As I was reading Networked, I was not too surprised to see that more than 3/4 of teenagers and 2/3 of adults have created content online. What does surprise me is that when I mentioned wikis in a conversation around a group of 8 male and female students last year, they said, “What’s a wiki?” Does this reflect the cultural inertia that may exist in our schools? Wikis are amazing collaborative spaces that could be rocking the schoolhouse.
My 14-year-old daughter was one of the kids in that group. She likes to go in her closet, yes- literally in her closet- with her ipod and a family lap top. Does this sound like we’re breaking all the rules for parenting and computer use? There is more. The closet has a spot that wraps around part of our chimney that makes for the perfect private spot. Inside this closet she has blankets, a queen pillow, and the ceiling is lined with white Christmas lights. So, she likes to go to this spot and use ooVoo to visit with friends and to get a little studying done. My daughter’s bedroom is on the second floor, and her closet wall adjoins the small, but high ceilinged living room on our first floor. We live in a 30+-year-old log home, and what I’m trying to say is the privacy of her spot is really a facade. When my husband and I are in the living room, we hear everything. A benefit that we enjoy.
Beyond normal teenage chatter, she also uses ooVoo to study with friends. They quiz each other on Spanish and talk about math problems. “What’d you end up with for #7?”
So, back to Networked. As I read about the percentage of students active in creating online content and thought about my daughter studying with friends in her closet using ooVoo, one sentence in the book struck me: “Networked individuals have new powers to create media and project their voices to more extended audiences that become part of their social world” (loc. 490 on the kindle e-book).
So why aren’t we enabling more students in school to use these technologies they enjoy in purposeful ways? Why not teach them how to leverage these new literacies to make purposeful digital footprints that reflect goals, communicate needs, explore interests, and share knowledge?
I wonder about the possibility of using ooVoo in conjunction with collaborative writing and Google documents to engage students in writing. I’d like to do something similar to this collaboration with digital internships but perhaps use 9th graders from different high schools, yet situated close enough so that the students could get together and meet each other in person. The collaboration might kick off with a get-to-know you breakfast at a local bagel shop.
I think we have the tools in education; we just don’t always use them as well as we could. I think Justin Reich would agree with me on that one.