The Fear of “Who Is Really Out There” In A Virtual World

I was drawn to Schwier’s post on Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments because I believe that major learning opportunities are being missed when we deny students access to communicating with the online world. Schwier remarks,

Virtual learning environments happen when the process of learning takes place outside the boundaries of face-to-face contact, typically online. But environments are not necessarily communities. For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge.

I agree with his statement that environments are not the same as communities with regards to the levels of engagements and interactions with others. But their is still this underlying fear that their are more people on the internet with more intentions to do harm over good. I, however, feel that it is much the opposite.

Here is an example of how a simple Tweet changed a complete day of learning…


“Twitter” by Andreas Eldh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Grade 2 came to visit me in the library and we read a new and exciting book called “Those Magnificent Sheet in Their Flying Machine” by Peter Bently. In the book, some daring sheep borrowed an airplane and visited the world. They pondered visiting places such as Timbuktu, Kalamazoo and Saskatchewan. Well, the students were over the moon that Mr. Bently would include Saskatchewan in his book. After our reading, I decided to tweet Mr. Bently about how amazing his books were,

Well, he responded…

And his question…

Led to this “small” assignment from the class…

Even though the teacher did most of the tweeting, the students played an integral part in communicating with the author. How amazing to share their story with someone who is already established in the writing community. This could be an example of a “ringer” as described by Schwier.

When teachers choose to keep social media out of the classroom, what important learning opportunities are we missing out on?

Back to Schwier, our learners need to be able to interact with others outside of their everyday lives in order to be able to grow themselves. We need to be able to teach them how to be safe and smart online, but also how to access people that can help us online as well. But how to do we do this with such young minds?

Our module project is geared for Grade 3 students. We certainly are not going to set them up with individual twitter accounts and begin their digital identity for them. But I think it is important that they understand that there are safe places for them to discuss ideas, provide opinions and share with a much wider audience.

laptop-819285_1280One of the forums we discussed to allow students to share their ideas and thoughts is using to share about books they are reading. Last semester, I did a vlog about Bookopolis and how it can be integrated into the classroom. Because our module is based on the new OTC documents, and we plan to use literature as a resource to provide more information, students can use Bookopolis to share their ideas and opinions on the books they have read with a much wider audience then their peers in the classroom.

We are using the LMS Google Classroom to create our module. Within Google Classroom, we can create a questions that students can respond to and reply back to fellow classmates. This may seem more enticing to some teachers as it is a more closed circuit and can be monitored more closely than open platforms such as Twitter or Instagram.

However, if we want the class to reach a more open environment, Twitter would be my go-to platform. In this particular case, I would create a hashtag in reference to our module (maybe something like #SKFNpastpresent or #SKtreatiesprepost – obviously something to play around with). By using a hashtag, we can keep track of responses we get from the Twitterverse. I would invite a couple of students to ask an open ended question about what they learned from the module that day to ask out to my followers (or the class followers) using the hashtag. As the teacher, I would vet answers for appropriateness and share them with the class using Storify.

It is great when students get an opportunity to discuss with their peers about what they are learning, but I believe that by introducing them to a much wider environment (such as the world) their are plenty of opportunities to grow their community and their learning environments. If we begin to teach them at a young age about how to use the Internet for good, then that will last them their lifetime. But, if we shy away from it, then what are they missing out on?