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When I'm asked where I want to take technology and learning at Castlemaine North PS next, I usually show a version of this slide that I used at a couple of recent conferences.

 

If I think about how I use technology, and thus how I assume most adults who take advantage of technology use it, we aren't shoved into a single online community with a restricted audience and be told we must belong to this community, and no others, and we're not told this is what we must contribute and when. We choose which communities we are a part of, based on our own particular passions, and the audiences we want to connect with.

If we are serious about preparing our students for the 21st century (a century that is almost one-twelfth over, by the way), we need to give allow them to make the choices as to which communities they belong to. At the beginning of my time at Castlemaine North, I assumed that one giant community could fulfill all my students' needs for collaboration and audience for their work. After nearly two years, I don't think this model is ideal. Here are a few reasons why...

  1. Students get different things from online collaboration. Some take to it easily; some don't. Some love the audience for their work; for others, it is of no importance.
  2. Having all students in one community means all students, and their parents, need to have the same agreement about who the audience is. Because some parents aren't comfortable with their children sharing their work with a wider audience, the teacher needs to 'lock down' the community to the level of the most restrictive community member. This means that many others who would be comfortable with a wider audience, and would benefit from it, miss out.
  3. It doesn't fit with the idea of personalised learning. We want to empower our students, and they are empowered by making choices aligned with their passions.
So the model of a single school network, where students keep a log of their learning, and can work with others in the school community, should be the base from which students work. This school network is useful for teachers and parents to stay in touch with the students' progress, but should not be the only option for students.
So I've been working on further learning communities that students can contribute to, based on their own particular passions. These communities have fewer restrictions than the school network, and can be opted in to by parents who provide appropriate permissions.
Our first foray into the extended community has been the Writers' club, which has slowly been gaining momentum. There are now over a hundred passionate writers on the site, all with a blog, from eight schools spread over four countries and three continents.

 

The next nascent community is the Science club, which is just finding its feet now. The big advantage of the Science club is that, aside from having students from around the world, it can also contain the 'Virtual Experts' from our school network; this means our Virtual Scientists can be assisting students not just in Castlemaine North, but around the world....

 

 

Finally, the idea of gaming in education continues to swirl around my brain. I've mentioned it to my boys (for whom our Attitudes to School Survey data indicates disengagement relative to the girls). Having a community based on gaming in learning could very well provide the catalyst for a change in how our boys view collaboration across the world. All I've done is create the community, but even that caused considerable excitement in our male population....

 

 

What other communities do you think could appeal to the passions of students?

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