After reading the LearnOnline blog for a while it was good to meet the author Leigh Blackall and his partner Sunshine last week when Leigh spoke to a group of educators in Auckland. Leigh has been researching and developing models for learning through socially networked media... from free and open source software, de-schooling, and networked learning and explored and challenged these concepts in the context of New Zealand education and the widening use of the Internet, social web and 3D virtual worlds in schools.
Just that morning I had read a thought provoking post by Sheryl on progressive education that included a clip from the 1940s where I seemed to be hearing the same questions and conversations we are having today (recommended reading). A clear message from Leigh was the importance of us as educators taking control of our networks,rather than letting others make these decisions for us and blocking sites verses facilitating and modelling socially responsible strategies for using web based environments... this took me back to Stuart Hale's keynote at the Kapiti-Otaki Cluster conference last month when he said "the server is there to serve us".
I have also become aware lately that some of us didn't realise Wikipedia is " written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world" and consequently is viewed by some as 'not a reliable resource for use with students'. An idea from Leigh which I think might be worth pursuing as an authentic learning context, is to use wikipedia to connect with experts. For example... if students were to author an entry in wikipedia with the teacher facilitating a connection with a local expert or associated organisation that can then work collaboratively with students to develop the validity of the entry...in the words of Konrad Glogowski...
"I do not want to create a community or a social network for my students. Instead, I want to create the conditions necessary for the right kind of environment to emerge. Building an environment for the students is likely to result in failure: environments and communities need to be build with the students, with their full participation, through their work and their interactions with and about texts."
If you are interested in accessing more of Leigh's recommended blogs and resources he has kindly set up a delicious tag here