Yesterday, I took the library to the students. As those of you who read my blog may know, we’re closed for a renovation, and I’m currently working out of the ninth grade center library, which is a trek from the main high school.
So in an effort to bring services TO the students, I’m experimenting with various methods of outreach.
We’re deep into a major project on Vietnam, and students are involved in creating a digital biography of a soldier from the Vietnam wall, so I went to visit a couple of classrooms that were using mobile labs, so that I could offer tech support, answer copyright questions, etc.
It was fascinating being in the classroom with the teacher as opposed to being in our computer lab. As I walked around the room, students were asking lots of questions(more than they normally ask when I do a walk through in the lab). And it was fascinating because I could see how the teachers partner on this assignment and share materials and students openly back and forth between their rooms.
I also was learning a lot about how students are doing their “work” differently. A couple of students were looking at the html code of a website on Vietnam and discussing the code. I asked the teacher about it, and she told me they were building a website about their soldier instead of a video presentation. We talked about code copyright, a discussion I had seen going on online a few days ago.
The other teacher told me that her students were using their phones to take photos of the title page of the books they were citing, so that they didn’t have to write down the title and author for their bibliography work later. I thought that was pretty clever, and one I hadn’t thought of.
As I was rereading part of Wikinomics last night, preparing for our panel on wikis at TCEA 2008, (Using Wikis to Connect, Collaborate and Connect) I was struck by this quote:
“The future, therefore, lies in collaboration across borders, cultures, companies, and disciplines. Countries … that turn inward will not succeed in the new era.”
I think this applies to schools as well. If we turn inward, or ignore the tools students are using, or aren’t willing to be open to learning about them, we won’t succeed in the “new” era of collaboration and ubiquitous technology use.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, because at the beginning of our session, we’re going to talk about the power of the wikis, and I’m going to use Wikipedia as a leaping off point, and share ideas Will Richardson showed us about the discussion tab on Wikipedia. But I’m aware the conversation may start to derail into a debate over the merits of Wikipedia, even though I’m using it as a metaphor for the power of wikis for collaborative knowledge building.
My take on Wikipedia, and most other tools–is that we need to teach students more informed uses of these tools and to be information literate, but we also need to learn from our students. It’s likely they know more about using Wikipedia than we do, for example. (In fact, one of the interesting things about our session tomorrow is that the teachers involved are fledgling users of wikis, are interested in the pedagogy, and we wanted to demonstrate how we are all learning about these tools together.)
The real power of tools like wikis lie in this democratization of contributions. And for us to believe in that, we have to trust our “customers” as Tantek Celik, of Technorati, points out in Wikinomics. We have to believe in our students, believe that they have something to contribute. Yes, they may sometimes need guidance, support, training, scaffolding, but, they do have things to contribute and their voices matter.