As a professional educator ensconced in the educational-industrial complex of an American public school district, I appreciate when we get criticized from “outsiders.” Oh, sure, there’s a lot of unfair criticism regarding the supposed ease of teachers’ lives, the foolishness of their debates, and the impermeability of union contracts.
Every instructor should at minimum maintain a Twitter feed where every trivial detail of classwork (assignments, quiz dates — everything) is posted. Questions asked by students should be reflected back by the teacher to the students. This Twitter feed would be a standing record of everything every student needs to know in order to succeed.
Facebook. Learning is, or should be, social and collaborative. Students are already on Facebook. Why not let them experience the power of Facebook for working toward a goal or cause, or learning in a collaborative way.
Wikipedia. Teachers assign group writing assignments all the time. Typically, either one or two students end up doing all the work, or the work is shared equally and the lazy students damage the grades of the hard-working ones. Either way, the teacher never knows who did what, and students walk away from the experience hating collaboration.
The best way mankind has ever devised for collaborative writing is the Wiki, as demonstrated by the Wikipedia.
Every teacher who assigns collaborative writing assignments should either use Wiki services online, or assign students to write or update an actual public Wikipedia entry.
Not only does the Wiki approach engage the human mind better, it also leaves a complete record of who contributed what to the project. It persists beyond the assignment, remaining available for all to see (rather than vanishing forever after being turned in). The excellent students can be excellent, the slackers can slack, and the teachers can grade each individual according to his or her actual contributions. Best of all, students learn how collaboration will really work once they get into the real world.
Crazy talk, I know, but it’s not an educator talking. It’s a computer wonk. Maybe our supervisors will start listening sooner than later?
The World Is My Office
Mike Elgan is an opinion columnist at large who writes forComputerworld.com, The Raw Feed, TechGear and many other online and print publications.
In the past, Mike has worked as chief editor for Windows Magazine, HP World Magazine, Inside HP, HP World News, The Palm Reader, Palm News, Road Tricks, Portable Life News, Laptop Life, BuzzWords, Pocket Windows and Portable Windows.
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