I just finished looking over the videos from those students brave enough to enter the Innovative Instructional Competition held by the McKay College of Education, and I have a few thoughts about them. First off, I am amazed by the different ideas proposed by my fellow students. I would have been put to shame if I had entered. Lewis and Alyssa's presentation interested me the most. I have used Google Docs before in collaborating ideas between students, but Google Wave makes more sense. The real time aspect in it is intriguing. I'm going to take a look into it.
The main theme I found throughout the videos is the idea of social learning. Returning back to my school days, I remember group projects as being few and far between. However, I consistently find that, if I work in a group, collectively the group learns more effectively. I understand the "con" of group learning: kids won't focus, more time spent talking than learning, blah blah blah. That is, to an extent, true but, in the course of the conversation, the students will bounce ideas off one another. Brainstorming (which I hated as a high school student) can be incorporated into this shift. Teachers can assign students 5 minutes to think out a topic on their own, and then 15-20 minutes in a group, considering ideas. At this time, the teacher can bring in Mindmeister or Google Wave, as a way for students to map out their ideas in a more cohesive manner than loose leaf paper.
The question becomes, at least in my mind, "How do I encourage social learning in the classroom?" I mentioned above brainstorming. Another way is peer editing. In this exercise, students come together to read their papers to one another; in lieu of printing off multiple copies of the paper, the teacher can create a Google Doc or Wave for each students paper. As the students read the paper together, they should be encouraged to comment -either vocally or within the Wave -about the paper. In all this, the teacher should have a specific rubric that the students follow in critiquing one another's papers, such as identifying the thesis, cohesive paragraphs, good citations, well argued point, etc.
My hopes with social learning is that students make the most of their education. I fear that sometimes teachers go on power trips, and attempt to prove their mental superiority to the kids. They forget the reason they became teachers: to help students become, through education, something more.