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 Two

Let me begin with what I think is a great example of open source thinking. A teacher I work with had a great lesson that is an outstanding example of how networks set the stage for collaborative thought and the social construction of meaning. District 99 supports Blackboard as its Learning Management System and the District has organized a teacher’s course load by “preps” rather than have teachers replicate content for five classes. The practical outcome of this is that teachers produce content for two or three preps; the unanticipated outcome was that this has placed kids from different classes in the same collaborative pool, or in a more specific way, a digital network of students all engaged in the same study of a particular subject.

In Jon’s class, students read Montana 1948 by Larry Watson. In class, Jon posed an interpretive question that had legal, moral and ethical ramifications. The kids had to respond to Jon’s question in Blackboard. Jon received 42 responses (2 sections of kids); from there, Jon selected 4 responses that best illustrated “pro” and “con” arguments (2 each). Jon’s class then analyzed the strengths of the arguments in collaborative groups. As expected all of the posts occurred outside of class and many were posted after school at night.

What is truly interesting here is that of the four posts Jon selected, three were the second posts of the night for those students. In other words, they posted an argument, other students responded, and they modified their original post based on the arguments presented by the other students. The final post that was selected was made much later in the night after a student had a chance to process the ideas of others and formulate his own opinion. Although this was done through a simple discussion board, it illustrates that students can negotiate meaning, and can do so through digital networks. What promise do blogs, wikis and sites like Furl and hold for students in terms of open source thinking? In the hands of teachers like Jon, who step out on the edge each and every day, and absolutely relish it, the possibilities are simply endless.


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