Contents contributed and discussions participated by Barbara Lindsey
I've truly embraced digital dialogue because it provides me with the opportunity to be challenged and to grow all at once---and on my own time. The traditional barriers of time and space that prevent teachers from learning from one another are eliminated by technology---and the terms "relationships" and "professional development" are being redefined by new opportunities to connect and create together.
Last year, I tried to pass that digital enthusiasm on to the sixth graders of my classroom. Together with peers, my students collaborated on a wiki, recording nearly everything that we learned in my science and social studies class. The collective efforts of 90 motivated kids resulted in nearly 80 pages of content that had been revised and refined almost 400 times.
They also joined an effort to create a classroom podcast program that earned over 20,000 page views from visitors in 125 countries ranging from Bolivia to Burkina Faso. With over 110 posts, our "little adventure" drew recognition from technology experts like Will Richardson and was spotlighted on national resource websites like MiddleWeb.
The children of my classroom grew as digital citizens throughout the year. They learned to see the Internet as a tool for collaboration and communication---rather than simply as a vast online research encyclopedia. They practiced posting on our own digital discussion board, polishing the unique skills that it takes to engage others electronically. They judged the reliability of online resources together, became experts at questioning, grew willing to open their work to review and revision, learned Internet safety practices important for protecting themselves and saw the potential of becoming citizens of an electronic world where content is being created at a blinding pace.
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What are we going to do with our wiki and blog at the end of the year?" they asked often. "Can we take it with us to seventh grade and keep recording what we're learning? It would be neat to see what we had at the end of middle school!"
Our students will buy and sell from countries across the world and work for international companies. They will manage employees from other cultures, work with people from different continents in joint ventures and solve global problems such as AIDS and avian flu together.
But what I've grown to realize is that very few people have really embraced the changing nature of a tomorrow that remains poorly defined. We know that the Internet today is far more powerful than ever before---and have heard about companies that are capitalizing on these changes---but we haven't figured out what that means for us. We're jazzed to have access to information and geeked by interactive content providers, but our digital experiences remain somewhat self-centered.
the new National Educational Technology Standards for Students being developed by the International Society for Technology in Education. These standards reflect an increased need to teach children how to use the Internet in new and different ways. Perhaps the most challenging---and important standard---for educators to embrace will this one:
Communication and Collaboration:
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
A. Interact, collaborate and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
B. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
C. Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
D. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.
Does that sound like the digital work being done in your classroom, school, district or state?!
Together with the Center for International Understanding, North Carolina in the World is developing partnerships based on digital collaboration between schools in North Carolina and nations ranging from China to Mexico. Teachers and students in partnering schools are learning to use Web 2.0 tools like web-conferencing and wikis to connect kids across continents. Not only do these efforts help to build a general knowledge of other countries in our children, they are providing concrete opportunities to use technology in new ways.
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Google Earth enables teachers and communities to easily create tremendous collections of work integrating video, 3D buildings, photos, podcasts, or NPR stories . Teacher and students will travel the real earth of explorations, migrations, heroes and history and share new instruction growing on the planet itself.