There's a question at the end of this post!
I’m at the Midwest Educational Technology Conference (METC) in St. Charles, Missouri, just across the river from St. Louis. There’ll be a bunch of my old friends here, including Steve Dembo, Rem Jackson (Wednesday Keynote), Michael Butler, Gail Lovely, and I ran into David Jakes outside the elevator as I arrived at the hotel yesterday. We talked a bit, as the Superbowl was starting, about social networks and what we were doing at NECC this year, and then I returned to my room to finish preparing for today’s workshop.
Social Networks seem to be on a lot of our minds these days. A session on the subject (moderated by Glenn Moses), at the Educon in Philadelphia last weekend was a big draw. It’s a subject that has no conclusions at this point, and I readily admit to not understanding the concept fully, at least in a way that would be helpful to anyone else. I understand my social network. I shape it, seed it, cultivate it, and glean nourishment from it. But it’s not the same as the one that Jakes has shaped or the ones that Steve Hargadon or Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach are growing.
What I would love to see is that we give up on trying to integrate social networks into our classrooms. I’m not really sure that we can invent a social network and then expect kids to embrace it as a comfortable working platform that Facebook, MySpace, and Beebo have become. I could be wrong, so I’m not suggesting that we do not try. But what I wish is that we could simply let them make it, outside of our classrooms. Let them be responsible. Let them bring into the classroom those elements that help them do our work, and continue to shape, mix, and remix their networks for their own reasons. This too may not be possible, but I think that it would get, more directly, at what we should be focused on right now, and that’s the work of learning.
I’ve said before that I do not visit the Science Leadership Academy to see technology. You won’t. What you see is a different kind of learning at work. The assignments are not, read this chapter, answer the questions at the end, and come in prepared to discuss the questions. The work you see there is not so much about answering questions as it is about finding positions and developing arguments that support that position.
It seems to me that learning today and most certainly in our children’s futures, is not so much about memorizing as it is about exploring, experimenting, conversing, discovering, and constructing knowledge — with some memorizing required.
OK, so lets assume that I’m wrong and we can’t leave the networking platform up to the kids and we can build one. I would hope that it’s a build your own, with components that can be attached anywhere at any time, by both teachers and students, and perhaps even outside observers. Let’s say that we start with a basic profile building element and a way to connect with others through groups or such.
What components do you think should be available for adding?