they were just going through the paces and weren’t authentically engaged in the experience. When I read through their reflections an obvious thread is that they found the Ning networking experience to be very engaging and empowering, while the Wiki editing experience was not as fruitful. I have been thinking quite a bit lately about the power of Personal Learning Networks and how they could be introduced in my classroom and I have started to wonder whether there might be a place in the Digiteen project for the Ning to be more front and center in the learning process.
I keep coming back to a recorded breakfast conversation between David Warlick and Steve Dembo that I recently listened to on the way to work. In it David refers to students needing to learn how to ‘mine the conversation’ and suggests that teachers today need to be ‘master learners’. These sound bites have really stuck with me as more and more this has become how I learn. I follow Twitter links and scan my rss reader to find parts of the conversation that relate to my needs and interests and when something catches my attention I drill down deeper bookmarking sites in delicious to come back to and taking notes using google notebook or by pasting them into a wiki. This has been the most powerful learning experience of my life. Could we replicate this in a classroom setting using Ning? If we did it might look something like this:
- Before starting the project all the teachers involved teach their students about tags, rss and get them set up with a feed reader.
- Each student is then assigned the task of becoming an expert on one of the 9 elements of digital citizenship.
- Each expert must review and post a summary of maybe 3 different resources to their blog and tag the posts with tags related to their summaries so that they are searchable.
- Each student then subscribes to feeds from the experts that they think will provide them with the information they need to help them with their final presentations. There could be an expectation that students comment on each other’s blog posts so that they all get peer feedback.
- There could also be a discussion group started for each topic and the experts on that topic could be assigned the task of starting a discussion thread and moderating the discussion. The groups could be where students go to post
questions in the discussion forum.
These questions could then be the start of a richer discussion about the
different aspects of each topic (especially if teachers also join in once in a
while) and hopefully that these richer discussion would lead to more balanced student perspectives.
I’m thinking I ought to try this within one of my classes to see how it might work.