The Learning 2.0 School

Shifting Perceptions of Teaching and Learning in and out of the School Library

“Before you order those digital whiteboards, consider this…”

Posted by Michelle Torrise on May 26, 2009

I have always felt that the effective use of technology does not always have to be about integrating expensive whiteboards and student response systems–while these tech tools have a great deal of potential, what’s most important is that all students have “access” to information.    I attended an incredibly inspiring webinar tonight with Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Kansas State University.  The interview, which was produced by The Future of Education and broadcast on Elluminate,  was titled Michael Wesch:  A Cultural Anthropologist Looks at Digital Technology.


Source: Digital image from Michael Wesch’s blog, Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University,

Professor Wesch  (pictured above) did more than provide a vision for education in the 21st century, rather he provided an exemplary demonstration of how to bring such a vision into practice on “day one” of any class.  No fancy software or expensive laptops are needed.  All that is needed is 1:1 Internet access and sufficient bandwidth.

Using free Web 2.0 tools, digital learning commons are created as result of student-centered learning and collaboration with the teacher the facilitator.   Students, who are immediately expected to take ownership of their research, work together in small groups and as a class to make their project come alive using various web 2.0 tools.  The end product is a published body of research that is original and authentic.

Professor Wesch worked for 16 weeks with his students on such a project.  The end result can be viewed on their class wiki on Netvibes.   For more on Profressor Wesch’s pedagogy see his essay, From Knowledge to Knowledge-able:  Learning in New Media Environments (2009).  It’s also worth taking a careful look at his blog, Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University. Here are my bookmarks from his presentation on Delicious.

An example of Professor Wesch’s methodology of collaborative learning in a digital environment might be to ask students to research and publish information about robotics.  What are the potential/promised benefits to society?  What are the issues associated with such technologies?  How has robotics evolved over time?  How has robotics played a role in medicine, music, manufacturing, nanotechnology, etc.  Has the science fiction genre driven research, or is it the other way around?   The topics are endless.  Students should be involved in the process of identifying research topics and writing essential questions.

Once the instructor and students have identified a list of potential topics, students each select one topic to form small groups.  Students are initially asked to collaborate using a wiki, but then other tools are introduced including social bookmarking tools such as Diigo or Delicious and Google docs.

Next, students are asked to assess what they know and what they need to know about their topics and to develop a research strategy (integrating Big 6 skills).  Students work together to organize their research needs in a class wiki that outlines the larger research strategy (expect chaos and have faith, a great deal of learning through group work will occur during this process).

As individual students work to finalize their written research, they will also write an abstract of their research for the class wiki including a link to the unabridged work.  Students are then asked to assess each other’s work by asking for clarification or sources of stated information, if not included initially.  It is at this point that students can start to link to each other’s work and finalize their bibliographies.    At the same time, individual groups start producing a video to introduce their written research.  The video can include digital images, interviews, literary connections, music.  There are no limits.

In a final culminating activity, students are asked to write a class paper that summarizes the entire body of work.   At the same time, individual videos are stitched together and mashed up with the wiki and other web 2.0 tools that students discovered during their research, producing a final cumulative “trailer” for their research.  Are you excited yet?

Professor Wesch has always had the ability to inspire me.  You might have heard of  his “viral” video, “The Machine is Us/ing Us.”  Here is the newest version. The original version, posted in 2007, received 9,185,163, views on YouTube and has been published on many other video sharing websites world-wide.

>>See also “Did you Know 3.0.”  Created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod; Globalization & The Information Age. It was even adapted by Sony BMG at an executive meeting they held in Rome (2008). Credits are also given to Scott McLeod, Jeff Brenma.


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