Web2.0 websites are usually not dedicated to educational purposes. As a result, it is easy for students to stray from teacher-directed resources to potentially inappropriate resources. In the pre-Web2.0 world, teachers would give students URLs to relevant class resources. These websites were usually content-oriented with text, multimedia, or visual simulations. Today, teachers should leverage the power of Web2.0 and provide websites for collaboration and analysis.
Teacher coordinate resources across website using tags. Consider a teacher that uses free services from Flickr (photos), Slideshare (presentations), Youtube (videos), and Delicious (bookmarks). The teacher could tag the resources to make them easy to find for a particular curricular unit.
The "connected classroom" has multiple discussions occurring at the same time. The teacher has the ability to "tune" into any one of the discussion simply by projecting the relevant website on a screen or Smartboard. Consider having two Smartboards, or at least two LCD projectors. This way the teacher can lead one discussion and students can use the other projector to host peer discussions. The "connected classroom" will likely by dynamic with the teacher promoting important discussions so the whole class can partake. The dynamic nature of the classroom may also be chaotic and so different roles should be established, such as scribe, researcher, leader, editor, inquirer, etc. Students could take turns on different roles to learn an appreciation for all roles - a key aspect of successful collaboration.
- a "back channel" chat for questions and secondary discussions (see note 1)
- a collaborative document to capture and preserve findings
- chat for students working together
- informal polls for the teacher to check if students are understanding
- online quizzes to ensure that students are listening and processing the lesson
- concept maps for thematic overview and connections to other curriculum
Most web2.0 websites are free or very inexpensive (at least for now). Teachers and students create an account and provide an e-mail address. The vast majority of web2.0 websites are general purpose and not specifically setup for educational purposes. These risk is that students become bored and stray from the teacher-recommended content. The other potential risk is that another member of the website contacts the students directly. In both cases, these are excellent opportunities to teach students how to act appropriately online.
A connected classroom provides more ways to be engaged in class. It also provides more autonomy for students to take control of their learning - and potentially their own assessments. A more digital classroom also has the flexibility to extend beyond the physical classroom and class time. If students have an interest, then they can pick up and contribute to any of the discussion threads on their own.
Image is from Alpha Galileo Research (link)
Note 1 - Twitter is a great back channel. Increase the use of peer comments by making students review other students' posts to make sure a question has not already have been answered. Hopefully, students will spark up conversations and not wait for the teacher to be the only one answering questions.