If a tree falls in the classroom…

[Web 2.0 tools] are specifically designed to support communitites in completing shared tasks.  Wikipedia survives on a small number of paid employees because the contributors have a shared sense of mission.  Educators need to build a similar sense of shared purpose[…] Schools and universities have the potential to become communities of learning, but educators and administrators must rethink teaching and learning in the context of new social trends and the technologies that support them. (p. 6)

What’s your shared purpose in class?

If you, like I, didn’t establish one in August, what you’re doing in April might not matter.  Forgive me if it seems like I’m taking massive steps backward in my understanding of 21st century competencies, but I think I just realized that emerging technologies don’t just fit nicely with student learning; they often reflect it. And if youth gravitate toward technology that is interactive in nature, why are we still cultivating transactional relationships in our classroom?

Earlier in the article, the authors referred to the old model as “teaching as transmission.”  Until recently, most technology was transactional in nature–enter data, receive a product.  At some point, transactional technology became interactive and networked.  Web searches became wikis, e-mails became blogs.  Perhaps this is a chicken/egg question, but which came first, the networked application or the networked student?

And why are kids so inextricably networked?  Is it so that they can master a foreign language?  Ha!  Because each of their networks, no matter how trivial achieves a shared purpose.  The burgeoning guitarist goes to iCompositions.com to share his music with the world, and to learn from others.  Facebookers join communities that allow the user to cultivate a virtual farm or build an ersatz criminal empire and update their friends about it.  Others join communities called “I don’t care about your farm, your fish, your park, or your mafia!!” (active member since 2009).  The point is, they all join one constituency or another because they want to feel connected to something.

Teachers have become proficient at utilizing transactional technology in their classrooms.  Microsoft Office is ablaze in schools across America.  But I’m willing to bet that the percentage of teachers using Web 2.0 tools is still in the single digits.  I’m not suggesting that we all chase each fad technology that comes around (imagine if my teachers based their lessons on the tenets of Colecovision?), but if our teaching more closely reflects the ways in which students interact outside of the classroom, perhaps we would see more interaction inside the classroom.

And can I get an “Amen” for the coolest use of the word “disruptive” that I’ve ever encountered?

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