Reflections – The Machine is Us/ing Us

[my note – This posting is being created as a draft of an email that I will be sending to my faculty and staff, those not currently involved using web 2.0 tools.]

Yesterday, during an all-school faculty meeting, Kevin Randolph, our History Department chair, presented one of the videos that students created for a project that asked the question, what did Vietnam mean? The example of student work and the process of collaboration between students and teachers used reminds us about what can be accomplished using visual imagery to illustrate and communicate complex ideas. This is a realm that we know that students are gravitating to more and more. He was kind enough to acknowledge and thank me for collaborating and partnering with him to develop the enhancements to his curriculum. As he has shared with me this year, “working on a project in isolation is just that. There is a real excitement when you begin to collaborate and develop an idea with someone else. The sum of the individuals far exceeds their individual efforts.”

On January 31st, Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University posted a video on YouTube which defines and explains Web 2.0 very simply (in slightly over4 minutes)–using just a computer screen and little clever editing. As a good friend of mine whom I never have met face to face, Vicki Davis, entitled her blog post on this video, If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one’s a book. This example is one of the best that I have seen in explaining what Web 2.0, the Read/Write Web is and the power that can be harnessed by using these new tools. In this video, Michael begins to show what can happen when your collaborations begin to emerge beyond just the physical realm, but extend to others who bring the perspective and insights of the entire world.

I want to share two personal stories which demonstrate the power of Web 2.0 and how small, or flat, the world is becoming. The first relates the Service Learning project that the Juniors did for the Kilimanjaro English Nursery School. I posted a reflective post on my blog about the project in early December. Over the Winter Holiday, a comment appeared that post which seemed to be from Greg Mortenson, the author of the book. Being skeptical, I didn’t rush to share the news, not knowing if someone had impersonated him. A few weeks later, I got an email from Greg’s sister, who had found out about the posting from Greg. I am excited to meet Greg this weekend (he is scheduled to appear at the Barnes and Noble in Evanston on Sunday, at 7:00 p.m.) and add him to my list of new global acquaintances.

The second experience occurred this week. My second semester class is a course which teaches structured programming skills and logical thinking. Because my hard drive failed this fall, I hadn’t installed the software necessary to teach this course. Since I have last investigated the software choices, a newer program has been developed that people have been raving about and the new features seemed to be ones which would benefit the teaching and learning of these concepts. So I began to try to install the tool. I experienced nothing but frustrations trying to get it loaded and working not only on my computer, but those that the students needed to use for the class. I posted a blog entry describing my frustrations, failures, and successes on Tuesday. Less than 36 hours later, I received comment and an email from one of the professor and developers at Deakin University in Australia, who pointed me towards solutions to the problems that I was having.

How Greg Mortenson or Bruce Quig found my blog posts or what they were looking for, I do not know. What is important is that we connected. As noted by the head of our school it is important to learn technology skills and to use technology tools to connect and collaborate, to begin to share with others across the hall, in another department, in another division, in the city of Chicago, or with others around the world so that we can gain a more diverse perspective. We will all be richer for the experience.

One thought on “Reflections – The Machine is Us/ing Us

  1. If you could post these student works on your blogs, it would be worth a thousand words. Any chance of seeing one of those history projects you talk about?

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