On January 1st 2010, I wrote a post called ‘The era of the everyman – but you better be good’. In it was this paragraph;
I’m a little disappointed that the elective I proposed for this school year, Learning U, didn’t get enough interest from our student body to warrant a class running. (It was renamed ‘ICT’ in the elective handbook – don’t think that helped it any : ( ) The idea of the course was that students would explore their passion and use the tools of social media to connect and learn from others who also share a similar passion. I think it would have helped guide some students to understand how it is you can produce quality content that will help you rise to the top. So, how will I convey this understanding without the forum I was hoping for? I’m not quite sure yet, but I know I’ll be doing my best to help the students at my school to understand that you can use the available tools, and the connections that are possible with these tools, to your advantage. But they’ll need to remember, quality counts while you’re at it.
Last November, I went to a dinner with Steve Hargadon, John Pearce and Jenny Ashby. While there, I talked about the Learning U idea. Steve was interested and we’ve continued to talk since about how it could be realised. The result of those discussions is Students 2.0. Here’s what it’s about;
Students 2.0 is a network for learners to connect independently with other students and with mentors–to shape your own educational paths and experiences outside of traditional institutions. It’s a place to explore passionate interests, find people to help you, and build professional competencies. Soon you’ll be forming your own virtual “Personal Learning Network” (PLN)!
I’m going to be running a series of ‘classes’ helping students to learn how to use the tools of social media. The times for these are detailed on the home page. I’m doing this not because I think learning online is all about the tools, but because I think an understanding of these tools will assist them to understand how they can use them to shape their learning experiences. I want to see students find a way to explore what it is that interests them, something our school curriculum might not be doing. It doesn’t have to be a purely academic pursuit, there are kids out there who want to be pro skaters. The fact is, whether you want to discover the cure for aids or become a pro basketballer, you would find some benefit in understanding how you use social media to connect with people who share your interests and learn how you can make your voice heard.
The network is up and running and we have seen a number of teachers join. The challenge will be developing the student community. I suppose we will be working on the ‘if you build it, they will come’ concept. Effectively, this will mean relying on teachers to inform students about its existence and leave it up to the students to decide if they join or not. The fact is, students are under pressure themselves with the expectations of school, sport, family and their social lives. This network is not going to appeal to everyone, but there are kids out there I suspect who are looking for something like this. If we can help some of these kids realise their potential in a field that interests them, then it will be a job well done.
That’s my take on Students 2.0 anyway. It’s kind of strange to read my words from January the 1st, and be contemplating at the start of April what might be possible now. Hopefully, it will evolve into a useful resource supported by teacher mentors and experts in areas of interest to the students. It’s somewhat of an experiment, and the hope is that it will prove beneficial. It may even provide a teaching model that schools can tap into. We’ll see what evolves.