By Justin Reich and Beth Holland
In this four-part series, we have been charting a course for teachers working in classrooms with tablets. We began by looking at the consumption of content -- the default uses of tablets -- and then progresses through the the curation of learning artifacts, and the creation of new projects or activities. In this final piece, we examine the final of our four Cs: connection -- using tablets to put our students in conversations with fellow learners of all ages around the world.
With tablets, teachers and students possess a mobile recording and editing device (text, photos, audio and video), publishing platform (blogs, wikis, video to YouTube, audio to SoundCloud, photos to Flickr), as well as social media access point (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, newsreader apps). This mobile access extends the learning context beyond the walls of the classroom and the hours of the school day, while the instant access to content and social networks opens up avenues for communication and collaboration across distance and time. In this final piece in our Someday/Monday series, we take a peek into the future of richly collaborative classrooms and then give some advice on first steps towards getting there.
In 2003, Ben Schneiderman published Leonardo’s Laptop, a book about human computer interaction. In the book, he proposed a simple framework for designing technology-mediated learning experiences: Collect, Relate, Create, Donate. In a typical technology-infused lesson or unit, students would access new information and skills (Collect) and then work together (Relate) to craft a multimedia performance of their understanding (Create). When finished, the work shouldn’t just sit on a teacher’s desk, but be shared widely, ideally with others who might genuinely benefit from the work (Donate). The connectivity of the Internet gives us the opportunity and responsibility to share what we are learning with others. While technologies have changed quite a bit over the last 10 years, the framework remains a helpful rubric for designing learning experiences.
One common wrinkle with the Donate step in Schneiderman’s framework is that many teachers and students simply launch their products onto the Internet, and most of the time they land like a tree falling in an empty forest. In the best learning environments, sharing work doesn’t just mean posting on the Internet; it means building connections with a wider community, so that sharing becomes part of a set of relationships and patterns of exchange. Mobile computing devices let students take those connections with them wherever they go.
Imagine creating a learning context that spans countries or continents. Consider a learning environment where students run their own “class” outside of class time with peers, or even other teachers, and then come to school ready to take advantage of face-to-face opportunities. Used creatively, tablet computers can empower students to collaborate and share, to take more ownership of their learning, and to make deeper connections not only to the content, but also to their learning community.
Armed with iPads, Kristen Wideen’s students regularly blog, journal, create, and curate throughout the day, as she describes in A Day in the Life of a Connected Classroom. Her students leverage the tools to make deeper connections with the content and extended ones with a broader audience. Her class tweets about their new tadpoles with a classroom in Singapore, and they share math problems with another via Skype. Wideen takes the online network that she’s built with other educators and uses her connections to help her students learn with students from around the world: