Friday, November 12, 2010

More On TwHistory and Social Networking

I recently posted about the top 10 things I'd learned from TwHistory, a project I've been helping with to teach history using social media. I was at a conference recently where one of the papers presented was about how social networking doesn't create learning communities or communities of practice. I'm going to do a more full analysis of it at some point, but for now, I'd like to point out that TwHistory has shown to some extent that the supposition of the paper is false or at least not completely true. I don't know if I even want to touch on their premise that you need more control than social media tools allow to facilitate a constructivist learning environment.

Social media/networking tools are just that, tools. A classroom is a tool in a manner of speaking. Blackboard, let's see if I can say this with a straight face, is a tool. (Blackboard's "designers" are tools also, if you know what I mean.)

Of course just using Twitter won't magically build a community, just as throwing a prominent researcher into a classroom won't make him or her an effective teacher and dropping a class into Blackboard won't stimulate discussion.

A couple guys who had worked together on some previous software projects to create tools for building communities around openly licensed educational materials came up with the idea. I was involved in the first reenactment on TwHistory because of something one of them posted on Facebook. An awesome high school history teacher has enhanced her method of teaching history because of that Twitter reenactment. A grant from Talis funded a sweet new website that will allow anyone to build and share their own reenactments because it was shown that it could be useful in the classroom. People are starting to use the new site on their own now.

A community is being built using various online tools. A common reaction from many people who hear about this community is that they are now interested in using some of these social media tools that they were never interested in before, because they see it can be useful for something more than just wasting time. They want to join in, because there is a community pulling them in.

There's more to come on this topic, but that's enough for now. If you've made it this far, here's a bonus 5 more things I've learned from TwHistory.

  • To reduce the amount of complaining you have to listen to, appoint a murmurer for the group - if anyone wants to murmur, they have to get his or her permission first.
  • Expect to be "taught a lesson" if you fall sleep while on guard.
  • Assign a few select hunters, because if everyone in camp goes, you'll scare off all the game.
  • If your ramrod gets stuck in the barrel right in the middle of battle, just shoot it out at someone and pick up someone else's gun.
  • You can tell the tribe an indian is from by the shape of the moccasin print.

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