Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Web 2.0: It's All About the Products

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.

Check out: Rainforest Webquest | Digital Cameras in the Classroom | Alphabet Geometry


Anonymous said...


I share your angst about Web 2.0 non-participation.

But a big part of it is the 90-9-1 rule, as observed by Jakob Nielsen in Participation Inequality.

At the end of the day, most of our students are consumers and observers of stuff on the Web, not creators.

And I think your students are spending time on the Web at night (they are certainly not reading nor watching TV any more), but they are involved in games, consuming YouTube videos or looking at pictures - and many are connecting via MySpace or Facebook and the like. Have you surveyed them on their online activities? It could be interesting.

Another thought is that we assume our students are very IT savvy, but actually they often don't have the necessary skills for online learning.

And a final note - who needs more homework? If online learning is an extra task on top of normal schoolwork, it's not surprising that they don't want to do it. But if it replaces some other task, and time is made available for it, then maybe...

misterteacher said...

I think one of the problems is that they are just fifth graders. Facebook and MySpace are off limits for them and, as a result, social networking is foreign to them.

I do suspect that they see the activities I have assigned as extra homework. But I have made an effort to make the assignments interesting and I have provided them with incentives for completing them (treats from a local restaurant).

You say that they are consuming other media and actually are pursuing other online activities. How do we harness that enthusiasm so that those activities can become learning experiences?

Anonymous said...

I think your community can be developed within the context of your classroom--not something they do outside of it.

I agree with Zac about extra HW. Who wants that? How about replacing their other HW? I don't know what kind of HW you assign regulary, but for example, instead of practicing math problems from the text at night, have them work out one problem and write how they went about it into your blog, wiki or whatever you're using.

See this wiki from an American school in Singapore for a great way to incorporate it into an elementary classroom:

It sounds as though all of your students have access to the Internet and technology at home--how wonderful! I work with Title I schools where the students aren't nearly so fortunate.


misterteacher said...

The wiki is great, but my kids have been doing work like that for years. What I want is to have them voluntarily working on projects from home.

I guess that is a pipe dream.

Anonymous said...

I teach high schoolers, and my students do not seem really interested in anything online, either. I even offered them extra credit points if they would send me an e-mail so I could make a class list, and I only had 4 takers. Their parents check my website, but they never do.
I know that students in other countries look online for homework help because a few have contacted me, but I don't think I have any students who would go online and look for help.
However, I do plan to create some type of project for next year (maybe with weebly.com or some such) that will let them create websites I can evaluate online. Maybe some sort of year-end capstone project. . . hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I agree with j-me. If you ask your classroom to do it as an extra activity, you'll only get a small number willing to do it. The rest will not do it. Extra homework sucks.

What I don't agree with is using it in the classroom. Web 2.0 should be used as a homework tool. Students need recourses when they aren't in the classroom, and when they don't have a teacher available to help them.

Web 2.0 offers so much, including a resource of content, connection between students, and so much more. Each class grade probably requires different approaches. As the teacher you probably need to adapt with each class group.

Unknown said...

Try using Edmodo to build an online class community. It is basically microblogging for education. I teach sixth grade and it has done wonders for my classroom. You are able to monitor all student communication, so parents will encourage its use.