"To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life."
-John Coltrane on Uplifting Others

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thoughts of the IIC Finalists and Social Learning

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.


  1. Hey Mike, you and I had Dr. Burton's British Lit History class together last year! I want you to know that I'm very excited to have found your blog. I am planning to research educational technology for the Tibetans in exile in India, and from what I've read you and I have similar ideas about technology in the classroom. One concern I just had reading this post, however, is the sheer volume of new media available. Certainly, most students today are familiar with facebook and use it, but I've never even heard of Google Wave or millions of other applications.

    I think Dr. Burton's approach in British Lit History was particularly effective because it utilized facebook. Most of us had facebook already, and it was very easy to incorporate a facebook post into our lives. In contrast, his digital civilization class I'm in now is using a "canvas" that is entirely new to me. I'll certainly learn how to use it soon enough, and I don't think it will affect my performance in the course, but the mass of options online worries me.

    It's easy to be overwhelmed by online options. I, for one, in high school was bombarded by textbook websites and online study guides/practice quizzes/flashcards/links/you name it and it was far more than I could take. In response, I essentially shut myself off from the internet options because there were too many. I did well in high school, anyway, but I am now wary of the dangers of too many options and too many resources.

    Perhaps I just hadn't learned to discern those specific online resources that would have supplemented my learning beautifully--and maybe the next generation of students that you and I teach will have that ability inherently.

    As far as social learning in the classroom: let me tell you why it will be difficult for students like me. I have always been quiet and shy. In addition, I have always had an immense feeling of responsibility for my own education and grades. Since I am not naturally social it is difficult for me to be social online. Further, working in groups was always risky for me. I remember one occasion in high school where I assigned sections of the project to group members and then proceeded to do almost everything myself anyway. I got an A on the project.

    So, maybe I'm just a bad egg of a student, but I know that at least some students will have trouble with online interaction.

  2. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u
    Social Learning