I started pursuing the use of online media in education because the co-present physical classroom, with all itsown special magic, has limitations of time, attention, & participation. We have to go to the trouble of being in thesame time and place, & that time is limited. What about the thought that occurs an hour after a classroomconversation, as they do when you are deeply engaged with a subject? What about students who are inhibitedby the dominant classroom medium of extemporaneous vocalization while everybody is looking at you? Onlyone person can speak at a time, usually only one person has control of which media are presented to everyoneelse in a physical classroom.
I started thinking about the informal learning potential of online social media in the 1980s,. The term I coined inthis 1987 Whole Earth Review article was “virtual community.” Those of us online in communities like the WELLknew that we were learning and teaching each other everything from the technical lore of online communicationto the sociology of community. It seemed clear to me that many-to-many media afforded engaging opportunitiesfor learning.
Because of the unique affordances for social communication and intellectual discourse that online media could,in principle, provide, I started thinking about what a digital media education dashboard would look like from thestudent’s point of view. In 1995, I designed an interface for a “Global University of Tomorrow” that was presentedat the NEC Pavillion at the ITU conferenceNEC spent millions of dollars to create a high-definition, high speed,working prototype of the Global University for the ITU convention, then dismantled it. In 2008, thirteen yearslater, I set out to create a social media classroom out of free & open source software & free web services.
I envisioned a number of asynchronous multimedia “roundtables” that students from around could join, andaccess to mentors, other students, coursework, media. The web in 1995 wasn’t quite ready to do all that wesketched, especially the synchronous video and multimedia discussion, but it wasn’t hard to see it heading thatway over the next ten years, when broadband would become available.
The multimedia roundtables would enable students to grow comment threads that include text, embeddedgraphics, links, even videos.
I started using a variety of media in teaching students at Berkeley and Stanford -- wikis from one provider,forums from another, and blogs from another.
I was delighted to learn that I was one of the winners of the HASTAC competition on digital media and learning.The award enables me to continue to create curriculum -- syllabi & teaching notes, together with a social mediaclassroom constructed from free & open source software, video documentation of the subject matter and thetoolkit, a knowledge repository for resources & practices in participatory media literacy,.
socialmediaclassroom.comThe social media classroom website provides access to the source code in an installable form, informationabout obtaining a hosted instance of the SMC, and a scaffolding of resources around the use of social media forteaching and learning.
As I developed How-to slides, lesson plans, exercises in my development of my courses, I added resources tothe SMC community pages -- and invite others to add to what I’ve built.
The social media classroom forum enables the students and instructor to extend their classroom discussionsfor hours, days, weeks after a class meeting, asynchronously. People can take their time to compose thoughtfulreplies. And online forums in particular can become truly collaborative discourse in which the sum of individualposts is much more than a collection of performances -- students have time and tools to build on and respondto each other’s contributions.
Blog posts can contain html, inline graphics, video embeds. Tabs Enable participants to switch from blogs toforums to wikis…
Another tab opens a wiki, which is an infinite gateway to as many interlinked pages the students and instructorwant to create -- complete with attachments, tags, and different views and means of navigating as you want.
Social bookmarking can automatically read feeds from services like del.icio.us, and also provide internalbookmark-sharing networks. Participants have the option of determining how open or closed their media will bewith respect to the rest of the web.
Slide about Pedagogies. Shot of students in circle? From forum?When students began to take me up on my invitation to talk about how to make the class work better for them,itled to radical changes in the way I taught that were a little scary at first, but which continue to pay off inenthusiasm -- the students’ and my own. First, we found that moving the chairs in a circle, and me spendingmost of the time sitting down had an explosive effect on the level of participation. There is no back row in acircle. If you hide out, you hide out from each other, not the teacher. Student projects were so thoughtful,inspired, and ingenious that I started turning more of the teaching over to the students. Each week is arrangedaround a theme such as identity and presentation of self, community, collective action. I’ve developed a list ofrequired & recommended texts & videos for each theme, and explain why each resource is important. Duringthe first class, students self-organize co-teaching teams and make lesson plans. We discuss the plan in theforum, & each team meets with me a week before their session. Teams try to outdo each other. Then we extendclassroom discussions online in the forums and blogs. Coteaching teams identify key words and phrases duringtheir session, into them on the wiki, and during the following week, the entire class defines the words. By theend of the term, we had compiled an impressive lexicon.
Collectively compiling the lexicon proved to be so successful that I’m going to make it the basis of the finalexam, thus providing a new answer to the old question “what’s going to be on the final?” I’ll ask the students towrite narratives -- I will give examples and suggest themes -- using as many words as possible from the lexiconin appropriate context, and to make a mindmap, explaining the connections between the words, arranging themin hierarchies and subhiearrchies of importance, linked by a network of connections.
At the beginning of each class, the co-teaching team from the previous week’s class presents their mindmap ofthe most important issues, concepts, terms, and their networks and hierarchies of relationship.
The second time I taught a course on virtual communities and social media for the sociology department andschool of information at UC Berkeley, I made the syllabus into a wiki. As students began to respond to myrequests for feedback about how various media were working for them in the context of the course, and beganto make requests for specific how-to sections, the syllabus grew and evolved over the semester.
The third time I taught the course, I included a link from the main wiki page to the same syllabus in the form of aconcept map. Before the first class meeting, students were required to go through the syllabus in whichevermedium they chose, and to understand and agree to a different kind of teaching and learning.
I also made the syllabus available -- again, exactly the same material as the wiki and the concept map -- as aPrezi. I required co-teaching teams to do a 10 minute presentation of an aspect of the session’s subject matter-- their own choice -- and also required them to use a dynamic presentation medium other than PowerPoint.Students made timelines, videos, game shows, web slide shows -- I gave them a resource list of over 100different media, many of them with examples of how other students had used them.
In February, 2011, I started teaching online classes for (not very much) pay. Using the participative pedagogy Ihad learned over six years at Cal and Stanford, and from teaching online for California Institute of Integralstudies, I combined the asynchronous forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, and social bookmarks of the SocialMedia Classroom with Twitter and Elluminate, which enables live many to many audio/video, screensharing, textchat and share whiteboards.
Public Knowledge RepositoryI give free tuition to librarians who act as cybrarians, harvesting useful links and annotations from the forumsand blogs for each course cohort and adding them to a world-readable wiki, a public knowledge resource thatgrows as more students take each course. I operate on an open source business model -- all my texts, videos,learning objects are freely available. Students pay for real-time and asynchronous access to me and forparticipation in a learning community facilitated by me.
Elluminate hereFor live sessions. Elluminate enables me to stream audio and video, for students to queue up for speaking andto communicate with the rest of us via audio, for us all to use text chat, for me to lead webtours, and for us tocollaboratively whiteboard. Sessions can be recorded and replayed, with all the audio, video, text, and othermedia appearing just as they did in the live session.
I’ve created a number of publicly available mini-courses that include video, text, annotated lists of links to keyresources, and my delicious feed for the appropriate tag. The top screen introduces the subject through a shortvideo and text. http://goo.gl/YmZRe
The second tab enables students to play the second explanatory video.
The latest links tab offers the last five resources I’ve bookmarked for the appropriate tag -- “networks” in thiscase -- via an RSS feed from delicious.
I set up a website with information about courses, free mini-courses, and links to information about me, aboutsocial media in education, and about participative pedagogy. http://www.rheingold.com/university