Tom's Two Cents

Let’s Ban Paper Too: What Public Schools 1.0 Can Learn From Web 2.0

Let’s Ban Paper Too: What Public Schools 1.0 Can Learn From Web 2.0

Let me start with a video clip. I came across this video by Soomo Publishing, a group I learned at the Connexions 2010 conference. (Soomo is in the business of creating “ready-to-use collections of rich web assignments” using a student subscription model.) Soomo takes some liberties at the end of the video, so if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool historian you may want to skip over this one.

I think this clip is brilliant.

It is exactly this kind of virally catchy, think-outside-the-box content that can pique students’ interest in a particular historical event.

But this is only a hook.

With the proper questions and encouragement, a teacher can help students unpack the meaning of something like the Soomo clip on the American Revolution. Video is not just entertainment. Viewing the clip can lead to some interesting classroom discussions if the teacher is willing to listen as well as lecture. Master teachers are able to adapt last year’s lesson to this year’s students. This kind of teaching takes more effort than one-way lecture because it requires giving students more control, more two-way interaction.

That’s the whole point of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 gives users more control. It’s a 2-way “conversation” that starts with a web page projecting information in one direction and allows the audience to respond with comments, ratings, user-generated video, status messages, etc. Some of the most successful sites have figured out how to give their users more of a voice. They are no longer simply readers, viewers, or users. They are contributors. Schools can learn a great deal from the Web 2.0 movement. People (including students) want to participate, not just watch or read.

Don’t stop there.

I think it would be great if students could dig into some of the great online sources to research and collaboratively create a reenactment of a particular historical event. A project I am involved with is helping teachers to do just that. TwHistory.org helps teachers, students, and history enthusiasts to create historical reenactments using Twitter. More info for teachers is available on the TwHistory teacher’s corner. Are you concerned about the implications of using Web 2.0 tools in schools? So am I. These tools have huge potential. I would even compare it to the invention of paper.

Let’s ban paper too.

Blocking Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites is like banning access to paper in schools because it could be used to read, write, or draw something inappropriate. I taught at a public high school, in a computer-based classroom for 5 years. I understand the issues. Educational consultant Chris O’Neal said it well at the start of a YouTube teacher tutorial he made for Edutopia: “I think of YouTube as, like a giant video flea market. Lots of cool finds mixed in with a lot of crazy junk.” So let’s start by unblocking YouTube in schools (or perhaps finding a suitable alternative, such as TeacherTube, SchoolTube, or Edublogs TV). Social media sites like YouTube are today’s creative canvas.

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