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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Early view of ed's future

Speaking as a parent and online-kids advocate, not an educator: Increasingly, education will have both online and offline components as it does now, only the online pieces will get more and more fluid, media-rich, and supportive of the P2P (person-to-person) offline part. In fact, online tools - such as Howard Rheingold's "collaboratory" - will make the classroom part more meaningful to teacher and students. School will actually become relevant to today's fluent young information "hunter-gatherers," as MIT professor Henry Jenkins describes them. Author and (Stanford and U. of Cal. Berkeley) professor Howard Rheingold has just launched his Social Media Classroom, a free, easy-to-use "browser-based environment" for digital and real-life collaboration that includes learning tools such as a wiki (for collective writing/editing), blog with commenting, forum (boards or many-to-many discussion), chat, microblog (like Twitter), RSS (newsfeed/online distribution), social bookmarks (collective bookmarking), photos, video, etc. All it needs is virtual-world avatars (like those in Lively or Second Life)! As the winner of a MacArthur Foundation HASTAC award, the Classroom's designed "to supplement, not replace, existing course and learning management systems" and - more importantly, I think, to help teachers go beyond teaching digital tools and skills to teaching history, literature, citizenship with the tools in a way that makes learning these subjects more immersive and compelling (because of the role-playing and collaboration the tools allow). Whew! That was a mouthful, but there is probably no more exciting prospect for education. Now we need to just move it all into a virtual world (or at least turn the chat feature into avatar chat in rooms as customizable as real-world classrooms). [Here is Rheingold's own video introduction of the Social Media Classroom, and here's info on the HASTAC competition (the acronym stands for Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory).]

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