Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The 3 C's

Thought I'd summarize some of the guiding principals of educational technology - heard from the latest interviews by Steve Hargadon.

Three of the prime components of the "read/write web" are communication, collaboration and creation. Understanding these processes deeply helps me chart a path::

This is the most basic function allowed by Web2.0 (W2) tools - the ability to exchange a thought. That said, it would be easy to overlook how complex this act is, even when it is face-face. People spend a lifetime studying how a message is formulated, shared, heard, interpreted, etc. Given how foundational this skill is, it deserves great time and attention (with or without technology). We can take this concept back to the playground or the play circle in pre-school. Children need practice in communicating face to face, sharing the "stage", resolving conflict, managing themselves.

I was impressed and surprised while listening to Michael Wesch's comments on W2. When asked how someone can get started in learning about W2 he referred them to 2 books; "The Art of Loving" by Eric Fromm and "Teaching as a Subversive Activity" by Neil Postman. These are books about communication and teaching, not technology. It would be easy for us to move away from our humanity as we get enamored with technology. It's great to have people who speak for the caring aspect of it all.

Look for a way to teach technology - without the gadgets. Help your students to understand one another, understand themselves and find their voice. If we are changing the locus of control for learners (moving control closer to the learner) it makes sense to teach them to manage themselves. This concept is is fact one of the leading principals for the New Zealand initiative described by Mark Treadwell. He mentions 5 competencies for learners. The abilities to: manage self, think, communicate, collaborate and participate.

So let's say that we have taught students to manage themselves. A good next step is to teach them to collaborate with one others. Again, this skill is not the private domain of technology. We've been collaborating since the beginning of civilization. That's why they call it civilized right?

Once we get the concept of collaboration, then we can begin to use W2 tools to extend it to a larger, non-local, hopefully deeper context. Clearly there are too many tools to name to accomplish this and they are changing every day. The coolest thing I've seen lately is Diigo, a social bookmarking tool that allows a person to write notes on a web page, create a slide show of a website, and more.

Technology can make collaboration new and exciting for kids. It can take some of the interpersonal tension out of the equation by moving the collaborators a distance away from one another. I say this knowing that the degree to which any of the students are prepared and comfortable with the collaborators will be guided by the teacher. The tone, in today's classrooms anyway, is generally set by the teacher.

Remix is another word. When I went to college I learned how to write a research paper that gathered ideas from a variety of sources to create my own work. The perennial question has been when and how and to what degree one should give credit to ideas. The tools that are emerging from this hyper-connected world make it super easy to mix and remix ideas - limited only by your ability to conceive and mash them. Once again, fair use is an important basic skill that is the primary responsibility of the adults (until we achieve truely student directed learning).

Of course there is the issue of quality. So what if we can create if the "stuff" we create is hogwash. Again, this is where a good leader/teacher/guide/moderator comes in. Someone needs to guide students (of all ages) to create quality work. "Quality" is in the eyes of the beholder for sure. The idea is that there are people who have more experience and who can structure learning and provide feedback.

Helping student to communicate, collaborate, and create can be a challenging responsibility. In last night's Elluminate session, http://www.classroom20.com/, I heard students talking about student led learning. This should be the goal of every classroom teacher; to help a class become responsible, autonomous, learners. That said, children don't come out of the box ready to get along and structure their own learning experience. I am listening to find out how teachers are structuring for autonomy. What tone, what skills, what direction can we give students that help them to communicate with one another? How are we helping them to come together, get along, and collaborate? What tools are we giving them for remixing and creating original work? I realize this is an give and take process; sometimes structured, sometimes unstructured. Sometimes in the control of the teacher and sometimes in the control of the student. I'm excited to see how more teachers accomplish this. I'm excited about doing it myself.