Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Global communities broaden the digital footprint, Day #9--Building positive digital footprints

The nature of being online means that we are interconnected, within arm's reach to people across the globe. With that comes great responsibility and immense power. Now, we must train our students how to be responsible and how to use that power for a greater good. Rather than avoiding it, pretending online communities do not exist, wee must serve as guides for students as they navigate the Web.

Online communities vary in their content and nature, but one thing is consistent: they do not stop at the walls of the classroom. When I was in middle school in the mid-late 1990s, the craze was AOL's Chat rooms. I remember my dad bringing home his laptop (seemingly from the space age) from work, connecting it to our phone line, "dialing" in, browsing the few search categories on AOL and chatting as a family in several chat rooms. Looking back, I can only laugh at our beginnings. However, my dad did something right: he guided us through the process. Rather than getting lost in the "big" chat rooms of the 1990s, I had a guide. Teachers must do the same, especially today when chat rooms do not exist in the same context. Now, students are connected to people across the globe at the touch of their fingers. They have authorship powers that never existed before and their networks are larger than ever. And, now, learning is moving form full face-to-face, to blended, to completely online.

Like social networks, online communities are your networks. However, online communities represent a body of people connected to various issues/topics/goals. Students writing letters to China may be an online community, but it may not be a social network. They represent the projects students should engage in.

Some great online communities to engage in include:

LinkedIn is a great starting place for joining professional online communities. ePals, Moodle, and other learning management systems are effective tools for engaging students in online communities. Now is the time to start guiding students through global communities in order to broaden their footsteps, and make them responsible students devoted to positive growth. 

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