What happened to using 2.0 tools to connect students?

Bear with me here–a short intro before I get to my point. If you are one of the 1000s of regular readers-ok, one of the 100s of regular readers–fine, if you are the regular read of my blog you probably have realized that I am not the best writer. And I really struggled with this post because I found a lot of difficulty to put my thoughts into a cohesive point. Also I found it difficult to bring out in this post that it expresses thoughts I have been wondering about, not firm beliefs. So please don’t attack in the comments, this is just a post about something that has been bouncing around my mind…

I fell into the 2.0 world in a weird way. I wrote a kid who was using a wikispace for a project about a cool graphic she was using and she wrote back and so did her teacher. The teacher and I then somehow decided to have both classes work on the project together. After that every time I found a new tool I tried to figure out how to use it to collaborate with another classroom or audience somewhere in the world. My mindset was fixed on using the power of the web to get my students out of our classroom and having them connect with classrooms and audiences across the world–I just thought those were the rules in the 2.0 world–it’s how it was introduced to me by Ben Wilkoff. We were already a funky out-of-the-box PBL classroom way before 2.0 came along. By integrating 2.0 tools into our classroom we were able to connect and collaborate with an audience or classroom in everything we did making us slightly twist the way we approached our projects and making all of our work more authentic. We did not become more creative or collaborative within our four walls, but the magic happened when connecting with folks out of our four walls. Really, when it comes right down to it, a creative lesson plan without 2.0 tools can almost mimic any of the skills, objectives, and conceptual ideas covered in any lesson that includes one. Almost every 2.0 tool when used in the confines of the classroom with a traditional lesson plan just gives the lesson a new coat of paint. Kind of like when I bring my guitar in and use it for a lesson. I sometimes wonder if teachers are simply relying on 2.0 tools to mask lesson plans that are not conceptual, interesting, appropriately challenging, creative, problem based or collaborative. Ouch? (For the record, I include myself as possibly “one” of those teachers)

I stopped and looked around the other day and noticed that 2.0 tools, especially plurk, twitter, wikis and blogs seemed to be getting a lot of teachers together, but how about their students? Are these tools being brought into a classroom to have their kids use within their walls, or are they being used to break down their walls? What’s that saying about how it’s not about how well the teachers teach, it about how the students learn… All of these Personal Learning Networks are great. Yes they are. But maybe they are missing the point. It’s not about how well the teachers are connecting, it should be about how well the kids are connecting. It’s not about just using tools because they are the future, it’s about using them in the way they will be used in the future. In business, 2.0 tools allow people to work across great distances collaboratively and present their ideas to audiences in a creative fashion. They are not using wikis and google docs within four walls, but to break down walls. My kids interviewed Colin Devroe of the interactive video hosting site Viddler. Colin uses skype and google docs to run Viddler with colleagues in Poland, Pennsylvania, and California. We may be using the tools of the future but are they being incorporated in the classroom in a manner that they are currently being used by businesses and entrepreneurs in the 21st Century? Are we using them within our four walls, or are we using them to take down our walls?

If you would like to take down a wall or two in your classroom, please see my prior post. And remember, I was just wondering…which might just be my way of being afraid that I am going to offend someone with this post? Will I?

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