Random Thoughts

Connection and Communities

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Just finished up a full day at UNIS-Hanoi and thinking about where the conversations focused today. I spent the day talking with groups of teachers; Math/Science, Languages, Humanities, etc. We talked about my opening session and then got into some ideas on what learning looks like in a 1:1 tablet program that they have launched this year…how does it change the learning landscape for students?

Collaborative Note Taking:

A hot topic with all groups today was the notion of taking collaborative notes. During my opening session I embedded a gabbly chat into the handout wiki page and asked those that brought laptops to have a back channel discussion. Some found it empowering while others found it overwhelming. I did not give any guidelines, no instructions other than…go here and chat while I talk.

We talked about how you might use a similar system within a 1:1tablet classroom. Where 3 or 4 students might take collaborative notes for the class in a shared OneNote document. Or you embed a chat and have two student moderators in the class to make sure the chat stays focused and on topic. Or use Google Docs that would allow the other students after class to go and add any missing information.

Collaborative note taking is powerful on many levels, it allows students to not always focus on taking notes, it allows a student, like me, who is an auditory learner to not worry about taking notes but instead, focus in on the discussion, the ideas, knowing that I’ll have access to the notes after class.

Face to Face time:

We talked about this notion that I wrote about recently on what should face to face time be used for. That students can and should be finding the content outside of class and that face to face time should focus on the discussion around that content, about going deep in learning, in verifying information and understanding that teachers no longer hold the key to all the content. Release yourself of that duty, put that on them. Have homework be each student finds the best 5 sites and start your lesson around the sites they have found, have them be your researchers for content and use the face to face time to talk about the big ideas, the concepts, and the theories.

Understanding Literacy:

We spend time looking at how to refine a search. We talked about the Search Syntax built into Google and AltaVista (a page out of Alan November’s sessions). We talked about who is teaching these skills and that we should be focusing PD time on teaching teachers how to teach students to research and find information quickly, securely, and that is relevant in a timely manner. It’s the job of every teacher to teach these literacy skills. We all have the responsibility.

They understand communities:

We don’t always get to pick where the communities are. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. They might not be the best tools out there, but they are the tools that the community of Internet users have decided to use and where to gather. We have to respect that in a way. That the power of YouTube is that when you upload a video you are instantly connected to a community of viewers. That Facebook holds power because that’s where the kids go to connect. Jaiku might be a better micro blogging tool, but until the community as a whole decides to move there, Twitter is still king.

How do we use the power of audience and communities to engage students? Students understand the power of communities, they’re the ones that created them, are creating them, and continue to create them.

Why do Nings take time to develop? Why do kids not jump at the change to communicate and collaborate? Because the community has to be built first…then they will jump.

We talked about the TOK Blog from Shanghai where today the student’s there had 214 unique visitors. It didn’t start that way, they had to build that base, they had to continue to write until they were found…now blogging is just what they do and they take great pride in what they produce. We have to get students and teachers to stick it out…to continue on. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is an online community.

Those were my big take aways from today. I hope some readers from Hanoi leave a comment and add their big take aways from today as well. It’s great feedback for me and for the greater community.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. We tried it out via Twitter for a shout out and we liked it- no log ins just a shared URL.

    Everyone can type into the document pad at the same time, you can save the text as a text file that you could copy into a paper document or share via its unique saved URL. It has a chat function so you can discuss but not record in main page and if you added Skype or a live presentation you could have a reasonably reliable tool for real time, on line collaboration.

    If it wasn’t free I could take a commission for my advertisement of their product. LOL

  2. The conversation you had yesterday was in many ways identical to one occurring here in Sacramento, CA. Making the shift from a traditional classroom to a 1:1 environment can be more challenging than I ever realized. It sounds like your group developed some interesting ideas. I like the one about starting a lesson with the five best websites students bring into class and I’ve been fiddling with Etherpad this week. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Jeff… Loved the sessions today, though I realize that the learning curve for me is probably much smaller than for many of my colleagues.

    “Why do Nings take time to develop? Why do kids not jump at the change to communicate and collaborate? Because the community has to be built first…then they will jump.”

    This bit is starting to make me think that perhaps our school needs to work first on developing our school community… are we putting the cart before the horse? This might explain why some of the tools we use work better with one group of students than another. The community must be built. I guess, now that I think about it, this is the reason I didn’t start my MS students off with blogs the first week of school. After we got a “feel” for what we were doing, it seemed more natural — we were building something.

  4. HI Jeff,
    I wanted to thank you for the wonderful sessions yesterday. I think you were really successful in inspiring many of the staff at UNIS to try some new things with their tablet’s and classrooms.
    I can’t wait to try out the collaborative note taking idea and can already think of how many ways I can use this with my students when they get their tablets next school year. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Communities and 21st Century Literacy | connect. create. question.

  6. “How do we use the power of audience and communities to engage students? Students understand the power of communities, they’re the ones that created them, are creating them, and continue to create them”

    What is the average age of online community users for sites like facebook, twitter and myspace. I was under the impression it was the 20s and 30s age bracket. Are there statistics to support what you’re saying?

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