Ning Launch and 21st Century Literacy Lesson

Last week, I launched the ISA Internship Ning—a community for my students (12th graders at The International School of Americas) to share their career-exploration internship experiences with one another. This week, I had the chance to teach a lesson in which I tried to help them understand how participating in a professional social network fits into the larger context of what's happening technologically and globally, and why it's important for them to practice these 21st-century literacy skills. Afterwards, I posted the following recap of my lesson, so I thought I would share it here as well:

What’s the Big Idea Here?

As we saw in Did You Know? 2.0, we are living in exponential times, and the rapid changes brought about by technological innovation and globalization have propelled us into a 21st-century reality full of new challenges and opportunities. If we accept Thomas Friedman’s proposition that The World is Flat, given the existence of “a global web-enabled platform for multiple forms of sharing knowledge and work irrespective of time, distance, geography, and increasingly even language” (MIT World video, May 16, 2005), we might also agree with him that, “how we educate our children may prove to be more important than how much we educate them” (The World is Flat, p. 309).

With the increasing prevalence and power of mass collaboration—as described in Wikinomics, The Wisdom of Crowds, and Here Comes Everybody—it’s no surprise that educational organizations like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the International Society for Technology in Education have identified information literacy, creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and digital citizenship as key skills needed for 21st century citizenship.

Innovative educators around the world are sharing ideas about how to best help students develop these 21st century skills. I certainly agree with the prevailing sentiment that engaging students in blogging, social networking, and other web 2.0 technologies is paramount. But I was curious to see what the students would say, so I asked them to read one or two of the short articles listed below and then discuss their reactions.

“The Prose of Blogging (and a Few Cons, Too)” by Rama Ramaswami
“Text Unto Others... As You Would Have Them Text Unto You” by Matt Villano
“Five Don’ts of Classroom Blogging” by Julie Sturgeon
“The Fight Against Cyberbullying” by Chris Riedel
“Blogs, Blogs Everywhere: Does Everyone Need an Internet Journal?” by Jim Moulton
“Blog Safe: Avoid Common Web-Publishing Pitfalls” by Maya Payne Smart
“Blogging Is History: Taking Classroom Discussions Online” by Helena Echlin
“How To: Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning” by Fran Smith
“By the Numbers: The Facebook Edge”
“From MySpace to My Job: Online Interaction Prepares Students for E... by Chris O’Neal
“World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others” by Will Richardson

The readings and discussions uncovered some of the questions and complexities surrounding this new educational landscape and revealed important issues to consider as we developed the Acceptable Use Policy we will be following as we use this site.

I’ve created the ISA Internship Ning as a place for students to develop and practice the skills needed for 21st-century citizenship and life-long learning in an authentic and meaningful context, based on the real-world issues and experiences that interest them. And from what’s been happening on the Ning just in the first week, it looks like the potential for this space to help students develop A Whole New Mind is great.

Thanks so much to all the students and teachers at ISA for participating in this exciting new endeavor!

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Comment by BENOIT COTTENCEAU on June 3, 2011 at 2:01pm

Thank you so much for sharing. Web 2.0 is now enabling a whole range of new learning tools. If appropriately used by educators it may de-multiply teaching approaches. Creating platforms such as ISA Internship Ning is a fantastic endeavour. I guess that as a distance education tool it may also be used to help the disabled better in the learning process.Congratulations !


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