Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web had a dream for the web and he put it this way: “When I proposed the Web in 1989, the driving force I had in mind was communication through shared knowledge, and the driving market for it was collaboration among people at work and at home.” Berners-Lee’s dream of the Web was to link people mind to mind, and it’s a powerful mantra for how the Web could be used in the classroom. Berners-Lee established the platform for Internet based social networking.
In recent years social networking has spread so rapidly on the Internet that the applications and Websites that have emerged have been subsumed by the term Web 2.0. The term does suggest a new version of the World Wide Web, yet there has not been any technical or fundamental change to the Web. It’s really the involvement of developers and users that have revamped the web.
Science teachers have been at the forefront of using the Web as a social networking platform. Indeed some projects actually go back into the 1980s well before Berners-Lee invented the WWW. In those days, we used e-mail and electronic bulletin boards as the Internet technologies to form communities of practice among science learners and their teachers. These early projects not only formed communities among schools in the USA, but had a global reach connecting schools on all of the continents. One science project that led the way in this regard was TERC’s Global Lab; another was GSU’s Global Thinking Project. And there were many others.
In these projects students investigated real phenomena at the local level (air quality near their school, quality of water in a nearby stream), and used email and bulletin boards to share and discuss findings and conclusions. Over time, these projects made use of the rapid advance of the WWW, and developed Websites that enabled students around the world to post data, share ideas, and download the results of other students’ research.
Information and communication technologies that have emerged in recent years provide teachers and students the tools to create, collect, store, and use new knowledge and information. This has created the tools needed for the establishment of social networking which involves students in collaborative work in which they create and distribute knowledge, and benefit from the work of others in their social network.
You might find it very worthwhile to visit a blog of a teacher who embodies and has put into practice the networking capabilities of the Web in a way that is a powerful model for other teachers. Two projects that you will find very interesting are the Flat Classroom Project and the Horizon 2008 Project.
In this teacher’s classroom, students are involved in global projects, and make use of tools such as wikis, and blogs. Here is a YouTube production created by some of the Cool Cat Teacher’s students.Tags: blogs, Cool Cat Teacher, Global Lab, Global Thinking Project, Tim Berners-Lee, wikis, world wide web