Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Where is Waldo? Finding the man in the machine.

Collaboration is a joy for some, and a form of purgatory for others.

Add the word Online to Collaboration and you will see students and instructors run screaming in fear.

I have recently been taking an online class, something I recommend to all online instructors to do, and have found it to be most informative on many levels.

There are always "crazes" and "flavors of the month" for any online program, instructor, and student.

The current craze involves the Web 2.0 jargon and mythos.

What is it? Where do I get it? How do I use it? I can tell you I have gotten all those emails and phone calls. Some actually think it is a single program like MSWord or Dreamweaver.

What annoys me more than trying to explain Web 2.0, is trying to help frantic and pressured instructors understand that, "using Web 2.0 tools just to meet a technology initiative is counter productive."

Oh, perhaps I should explain that to the Administrators: Pressuring your faculty to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into their online classrooms is counter productive.

James and Kathleen Lengel would probably back me up on that.
www.ablongman.com/lengel1e

Anyway, my point is that randomly picking tools is not going to satisfy the student collaborative initiative online. In some instances the wrong tool can be a kill-joy that halts the learning process.

There are hundreds of "best practices" out there concerning the Web 2.0 tools, so I might as well add to the pile.

1. Pick something that has familiar elements. I.E. Google Docs has all the MS Suite capabilities AND can allow shared editing and chatting in real time as you work.

2. Pick something they might use again. It is great to complete an assignment, but you are training them for careers. A good deal of the content creation and sharing tools of Web 2.0 have a Second Life so to speak. What might they use in business or in a research lab?

3. Never pick anything that takes longer than 30-45 minutes to learn. They have an assignment due. They will hate you.

4. Create engaging lessons with the tool. Use problem based learning! Don't shy away from it. PBL is what Web 2.0 was made for. Collaboratively solving problems for business,research, and in our case, course work!

5. Thou shalt mash-up. It is ok to use just ONE tool, and in some cases you may need two or more. I.E. Run a Blog and a Wiki at the same time. The only hard fast rule is do not overload your students. Once again, 30-45 minutes to learn each tool means if you have 2 you have taken up 2 hours of their lives.

6. It's ok to ask for help. Go play with your students. That sounds wrong on more than one level, but it really is what you need to do. Figure out what they are using for their social lives, their data organization, and their work. Ask them what they have used and if it was meaningful. We are all evolving together, they just happen to have an advantage.

7. Make friends. Work with other disciplines and instructors to do cross curriculum projects with these tools. If you are working in Second Life to build a simulation--go see your graphic arts or video students!

8. Just start. I saw that phrase hanging over my computer in graduate school and I live by it. If you just start making choices then you will see what needs to be done next. If you wait around for it to solve itself you will just get old.

9. Don't forget the basics. In the end, the tools are just that, tools. Good solid lessons begin with a solid learning objective situated in a meaningful context.

10. Have fun yourself! This is the most important one. If you want to integrate technology it has to tempt you to experiment and work out the bugs. Make sure the software isn't a novelty. Do you find yourself coming back several times a day? Once a week? Half a year later and you can't remember your username and password?

In the end, its about finding the HUMAN in the technology.

*steps off of soap box*

Collaborative technology and collaborative culture are nothing new. We were raising barns together long before Web 2.0

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