Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Change? Future? What are we really talking about?
By Barbara Bray    May 27, 2007 -- 08:28 AM

In some classrooms around the country technology changes the way teachers interact with students.

Isnít this still using traditional methods? Okay - there are laptop classrooms with one-to-one initiatives. Students are in groups doing collaborative work. Thatís cool! But are we tapping into the way technology is changing everything else in our world?

How about looking at what students are doing now? Our college, high school, and middle school students are using social networks like MySpace and FaceBook. Iíve talked to my niece who txt msgs and has more social time in FaceBook with her friends than face-to-face. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. I created an avatar in SL but couldnít navigate fast enough before getting assaulted by Chip another avatar. This is a new world for me and Iím not ready for it. This is not my avatar - borrowed it from Flickr.

Guess Iím a digital immigrant. Actually I consider myself a digital alien - I have used computers for over twenty years and use technology often so most of whatís out there is not new to me. Iím on the computer so often youíd think I was connected to my laptop. But these new environments (MUVEs and some social networks) are foreign to me.

Now preteens and even younger (6-8 year olds) are using social networks like Club Penguin. To engage these young children, they pick a penguin avatar and choose their favorite color that connects them to other penguins with the same favorite color. Instant connections! "Waddle around and meet some new friends" in a kid-friendly environment.

Webkinz grabs their members in an interesting way: with soft plushy stuffed animals. Buy a Webkinz animal and you get a secret code that gives you access to the Webkinz online world. More than 2 million Webkinz pets have found a home in the past two years with 3.5 million visitors in April. When the young owner hugs their toy that looks just like their online persona, it reminds them to log in.

There are more sites out there to keep our eyes on:
  • Nickolodeon has Nicktropolis that has members choose their Nick name and brings in the Nick at Night materials.
  • Disney is beta testing Disney Extreme Digital where members will be able to create their own fantasy character.
  • Imbee allows children to communicate only with people they really know and gives parents control.
Do we rethink how our classrooms are designed? Since more MUVEs will take on the look of universities and maybe high school classrooms, will we be redesigning how we interact and engage our students?

Categories: "Future" "Change"

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