This course explores the potential of the Internet to support inquiry-based learning through collaborative activities, research, and authoring/publishing. It investigates goals and strategies of online learning and examines learning theories and models of teaching/learning in relation to selected Internet activities for K-12 students.
I learned quite a few important things about utilizing the Internet for learning during this course. First, as an educator, I must strive to create meaningful learning opportunities for my students where my students can experience things that would not have previously been possible by utilizing the Internet. However, students do not learn from the Internet. Rather, they must learn with the Internet. Jonassen (2003) states “technologies should function as intellectual toolkits that enable learners to build more meaningful interpretations and representations of the world.” When using the Internet, students can connect on a global level to share ideas, publish, and collaborate with others throughout the world. This promotes the idea of a global community and provides opportunities for my students to produce artifacts that have a limitless audience. Lastly, the Internet is an incredible instructional tool and students must learn its worth. When polled at the beginning of the year, the majority of my 6th grade students stated they use the Internet primarily for entertainment. Students must recognize the worth of the Internet as a resource, form of academic communication, and a platform on which they can share their own findings and information. It is only then that they can consider themselves 21st century learners.
The group project entitled Resources for Collaborative Learning gave me an opportunity to experience learning with the Internet from the perspective of a student. I have so much experience being the creator of learning opportunities where my students learn with the Internet but I have very little experience as a student. I appreciated the group project because it allowed me to recognize some of the great and not so great things that happen when basing a group project on the Internet. It also inspired me to reflect on my own teaching practices and the types of assignments I make for my students. The idea of students creating a group contract before their project was new to me and, overall, was the most valuable thing I experienced during this course. I believe it will make my students more accountable for their own part of the group project and clearly outlines their expectations of each other. I learned that collaboration is hard because of the conversations that must occur. Everyone on the team must work together to solve the problem, not simply divide the tasks and complete the work. Communication is hard especially when you have so many busy people who lead such different lives and schedules. This project definitely gave me perspective on what I ask of my students during their own group projects and how I can support them during collaborative work they complete in my class.
I also enjoyed the challenge of my individual project where I designed an Internet based lesson for my students. I created a "hyperdoc," a transformative Google Doc. Because my school uses Google Apps for Education, students are already very familiar with how to interact with them. I also made the activity more cooperative by asking students to share their hyperdoc with someone at their table so their peer could make comments and share their own learning. I created a padlet so students could share their content knowledge with each other. I also created aGoogle document where students can work together to complete a scavenger hunt. Each one of these activities allows students to share their individual knowledge in a way that cultivates collaborative thinking.