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Inspired by a question to Oz-Teachers email list by Ken Price I have modified my reply into this post. Some adventurers are ready to jump into the mosh-pit that is social learning. This is an area that has excited and inspired me for a while - I love the idea of aggregating and value adding to whole-class generated knowledge. Why? - for two main reasons - it helps teachers work smarter by saving them time and being easily able to assess developed understanding + it allows students to tap into the collaborative benefits that come with the social network of their class.
I have specifically been looking at Inquiry Based Learning via RSS and social networking. The best way I’ve found for the teacher to be able to see an aggregation of all student blogs is to set them all up with Tumblr accounts. I’d do so with a Gmail account. Teachers can quickly generate and assign separate email address for each student. To do this, just add a + sign and the students first name after your gmail address. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Each student’s username and password will be emailed to you. With Tumblr the students can then also see each others posts via automated subscriptions. Why? - so that they can tap into the wisdom of the classroom mosh-pit.
For example if the teacher to automatically add book/website recommendations into their blogs all students will need to do is subscribe to the teachers del.icio.us tag eg. http://del.icio.us/PaulReid/web2.0 turns into feed://del.icio.us/rss/PaulReid/web2.0
This RSS feed will appear in there blog as a mini-post (task) that they can reply to. The teacher can then view their responses. As for a “people who read this book also read these” function I’d also use del.icio.us tag RSS feed. Students could tag specific URLs with “1Aclassrecom” for example.
Let’s also say for example we wanted to provide a mind-map of a book analysis, Gliffy allows teachers or students to set up a collaborative diagram. This is handy for the Tumblr account because Gliffy diagrams can be subscribed to and easily embedded via the “Publish” function. Great for visualizing the development of contextual understanding. I use Tumblr here to aggregate my web2.0 wanderings - Tumblr the easiest way to get content on the web I’ve come across. Organising, valuing and automating the metadata produced via the traditional inquiry based learning process is for me currently the most exciting area of ICTs in education.