Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teaching in an Online and Connected World

Moving from being a consumer to a producer of Web content is an empowering shift for our students for multiple reasons.  Among the many reasons are:

    • online writing in the form of commenting and discussion leads to increased comprehension on a subject matter.
    • in practice, it makes students better communicators
    • in collaboration, it improves analytical skills needed to synthesize information
    • develops teamwork and cooperation  
    • When students write online about subjects that interest them, they are motivated and excited about learning

Teachers are excited about offering the Internet as a medium of expression.  However,  they are faced with challenges as they move to use the Internet as a medium for expression.  

Many students are outside the classroom online contributors already. They are using online tools to further their interests.  As Mimi Ito mentions in the video, Connected Learning, Children, and Digital Media, many students are gathered in online spaces to socialize and chat.  There is a subgroup who are using these tools to actively pursue and build their knowledge about things they want to know more about.  Educators have the responsibility to help students practice online safety and maintain a positive online identity. Educators also need to develop and build upon the skills and interests students have outside the classroom.  One very important challenge for educators is to make learning meaningful by “mashing up” student’s out of school online participation and interests with curriculum goals.  In this way, teachers can monitor, guide, and validate student’s online participation as Henry Jenkins suggests in the video, Participatory Culture.  In doing so, educators can guide students to become involved in matters that serve to promote society.  

As students become “RW” they gain a voice in the world.  We know the world is comprised of various cultures and economies and that people have varying perspectives and dispositions. In some cases, meaning is lost or misinterpreted because the readers do not have the background knowledge to make sense of what is being presented.  Both teachers and students must be sensitive to the cultural and economic nature of their intended audience.  As mentioned in Further Notes on the Four Resources Model by Allan Luke & Peter Freebody, research has found students perform better on certain meaning based programs in classrooms whose teachers share similar backgrounds and culture with their students.  Teachers have a challenge to effectively present materials to learners of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.  It is equally important that students develop this awareness of who their intended online audience is and how that impacts their work in authentic learning.   

The remixing of online content to create new content is especially powerful for students. It is very exciting for students.  Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy by Lawrence Lessig, reminds us of copyright law. Even though Lessig feels copyright law inhibits creativity we must make students aware that laws exist to protect authors and artists.  The challenge educators face is monitoring and guiding students to only use media that is free to use and share. Students must be made aware of the principles of Creative Commons and the implications it has on their construction of content.  As Kirby Ferguson explains in the video  Embracing the Remix, all content is a mashup and a remix, we must accept this and then move on to create and construct. Attribution and respecting the work of others is essential to the creativity, development, and progress of free to use online content.

Another challenge for teachers posed by student’s online construction of content is monitoring and ensuring that students display appropriate online etiquette when providing comments and feedback.  Communication should be clear and meaningful.  In the video, Learning STEM Skills by Designing Video Games, we see how important comments can be to the process of improvement and development. The young game creator featured in this video laughs at and disapproves of comments that are meaningless and that lack constructive feedback. Students must learn to provide constructive feedback in order to engage with the learning process.  They must do so appropriately, no “trolls” allowed! On the converse, students should be reflective and learn to improve and develop from constructive criticism.  

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