I have learnt so much without realising. For the first time, my sons are now coming to me, to ask if I know of a gadget with a specific function, so the tables turned a little. There has also been a change in the type and frequency of engagement between the boys and myself. The television has not been a great focus for any of us for sometime now, each of us happier with our laptops, doing what we each enjoyed, whether it be searching the www for things interested in, homework, games, research, communication etc. Now I find that the three of us, have reverted back to the days when they were younger, playing together with toys and having a ball, this time the difference is that they are online and free. The interaction between siblings and parent, have become more frequent, sharing, getting excited when we find something new, sharing frustrations, collaborating and learning not only about what is online, but learning more about what makes each of us tick and taking our relationships to a new and I have to say wonderful place. Watching the boys, playing and learning freely, without do's and do not's or ridgid guidelines to be followed, an absolute joy. To see both create a unique online identity, one reflecting their individuality, their personality, their interests and is their's alone, nothing short of spectacular. Last evening, my eldest (year 10 at school) returned home from school, with a group assignment. We had the usual chat, had dinner and all was as usual. Zane (who has had a myspace forever), asked many questions about the social networking tools, I had been rambling about. The remainder of his evening was taken up with his own adventures, checking out the different sites available, selecting one and creating his own networking site, so that he and his group could collaborate when not at school. Once created he advised those in his group and asked them to sign up and check it out, leaving it open for each member to comment and offer suggestions, so all were comfortable with their new learning environment. Adjustments were made, all happy and began working on the assignment. Within a 24 hour period they:
researched created a collaborative online learning environment, tailored to their needs and preferences discussed chatted explored shared links to material for the assignment used google docs sharing and working together
And so much more.
That was a week ago and all of them are enjoying their new learning world, playing with it and using it to their benefit in completing their assignment. Honestly, I have not seen my eldest this excited about learning for sometime. He came home today, ranting and raving as he walked in the door. Before I knew it, I was hearing how narrow minded his school was, how they had no idea about the real world, that he hated being trapped and was sick of it all. Not things a mother wants to hear however the reasons for his frustrations, deserving of validation and respect. So what was the problem. Today was a day in the computer lab, working on their projects, time to research and continue to write. His group, had been working harder than ever and were ahead of the targets/milestones they had set. When in the computer lab they went to log into their accounts to continue their work and all of a sudden, up popped, ACCESS DENIED. They spoke with their teacher to try and find a way to get in, only to be told that such sites were dangerous and would not be unblocked. He, is still furious, he does not understand how something that is so useful, that has engaged him and his friends in learning in a positive and constructive manner, learning not just content for the assignment but many other skills, such as communication, collaboration, team work and the rest, can be blocked from a school. I have a feeling that their are many others, in the world, in similar positions. Still do not have the answers as to how to change the minds of those in power, but I do believe that in the end, the needs of the learners, are going to be met one way or the other. Maybe we will see a change in the number attending institutions, preffering to work off campus, using these tools. If the instutuion can not provide and the staff are not ready to understand the changes, then why would they not look for another option. So what gadgets do I like? Oh, Nasa TV caused no end of difficulties and nothing has convinced me that man really did walk on the moon:) I have, I think..... worked out those that I feel are 'useful' personally and professionally. I can now see the space for searching and writing, most of it taken up for a time with toolbar after toolbar and gadget after gadget. I have become a fan of the side bar option. I can have everything I need contained withinin it and I am finding it easier to work with - eyes not running up all the time to find what I need, not hiding behind another toolbar, directly to my right side of view (left did not work for me). The real beauty of it all is that I now have icons on the side bar for all of the social networking sites, I have been playing around in, Ning, Facebook, Myspace, Blogger etc and I have tailored my feeds accordingly. The option of tabbing your page is sensational. I can have an individual space for each of my projects and my personal needs. The side bar remains a constant, each tabbed page tailored with the inclusion of a few specific tools, required for the specific project/research and of course my personal start up page for the day. Some others you may wish to take a peek at: Webaroo: capture page - we are pretty good pals now coshed.com Co-citer Myspace Toolbar web 2.0 toolbar Windows Live Toolbar I will bring you more shortly. It has been an interesting time, one that I am enjoying no end. No longer constrained by limited tools, we are afforded the option now to create our own working environment. One tailored to meet our needs and I believe reflect our personalities, truly building our online identity. No one environment will look the same, each unique to the individual and will evolve with us. There is so much to learn, so much to play with. The possibilities they afford educators, learners, businesses and more endless and exciting. Added Features On Ning Ning has made some changes in the last week--including the ability to add images or photos to any text box or forum post (this is a great addition for forum postings), and renaming the "chatterwall" to "comments" and adding some functions which are much more natural for conversations. Most significant, however, is the addition of a "groups" function to the network, allowing you to create (and be an administrator for) a group within Classroom 2.0. The group can be public or be invitation-only. I can imagine a lot of possibilities, including geographical or school/organization groups, or groups based on specific technologies (say, podcasting, for instance). Each group has a group-specific forum (and RSS feed), and gives the administrator the ability to communicate directly with all group members. Another installment soon.