Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mass Collaboration

Mass collaboration could be the key to solve several social problems that are inundating our lives. Through collaboration we could solve issues in communities, companies, governments; or our shared crisis on global warming. Mass collaboration sounds like the perfect solution to any social issue.

Nevertheless, to make mass collaboration effective it depends on how it is structured and organized. Undoubtedly team work is part of it, but it is not only about “tipping in” to solve a problem or create something. Mass collaboration is about commitment and expertise; and it is successful if it is used correctly.

To put this into a smaller context, we could think about education. As teachers, we have the opportunity to prepare our students; how? We can start in a smaller scale – our classrooms. Learning about mass collaboration is the best instrument we can give our students to face world issues. For that reason, we can use classrooms as scenarios to give students the chance to develop skills, trust their instincts and use their knowledge.

Although mass collaboration has always existed, I think the key is collaborating for the greater good. So, the question "are we preparing students for a world of mass collaboration?" should not only be directed to teachers; it goes to all of us- to a society who needs to work together.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Power of the Web

The web gains power as it constantly changes and grows. Not too long ago people received printed newspapers at their doors every day; now people read the paper on line, or glance at the headlines as they open their email. People rented videos, bought music CDS; now it is all compiled for you on line. Through the web, you can keep in touch with all your friends, at once, in different parts of the world. If you need a map, directions or the location of a city; you use the web and learn about the place and do a virtual tour of it. These examples could go on and on; which means the web can be a powerful tool when used appropriately.

To consider the influence of the web in a specific context I want to share a couple of experiences my students and I have had in my language class. We have had virtual tours of Latin American cities through Google Earth, soon we will be connecting through Skype with other native Spanish speakers to listen to different accents and learn about the culture of Latin America, and we will be sharing a project with other language students from a different school in a different country. Is the web powerful in this context? Yes; absolutely. The web has made a meaningful difference in my students’ learning.

Thinking about the bigger picture, the Web can be a great social tool when used for a global good; when there is collaboration. The challenge is using it correctly; sharing a common understanding of its potential. We would not want to miss the point that people are the focus of a society and not a digital tool.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shared Responsibility

Teaching safety on the web is a shared responsibility between schools and homes. The web is not exclusive of one specific setting; because it is accessible anywhere it deserves attention from parents and teachers.
To make this a shared duty, it is important to have common visions on the use of the internet; there are opportunities where schools can establish communication with parents to guide them on philosophies and uses of the internet in relationship to education. Outside the classroom, it is parents that need to be vigilant on how children use the web. As I have mentioned in previous blogs; the idea should not be to censor the web or threaten the use of it; but rather to learn to use it responsibly as a tool for learning and contribution to society.

(image from Google images)

Readings on Copyright

When I mentioned to a close friend, a sociologist, I was reading about copyright she recommended reading Richard Stallman. Stallman is a software freedom activist who has developed the GNU project which promotes free software; he is also the creator of the concept of copyleft among other ideas.
As I have been reading his essays I have found interesting, valid points he makes regarding copyright. It is worth reading his interviews - “copyright vs. community in the age Computer networks,”, for example, or his opinion about why schools should use free software…
As teachers it is valid to have a broad spectrum of different opinions on issues that impact education and our society.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Copyright or "shareright?"

Rethinking copyright is like stirring a witch’s brew. The more I read about copyright, the more I am convinced that it should be related to a greater idea; a philosophy of learning, knowing, and sharing for a common good.

To re-think copyright it is essential to reflect about knowledge. The best contributions to the world have not been by one sole brain – the idea of having a genius who enlightens the world does not happen on the day to day. In reality intellectual creation is a product of collective intelligence; creation is the result of a process of collaboration. The best inventions to the world have been triggered by a person; then revised, improved, and maybe taken close to perfection due to collaboration (like software for example...). So; if we need to rethink copyright it must be with a broader mind where the right to access works is not hidden behind a law which has several gray areas.

The palpable example is our classrooms. It is in schools that intellectual collaboration happens all the time. It is through education and accessibility to the internet that our students find resources to add on to their learning and be part of a network of knowledge. Do we have to guide them to give credit to a work? Yes; but we do not need to present copyright as a threat to creation and learning. Do schools and teachers need to follow “the rule?” Yes; since that is the system. But, let’s not forget the most important point; education is not longer centered in one person; it is about a community of learning.

Note: I have to mention that the pictures used in this blog are taken from flicker and/or google images.