I’ve been involved with online projects for a good number of years now. I’ve followed and gawked at dozens more.
In many of them I’ve been amazed at the creativity and great ideas that have grown. For others, (to be honest) I’ve wondered why teachers have spent the time on them.
Lately I’ve been noticing more of a pattern emerge from these projects though: the hugest majority of them are based around language arts and social studies. This isn’t a secret. I’ll admit that I did notice this a few years ago, but in the light of reports like this one recently released by the Royal Society, I am getting more concerned about this.
Knowledge, Networks and Nations is a report concerned with the changing nature of scientific development and advancement. Networked, collaborative and global, scientific developments are more and more dependent upon the ability of scientists to work with others located around the world. This post by George Siemens has a good overview of the report and the state of science innovation around the globe.
Now admit it. I will. As a classroom teacher, when we look to collaborate with others around the world, we often think first of projects that circle around language arts and social studies. These subjects allow us to use tools we are familiar with. We blog with others. We leave comments. We have skype calls to read a book together. We use wikis to collect our research on a city. We take pictures, radio plays and produce videos with others.
But the tools we use are neutral. We can just as easily be blogging about math problems as about a novel we are reading. But mostly, we aren’t. Science and math tend to the red – headed step children of international K – 12 collaboration. When working with someone else, we always say that these two are difficult to integrate (or something along those lines) and promise to get to it later. Later often never comes. After years of showing the possibilities of international collaboration, the power of projects and the excitement they generate; are we spending our time with the low hanging fruit? Are we taking the easy way out?
In light of the fact that many of our students will be heading into fields where science and math are the core of what they do with their working lives, and that science and math are becoming much more global in dynamic in their purpose, we should be searching much harder to undertake real research possibilities with the kids in our classrooms. We need to understand how working online with science and math projects are both similar and different from humanities based projects.
What are these similarities and differences?
I can’t tell you. I haven’t done enough online work with my kids in the science fields to know.