Facilitating communication between peers using various internet tools is essential for a more powerful learning environment to be bred. Today, students are constantly engaged with each other throughout the day in various ways and for various reasons. One way to help bridge the social networking (in a personal sense) to peer communication (in the academic sense) is to allow students to have structured opportunities to do so.
I never really thought about how much students (and ourselves) are really consumers of the different technological mediums that are out there. I felt that Brennan made a very good point when stated, “Although young people spend a considerable amount of time online, they are typically engaged as consumers of media and have fewer opportunities to engage as creators of media, particularly as creators of interactive media.” This quote really stood out to me because I cannot say that I have ever been a creator of media. I, along with many of my students, tend to participate solely in these technologies and social networks but we never take time to integrate our own thoughts and peer collaboration to breed something new and exciting. Taking ownership of the activity helps to enhance engagement and will in turn motivate students to seek a higher level of understanding or depth to the item/project they are working on. The example of the two teens working together to create an animation video of one girl’s still images proves that point. When allowed to combine ideas, interact, and encourage each other’s work, students will often strive to hit higher expectations and achieve greater things than if we were to outline a consumer based project to them.
Another point that really stood out to me was the concept of creating a place where collaboration, communication, and feedback can easily be given between online users. One person pointed out that after they create a project on Scratch, they have a hard time soliciting feedback because of the sheer volume of users and projects created daily. After working so hard on a project, it is encouraging to know that others have viewed, critiqued, and at times appreciated the work that you have done. Encouraging our students to provide these things to each other is something I believe is imperative to this learning environment. One way to help facilitate communication in our own classrooms is to utilize some of the social networking tools that are already available. One way to do that is to integrate programs like Facebook (groups) or Edmodo. These sites are specifically designed to enhance interaction between users; and in the Edmodo setting, users are grouped in their classes which allows for a more structured setting. Teaching our students to create and communicate is an important part of how they will become successful lifelong learners today!