Despite my best efforts, I just can't seem to get an out-of-class community going with my students. There just isn't enough interest. Between sports, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities, they just don't seem to want to get on the Internet late in the evening to complete anything extra for school. This is supposed to be the Net Generation, kids who grew up surrounded by digital media. For years I have read about how much time they spend on the Web consuming and creating information, interacting with one another, and playing video games. Yet, I'm not seeing all of this enthusiasm.
My students come to school as seasoned users of technology. I teach in an affluent school district where the vast majority of my students have access to the Internet. However, by all indications, playing on the computer does not seem to be at the top of their list of free time activities.
So what is it that gives me this impression? This year I have continued two of the projects that I started in my math class last year: the Scribe Post and Photo of the Week. The Scribe Post was a popular activity for my math students last year; however this year my students have very little interest in completing them (they are not graded assignments for me). And even though I offered incentives for completing the The Photo of the Week, very few of my kids complete it. Outside of these two projects, many kids are using Think.com to post interactive features like surveys and debates that the other students in my classes can respond to. Many of them do not get any responses. The fact that there is an audience (outside of me) for their work also does not seem like a motivator for my students either.
There are a few kids who are very enthusiastic about Think.com. My impression is that because the work relates to school though, the vast majority of my students are not interested in it. What gives?
All of this leads me to believe that for teachers and students, the real power of Web 2.0 is in how it allows us to create such phenomenal products so easily. My students just completed a variety of products for a project in social studies. There were digital stories, PowerPoints, posters, dioramas, essays, webpages on Think.com and much more. In my opinion, the best products were the webpages. It was easy for students to combine visuals with text, add links, and even insert interactive features.
So far, Web 2.o has been a disaster for building a community, but a blessing for creating products.
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