Aligning Research with Classroom Practice: Online Networking, Diverse Learners, and 1:1

from Educators' eZine

Online Networking, Diverse Learners and 1:1

Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking

"Nine to 17-year-olds report spending almost as much time using social networking services and Web sites as they spend watching television. Among teens, that amounts to about 9 hours a week on social networking activities, compared to about 10 hours a week watching TV." Additional startling statistics were recently published by the National School Board Association.

Online social networkersuse technology tools, such as instant messaging, emailing, blogging and text messaging, to interact with others. These activities are often facilitated through popular Web sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Overall, 96% of students with online access report using social networking technologies, while 71% admit weekly encounters. Disaggregated statistics about message posting, blogging and sharing of music videos and photos are detailed.

This report also includes revealing misperceptions about the dangers of online social networks. School administrators suspect more negative consequences, for example, than students and parents acknowledge. Furthermore, less than 1% of students admit to meeting online acquaintances without their parent's permission. The data slays several deeply held irrational feelings.

Guidelines address the constant struggles within schools to balance legal obligations to protect students while simultaneously unleashing avenues to infinite knowledge and productive interactions."Find[ing] ways to harness the educational value of social networking" rightly places educational judgments with informed school professionals. "Reexamining social networking policies" in schools is another common sense suggestion. Additional useful guidelines are seamlessly aligned with the study's results.

This research was conducted by Grunwald Associates with funding from Microsoft, News Corporation and Verizon. Over 2,500 students, parents and school leaders shared their insights.

National School Board Association.(2007, July). Creating and connecting: Research and guidelines on online social and educational networking. Alexandria, VA. Note: A free copy of research results are available here.

Empower Diverse Learners With Educational Technology and Digital Media

The author offers practical learner-centered technology integration suggestions. Connecting and blending students' personal/social world with school life in productive ways is recommended. "Linking content area teaching to youth culture, including television, music, the Internet and video gaming is a compelling way to capture and hold students' attention." Making learning relevant through carefully selected media has merit.

Using technology to support differentiated instruction, especially in heterogeneous classrooms, is also suggested. Carefully aligning appropriate technology with students' interests and achievement facilitates individualized growth.

Students can also demonstrate their mastery of specific concepts in authentic ways through technology. Real-life scenarios and simulations, for example, easily showcase students' higher order thinking skills.

Two unique websites are also recommended. A comprehensive compendium of resources to assess software, websites and other digital media is available here. Paul Gorski's Multicultural pavilion offers instructional resources for teachers to "recognize and validate the diverse backgrounds of their students."

Kingsley, K.J. (2007, September). Empower diverse learners with educationaltechnology and digital media. Intervention in School and Clinic, 43(1), 52-56. Note: Access to this article is available for a $15.00 fee.

The One-To-One Tsunami

Pairing each learner with a laptop computer available 24/7 holds much promise to improve student achievement. The concept has received world-wide publicity since the mid 90's when Microsoft created the descriptive brand, "anytime, anywhere learning".

The author shares anecdotal stories and attributes its success to three primary factors. One-to-one enables students to spend more time on task since the information pathway is always available. (If it's open, they will come.) Secondly, one-to-one facilitates self-directed learning. (Yes, each learner is different.) Teachers can then become guides to the information universe, instead of gatekeepers.

Lastly, this approach promotes higher order thinking. As a result of one-to-one, "the process of acquiring and manipulating information and ideas is shortened". Newly discovered time can then be reinvested in advanced analytical applications, such as simulations.

"The evidence of success of one-to-one programs is increasingly going public, and large-scale initiatives are gaining momentum of critical mass. . . The tsunami will be hitting the beach before you know it."

We concur with the warning, however, unlike a tsunami, the results will be extraordinarily positive.

Livingston, P. (2007, April). The one-to-one tsunami. Technology & Learning, 27(9), 24-8, 30. Note: Free access to this article is available here.

Janet Buckenmeyer can be reached at buckenme@calumet.purdue.edu.

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