The benefits and challenges of using social networking and online collaboration

Teaching the lowest level of Science to students that are off task regularly is always challenging. My students are always a handful, and I have provided some examples of their type of collaboration in my post. Many of my students are repeaters and are less motivated their second time of taking my class. It is always challenging!

While my experience as a student using collaboration tools and online learning has been productive and helpful, my students do not have access to the same amount of technology. My colleagues in this program seem to be at a level of learning that is similar to my level of learning. In the classroom, there is a vast digital divide among the students. A student in my class may be able to collaborate and help others but if the other students do not have the technology or cannot practice the technology tool being used than they will receive less information and give less feedback than their classmates.

The challenges that I have encountered seem to revolve around receiving feedback or receiving help in a timely fashion. Vicki Davis explains in our video this week that educational networking provides an asynchronous environment where students can collaborate with an authentic audience and interact with experts. 55% of my students did not have working computers with the internet at home last year. With the economy and the cuts in educational funding, I do not expect to have more students with access to technology this upcoming year. There are many benefits of using technology, collaboration, and social networking in the classroom. First, the students can collaborate and learn from each other regardless of how much technology is being used in the classroom. The goal of students is to learn the standard and collaborating in groups or pairs seems to be an effective method for struggling students. Time constraints seem to be a problem for my students. If they collaborate and help others, some complain that they need more time to finish their own assignment. Sometimes I catch students collaborating and using social networking sites (Twitter, MySpace, Facebook) for other issues and problems that they have instead of the topic that is supposed to be learned. They will talk about parties, and events, and music, but not Science. Monitoring 40 students in a computer lab as to their content is difficult at best and can be a nightmare at worst. I used to read all of their posts at home but have found some inappropriate and off task remarks by students that need to be caught and addressed immediately. Netiquette is something that students do not understand entirely even though the skills have been taught. Adults in our online learning classes seem to always be respectful and responsible at all time. I have witnessed inappropriate activities and methods of collaborating by my students. They seem to be able to find inappropriate websites, pictures, and topics very easily on the internet. Firewalls cannot block everything and the student’s greatest form of collaboration involves telling each other web site’s that can be accessed at school that is inappropriate. My students would change my background on my computer regularly, while I was using the restroom or talking with another teacher, to Megan Fox or Kim Kardashian in a bikini or less. High school boys have one thing on their minds which they love to collaborate about with others – sex.   I am also afraid that some of these young men will take this skill to a flat classroom project and ruin it for others. I monitor these students like a hawk, but something always seems to slip through. My students are not near as intrinsically motivated as my colleagues in this class which does make a huge difference in learning.

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