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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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"Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time."
-- Tagore, Bengali poet

About 20 years ago, I received my first email account. It was awesome -- not many college students had one. Of course, I quickly realized that I only knew five friends with email and I lived with four of them.

Today, almost every teenager in our schools has the opportunity to access email, but many choose not to. It is much easier to send a message via texting or through Facebook. In fact, a growing number of my college students only use email to correspond with "old people."

Over the past 20 years, advances in our technological landscape have fundamentally changed the way that we access and interact with information and with each other. YouTube just turned six in May. Today, 48 hours of video gets uploaded to YouTube every minute -- twice as much as was uploaded at this time last year. Every minute, nearly 35,000 videos are viewed. Facebook is seven years old and has twice as many active user accounts as the population of the United States.

The participatory nature of the web has made it possible to redefine the culture of learning for our students and for ourselves. And professionally, we can participate in collectives to actively engage in professional learning and we can create similar experiences for our students.

The Web Tools Collective

As part of Edutopia's summer professional development experiences, we are starting a Web Tools Collective to explore and learn with other teachers from around the world. We plan to "study" a variety of web tools and resources, and identify ways that they can be used in the classroom. The Web Tools Collective is a flexible, open-learning experience. We will provide a learning space (Edutopia blogs and groups) and a loose structure for exploration. You are welcome to jump in and out as your schedule and interest allows. You can post daily, weekly, just once or twice, or you can even just lurk.

In their book, A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown describe a collective as:

. . . a collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts. For our purposes, collectives are not solely defined by shared intention, action, or purpose (though these elements may exist and often do). Rather, they are defined by an active engagement with the process of learning. . . . In the new culture of learning, collectives, as we define them, become the medium in which participation takes shape.

The Web Tools Collective Series Schedule

  • Getting Started
  • Collecting: Web tools and resources for collecting and assessing information.
  • Creating: Web tools for expressing, sharing, and celebrating ideas.
  • Connecting: Web tools for breaking down the classroom walls.
  • The Networked Student

    What does a "collective" look like in the classroom? Perhaps this. . .

    Get Started

    In the comments below, let me know what you think about The Networked Student.

    • What can we do to move in that direction?
    • What obstacles do we face? And, most importantly, what questions do you have?
    • What do YOU want to get out of the Web Tools Collective?

    Eric Brunsell will be teaching a course called, "Current Trends in Curriculum and Instruction: Learning in a Connected World" at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh this summer. The course will be taught entirely online and will feature Edutopia -- and our community -- as a resource.

Comments (28)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Ms. Trust's picture
Ms. Trust
Ph.D. Student in Education (Teaching & Learning)

Excellent. I love it when individuals help teachers integrate more technology into their lesson plans. Here is a great database to recommend to teachers that categorizes over 1000 free tech tools by grade level, subject, and standard:

Pljimison's picture
Educational Technologist / William Jessup University

Well, I love the ideas on Networked Student because it is so true for today's's how they learn! Having 2 college age students, I know that learning this way works best for them. Here is my obstacle - I am a past technology coordinator now moving into a principal position at a private school with little computer access. The teachers bring their own laptops, and there are just a few laptops for student use school-wide. As a tech geek, this is frustrating and difficult. Since it is a non-profit, private school, it does not receive funds from the gov. So - how to I implement anything of this nature with students at a school with such little technology. ? I'd love advice!

Paula's picture
5th grade science and social studies teacher in Atlanta area

I love the title 'Learning Architect'. I am looking forward to being part of a study using Ipads in my classroom. If I want my students to become networked students I need to introduce all of the skills mentioned. Where do i start?

Dave's picture
5th grade teacher

This is the direction we should be heading for all students. However, most schools only have 5-6 computers for 35+ students. We need to focus more on the future and less on the multiple choice tests of the past. How can I get more involved in this discussion?

Ken Kay's picture

While I agree that educators need to encourage collaboration and provide opportunities for student networking, there is a significant student population that does not have the social and emotional skills to take advantage of the potential of this instructional strategy. For these students it is necessary to take a step back and teach/guide them to develop social skills.

Barbara Coulter's picture

Just finished watching the Collective Video. It's what I envision for this year in my classes. Our school district has implemented Google Student for grades 6 - 12. We only had it for a few months this year, but students were really excited by the options just in GoogleDocs! One question...I utilized Delicious with students two years ago, then they went, 18+ for membership. Has this changed now that Google owns them? I would really like to utilize that with my students again. My plan for this year includes having students create a web portfolio -- a great way to see which objectives they really get and which ones we'll need to strengthen before moving on. Thanks for leading this discussion and course. As a 21st Century leader/facilitator in my district I'm always looking for new information and tips for our teachers.

Stephanie Rege's picture
Stephanie Rege
CONCERT Program Director

[quote]It would be very helpful to have an RSS feed for this Collective... Is that possible?[/quote]
There's a link to subscribe at the top of the comments section

LoneStarTeacher's picture

I recently ended my 4th year of teaching with a vow to do more next year to take advantage of new technology within my classroom. I have access to a laptop cart, and an IPad cart. For 7 out of my 12 students, this past school year was the first time they'd used features on a computer other than the internet. I plan to start the next school year off turning my students into networked students. This PLN is exactly what I need. I'm still feeling my way, so, I don't know what we can do to move in the direction of the networked student other than share information with one another. I figure what doesn't work for me or my classroom, might work for someone else.
As far as obstacles, I face several. My district is waaaaay behind the times. I was lucky to get the technical tools I have. They are still wary of that terrible monster otherwise known as the internet. This year many educational sites were blocked by our district software. However, I feel it's all about education. We are learning all the time and we as educators need to pass along what we've learned in the hopes of enlightening others. My apologies for rambling. I tend to do that when I get excited. I'm excited about discovering new web tools to use in the classroom.

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