FETC2009

Interactive media has changed the way students learn and will continue to change the way teachers teach, says Chris Dede, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

“Almost any piece of information can now be found online in less than a minute,” he said during a morning keynote session Jan. 24 at the Florida Educational Technology Conference in Orlando. “We, as educators, must decide what … knowledge every student should learn to prepare for 21st-century work and citizenship.”

During his keynote address, titled “Emerging Interactive Media: What to Use, When, and How,” Dede listed numerous types of interactive media and gave examples of how they could be used in the classroom.

For example, Dede said online discussion forums allow for students and teachers to collaborate on different topics that often go beyond what the curriculum. He noted that one issue or challenge with using online forums in instruction is that the teacher has to facilitate the conversation. It is also necessary for students to learn the proper “netiquette”–etiquette that governs communication on the internet.

Dede also spoke of ways to use podcasting and vodcasting (video podcasting) in instruction.

One of the educators in the audience suggested that teachers could record their lessons and provide them as MP3 files to students who had iPods or other digital audio players. That way, students who missed the lesson would be able to hear it–or students who needed to hear a particular part of the lesson again would be able to listen to it until the concepts are mastered.

Other interactive media that Dede discussed included writers’ workshops and fan fiction, wikis, mashups, social networking sites, blogs, photo and video sharing, social bookmarking, and collaborative social change sites.

For educational uses of blogging, Dede said teachers could set up free, private blogs for the class to publish responses to class assignments, conduct peer reviews, collaborate on group projects, and share links of interest to the community. He said the biggest advantage of blogs is that they give students the chance to see their work instantly made public with prompt feedback.

Wikis are easy ways to collaborate on file creation, Dede said.

“Wikis provide opportunities for students to interact and learn as a group,” he said during his presentation. “They can help students lean how to peer edit and to give and receive constructive criticism on their creative work, all at their own pace.”

Social bookmarking sties allow users to sort and organize bookmarks using keywords, or tags, and store them in an online account. The bookmarks are then publicly or privately shared within an online community.

Dede said much can be learned about a student by what he or she tags. Social bookmarking, he said, may add transparency to the process by which students are gathering and integrating information, allowing teachers to guide students in evaluating sources of information.

Photo and video sharing could be used to eliminate language barriers, he said. Writers’ workshops and fan fiction are primarily used by teenagers and professionals because they require a complex understanding of the functionalities of the web, Dede said, but the frameworks could be adapted to create special sites for younger children or seniors. Workshops give small groups of like-minded people a space to provide constructive criticism and feedback.

A mashup is a new web application made from combining two or more specific web functionalities, which is then used to create an original representation of data and media.

“These mashups can be used in informal or formal education settings for gathering information, performing research, analyzing data, thinking critically, problem solving, and simply enriching course materials and subjects for better learning,” Dede said. “By creating and sharing their own mashups, students can design tools that will meet their individual needs while building and sharing living knowledge repositories that are flexible to change.”

Dede said social networking sites can be used in classrooms to allow students to connect to and interact with their classmates, as well as other students studying similar topics around the globe.

Another medium that Dede said he’s found to be useful in his classes is collaborative social change sites, such as Care2.com, DoSomething.org, and Idealist.org.

“Harvard students want to use educational technology to empower people across the world who are not empowered,” he said.

On these sites, students take part in collaborative learning, where they work toward a common purpose of gaining knowledge about a specific problem.


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