The Strength of Weak Ties

Everyone participates. Everyone contributes. Leveraging the power of digital networks to connect people, resources and ideas to drive creativity and innovation forward...and actually accomplish something!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Open Source Thinking - Part Three

Here is another example of a great lesson that illustrates the potential of open source thinking. Chris is another teacher I work with-he is having his students answer essential questions about the Human Genome Project. He’s got eight questions (e.g. Should insurance agencies have access to an individuals genetic makeup?) and eight groups. Each group gets a question and has to research pro and con arguments. Each of his classes have previously gone through a two week sequence of information literacy lessons designed to teach the kids how to attack a question and use the tools of their generation to answer it. These kids, at 14, have already become excellent and independent researchers.

Each group presents their findings using PowerPoint, and each group gets 7 slides. On the first slide, they can use text, three slides are assigned to pro arguments and 3 to con. No text is allowed on these slides-only imagery. This forces students to internalize content about the slide rather than read from “digital notes.” Students in the audience use an advanced organizer to record pro and con arguments. The next step should be very interesting, with each student required to evaluate the arguments presented and post their individual beliefs in the discussion board of Chris’ class. That’s over 100 students posting their interpretive arguments in a free-for-all clash of what is right and wrong, all taking place within a digital network, almost all of it occurring at night given past practice. That is at least 800 posts and knowing those kids, I would expect it to probably reach well over 1200 posts given responses. What kind of learning opportunity is that? It is a 21st Century learning opportunity. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

What is important here is that through the use of discussion boards at night, Chris has been able to leverage online entertainment time into online instructional time as well as extend classroom learning beyond the normal classroom day...that's classic 21st Century open source thinking and learning...


  • At 9:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Who is this innovator you speak of? Sounds like a gem to the education profession!

  • At 12:59 AM , Blogger Kevin said...

    In regards to the Human Genome discussion, I actually think it really was an innovative idea for encouraging collaboration between us students. I can't really say I participated above the required minimum, and I know I'm not alone there, but I do have justification.

    First off, I want to establish that I believe Blackboard, when used and applied effectively, can be an incredible tool for students to use, but I'll let you guys, the Blackboard-enamored instructors provide examples for that...

    I think that it's the whole aura of not participating in class that carries over into Blackboard. I've raised my hand maybe once in Mr. Gales' class, and made maybe two non-required BB posts, but I don't really have a problem opening up on other message boards, my blog, etc.

    But did I read the discussions of my peers? Absolutely. Call me a lurker, but I prefer to think of myself as someone who learns by seeing others participate. Then again, I suppose the teenage student side of me is going "Bah! Don't allow Mr. Gales to cut into your evening! Save the learning for school." So in the end, I'm one of the few who understands his mastermind plan to expand education past the 50-minute period, and at the same time I think he's a genius for concocting it.


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