Reading John’s post about ISTE catalyzed me to think a bit about the convergence of several of the projects I have been working on. I’m attending the July cPAR Institute in NYC focused on Student Participatory Action Research (altering social studies curriculum and pedagogy to focus on building empowered citizens ready to participate in a Democratic society), in preparation for one of my initial research projects during my Ph.D. program next year in which we will be scaling a current PAR program in New Jersey from 3 to 7 schools in the next year. That project is a collaborative curriculum development between several researchers and the involved teachers.
Because of the increasing difficulty to coordinate the researchers and teachers in so many schools, we’re looking into applying for a grant to put together a technological collaboration framework. Since we also want the kids in the classrooms to be able to collaborate with each other, we want to encourage as many connections as possible, and as I know a thing or two about available open-source collaborative applications and program design, I’m encouraging my advisor to make the grant aimed at a general framework with lots of components AND (as the beta-test) a full deployment for initial 4 cases that our PAR project will use for curriculum development, MAT student-teacher conferencing, student projects, and inter-school PAR student collaboration.
I’d like your thoughts and opinions – where do you see the potential for technology-assisted collaboration for teachers and for classrooms interested in innovative pedagogy? At what point does it become an animal that distracts from the content rather than assists with building connections for learning, and how do we prevent it encouraging the Technological Dystopia?
Optional: More Details on What We’re Thinking
The above is the main point and question I’d like to ask you today. Not necessarily relevant to the post, below are several more specific goals on what we’re presently thinking about for the project:
1. Make it simple to deploy for teachers that are technological immigrants and IT departments that are focused on keeping a network running rather than providing software support.
2. Use existing open-source projects (like the Coop’s own WordPress, and many more) as the application backbone, and plug into existing online APIs (like twitter and email). That being said, it should be able to run standalone on a private school network or a computer lab with no internet access.
3. Have hooks to integrate devices (cameras, tablets, netbooks, etc) into the classroom both to assist in collaboration/group project building, but also to allow multiple simultaneous points of response that you can track and review later: instead of asking a question that only one kid answers, everyone answers electronically and that information is saved for you to later review and see if the students got the concept (immediate feedback for the teacher’s approach), or if there are a couple that are falling behind (to provide individual support prior to a quantitative assessment).
4. To make it infinitely domain-able so any arbitrary class, school, or inter-school collection that wants a collaborative space can make a new single point of entry for it.
And of course, if you know other people that are trying to do these things (in an open-source way), please let me know.