Intro to Networked Collaboration

Education and the Virtual Classroom

About social networking in the educational context, using a blogs, chat room or even a virtual environment like Second Life can enhance the learning experience. Not everyone communicates well verbally or are excellent writers. The limitations of the traditional classroom is the cookie cutter approach to teaching, teach everyone the same way and you hope to reach the majority of the students. But what happens to those that don’t learn in the traditional manner.  The visual learner or tactile learners?  In a virtual space an instructor could use photographs, have puzzles for students to work on. Even host a round table to go into some questions you couldn’t answer in class. These methods can be used in a traditional classroom but the school day is only so long. An online classroom also lets a teacher experiment with allowing students to communicate without the invisible barriers that are erected in the real classroom:  gender, ethnicity, race, accent when speaking, appearance.
The student who is silent because of fears of looking stupid now has another venue to express his thoughts and opinions.  What makes the internet the great equalizer is that one can be anonymous and at the same time have an identity, even if it’s manufactured.  And from what I remember of high school, most students were playing roles anyway.
In the “Educators Flock to Blogging”* reading one person who commented said “My handwriting sucks. (Blogging) should’ve been invented long ago.” Of course this doesn’t mean we stop teaching good penmanship, but the legibility of his writing should not be an obstacle to a student’s being able to communicate.

The greatest limitation to the brave new world of network classrooms are the availability of computers to inner city students. I know kids who are still limited to using public libraries or school labs to do their computing.  According to a survey** by the Center for Digital Education where the “rankings reflect the vision, policies, programs and strategies that states have deployed around online learning in an effort to transform their academic environment to meet the needs of students” New York State came in 48th.  That’s at the bottom of the list for one of the richest states in the USA (per capita income)***. My nephew just started in a NYC middle school with limited computing resources.  By the time he gets to high school I worry if he’ll be able to compete.  He has the advantage of a wired tech-savvy aunt but what about those without the resources?

*Educators Flock to Blogging;
**Online Learning Policy and Practice Survey: A Survey of the States; Center for Digital Eduation, 2008 ( Registration required to download PDF
*** According to the 2000 U.S Census quoted in Wikipedia:


November 12, 2008 - Posted by | education | , ,


  1. I’m thinking again of the One Laptop Per Child programme …and how important that could be for american kids/schools as well!
    I think I’m going to put that on the / ideas list …;)

    Comment by andrea | November 14, 2008 | Reply

  2. That’s a great idea, Andrea. Another thing we can do, if we have time, is to see how we can contribute to our new knowledge to local schools. I’m going to contact my nephew’s intermediate school to find out more about the technology they’re using. Maybe, among the scores of resources we’ve acquired access to via this class, there’s something they can find useful.

    Comment by nancyajones | November 18, 2008 | Reply

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