This week I am responding to chapter 4 in Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Networked Classroom?
As I continue to read through this book I think more and more about the endless possibilities you could have with a networked classroom, but I can't help but think all of the work and time you need to put in to get a networked classroom up and running.
Some of the advantages of a networked classroom could include overall student engagement. I don't think there is a teacher in the world that could argue that students are more engaged when they are learning about topics they are genuinely interested in. By working in your own personal network students will have the opportunity to access information that our general curriculum may not ever cover. When I think of advantages I also think about the life-long skills students will acquire. Jobs today are becoming more technology driven and it is inevitable that our students will most likely work in a field where they will need to communicate via the internet. By communicating and collaborating with others through a network students will continue to build and develop skills that will stick with them for a life time.
Now, when I think about making the change to a networked classroom I have one thought that continually pops into my mind...the TIME! It's going to take a lot of time and planning up front (something teachers usually don't have a lot of). Also, as suggested in chapter 4, you are going to need a team of teachers who are willing to make the change with you. Change can be hard and change can be scary - finding educators who are willing to jump on board right away might be challenging.
How can you slowly transition your classroom to a Networked Classroom?
I think making the transition to a networked classroom first requires 1:1 devices for students. I think it is important for students to have access to their networks at any time (students shouldn't have to double up on computers or have to "check out" laptops in advance from a grade level cart). In order to achieve this I believe the teacher (and/or school) will need to adopt a Bring Your Own Device policy. With a BYOD policy students are using technology that they are familiar with to access the networks they are familiar with. I'd love to see my students start connecting via our classroom blog, just by commenting in the comments on things I might share. Once we are comfortable with things like this students can start exploring different networking sites, such as Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, etc.
There's some really great examples of how teachers are succeeding with their networked classrooms here in this article by SEEN (Southeast Education Network).
How can a Networked Classroom meet the needs of diverse learners?
Networked classrooms lend themselves perfectly for diverse learners. With a networked classroom students are all working on a common goal, but may be headed down their own, individual, path to get there. A Spanish speaking student may be learning the same content as his English speaking peers but he will be able to connect with people through his network that speak his native language.
Something Interesting to Pass Along...
As I was doing my research on networked classrooms I came across this article from Rice University, where this professor has been using networked classrooms since 1991!!
If this professor could make it work 24 years ago then we can certainly make it work now!