Sunday, January 6, 2008

Effective Learning Communities

What do you think are the major characteristics of effective learning communities?
Feedback, feedback, feedback! I think that it is imperative that you get responses to your posts whether they are blogs, forums, wikis, chats, SMS etc. We need that response to know whether anyone has seen what we have put out there. My students love getting responses from their peers but they have told me that it is the teacher’s comments that they really hang out for. I guess they want confirmation from a person in authority. They are not as satisfied with peer response as they don’t quite trust it. I can understand that. I have tried many times to employ peer assessment in my classes but my students just don’t trust that. I still feel that peer assessment is very valid as it can help students to realize how the teacher assesses the work. I even used it to combat plagiarism.
An alternative way to find out if your blog has had any traffic is to put either a hit counter on it or a visitor map/statistic tracker. (Links) This however is not as powerful as actually getting a comment.
What technologies can be used to empower such learning communities? Blogs, wikis, forums, virtual classes, email etc. The tools that we have been using in this course.

What strategies can be used to empower such learning communities?
I am currently setting up a blog community for Indonesian children. As I understand that kids - actually everyone - needs feedback I am making a mentor system. Each child will be given a mentor who will read their blog each week, leave a comment and award tokens for outstanding work. The mentors will have about 200 blogs each and will be required to read each one. We will ask that the comments written on each blog be sent to us for monitoring. Mentors will be able to choose from a list of generic comments until they become more used to the system.
The tokens awarded by the mentors will work like Timezone. The bloggers will be able to trade them in for prizes such as hats, pencil cases and even club jackets. My part will be to write a weekly column for a children’s newspaper. I am the ideas person and will give small tasks via the column for the bloggers to post to their blog. We will also have ‘Posts of the Week’. The URL is This is an attempt to educate children about responsible Internet usage. We have a huge social problem in Indonesia of Internet addiction. I have been working on this over the past 6 months and I am now just about to start the pilot group. This is exciting stuff as this will be a first for Indonesia.