In the Brennan, Monroy-Hernández, and Resnik reading, Scratch made me think of other online environments in which my kids have been able to create as well as learn collaborative problem solving skills. Spore was mentioned in the article, and that was a favorite a few years back in our house that allowed for creation of a unique species that would then develop and evolve into a society. The current house favorite is Minecraft, a game that allows users to build structures using blocks, sort of like Legos. My kids are quite addicted to this game and I see that it allows them to be extremely creative in building their castles, as my 8 year old daughter shows me the many farm animals that dwell in the living room of her castle or the special pool on the rooftop. This is learning in a creative way, even if it isn’t in a formal classroom environment. I remember having to design a house in 6th grade using pieces of cardboard, but in this game mode, users can be far more creative. When my kids run into problems in Minecraft, they help each other, call a friend, or even go online for answers. They are working through their problems socially, even if to them it is just a game. To me, this is the scientific method in action, as they identify a problem, experiment, see results, and repeat as necessary. I try not to phrase it in that way to my kids though, because then it would no longer be fun! There is a special site dedicated to more formal educational use of the game as well for any of you that are interested: http://minecraftedu.com/page/resources.
When my kids were younger, Webkinz was popular, which allowed them to build rooms for the virtual animals they adopted. They could plant a garden to supply food and had to care for the animals as needed. Anyone remember having to take care of a pretend baby as an assignment in a home economics class? This game really teaches them those same types of skills at a young age—although still a far cry from an actual screaming baby!
In the Zywica, Richards, and Gomez reading, I understand the importance of a closed social networking site in some situations (especially in K-12 education), but this is not always available. In using the groups feature in Facebook, you don’t have to be friends with someone (and share personal information), to participate in the group. I have used groups in Facebook for student clubs, and since students are typically on these sites frequently, it is one of the quickest and easiest ways to share information and work together. We have planned entire club presentations and events through Facebook, but I am not friends with any of the students (nor would they probably want to be friends with me!). In the reading, it was also described that use of Remix World spiked over the winter vacation, which is a nice feature of a site that can continue through an extended span of time and is not linked to the end of a school year or term. In my use with Facebook for student clubs, I often see posts from students who have graduated but still want to be a part of the learning community and share their experiences in the workforce or in furthering their education. If I were to use a Learning Management System for the same purpose, the site would close at the end of the semester and there would not be the ability to collaborate further. Who knows how long we will continue to benefit from the connections we make with each other if we are able to maintain them well after the formal learning environment has ended?