Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Social Unit Design

Should I trademark this term, "Social Unit Design?" If you do a Google search for "Social Unit Design" you don't come up with anything. I know that I'm not the first person to use a wiki to design a unit. But surprisingly when I do more Google searches using terms like "social networking" "unit design" and "wikis," I get a few hits, but nothing specific. Right now there seems to be a real stress on how the students can use Web 2.0, but there doesn't seem to be as much as how we can get teachers to use W2.0 to collaborate and communicate. Even Classroom 2.0's topics are more student-centric, as opposed to teacher-centric; just check out their Success Stories. I see hardly any success stories of teachers using Web 2.0 to collaborate. Hey, if the teachers don't know how to use the tools, then there's a really big problem here. Or a really big market for new ideas, depending on how you see it.

So, for my summertime fun, I've created a Unit Design wiki at http://sciencedesign.pbwiki.com/.
I recently had a discussion with a seasoned teacher, and how every couple of years they spend the entire summer at their dining room table unit and lesson planning for the entire year. That sounds so lonely and boring. It's also pretty close to what I did on almost all of my summer and winter breaks. Being a new teacher as well, I don't have as many ideas for activities. I don't have the years of experience to draw from, so I have to constantly look up learning activities, because my own textbooks and classroom modules just don't give me enough.

So, I'm doing something called Social Unit Design. By creating a wiki on pbwiki.com, I've basically made my unit design a collaborative process. And because the folks at my school aren't with it on Web 2.0, I'm going to farm the work out to science teachers all over the world. Imagine all the work we can do, and all the ideas that we'll come up with, if we put our collective heads together! I'm going to go with my strengths and use Backwards Design, so I am hoping there's some web 2.0 folk out there who are familiar with it.

On my wiki page, basically there's a section for every part of the design process. If we start with the Big Ideas page, then we should get a good start on the process. What's also very cool is that the wiki itself would be an artifact of collaboration, useful to other teachers or students, and the assessment process of the unit could be extremly grand. Imagine 10, 20, or more science teachers all teaching the same unique designed unit all over the country this fall! We'll make content, process, and product all public using ustream.tv, classroom 2.0, or a blog page, and the world can see the final outcomes of all that our students have created.

On another level the collaboration could actually be opened up to the students, and they could share their final outcomes with other students all over the world- online. That could be called "authentic social assessment." Great- Google has zero hits on that phrase as well.

Interesting idea, maybe?



murch said...

I agree with you that we are only just on the 'fringe' of big things happening with teacher collaboration and virtual teamwork. The reason for such a concentration on success with students in classroom20 is that teachers are working solo, and finding success with web2.0 tools. The collaboration with other teachers, I feel is the next step and the sharing of this success is the predecessor. In Victoria, Australia, our syllabus tends to be set for us although we all add our own personal directions.
I teach in a small country prep to year 12 school, where I am reasonably isolated by time, distance and budget restraints from being able to work with other staff in the old fashioned way. However, the advent of web2.0 has meant that I am no longer isolated at all but at the centre of all the action right in the middle of the globe. My students have worked on some interesting collaborative projects eg http://es1001tales.wikispaces.com and a ms version and the flat horizons project. Each of these required prior elluminate meetings and skype linkups with staff in other countries so that staff could collaborate and work out the project s together. Time zones are a limiting factor. Personal learning networks is another term used for social networking, so you might try googling that.
Videoconferencing with skype has been an amazing learning outcome for us and although we have only used it several times, I can see that this is a 21st century classroom application.
My membership of twitter (id=murcha) has allowed me to work in virtual teams and meet others with similar interests and as I teach information technology, I am lucky that I can experiment with many of the web2.0 tools that I learn about. As time proceeds social networking amongst staff across the globe will allow units of work to be developed in virtual teams which will lead to powerful learning outcomes for our students. I shall send on the wiki link to one of our science teachers as she enjoys working in this environment but there are so many teachers out there who have absolutely minimal computer skills.
My blog is at http://murcha.wordpress.com

Mrs Gow said...

Hi Daniel,
I was surprised to see murch's comment there as she is a friend and colleague of mine - she may have told me about this wiki a few months ago, when I was still in 'head spinning' mode with web 2.0. I have collaborated with a year 7 science teacher in New York on the project that I put on the wiki - Extraordinary Animals. One difficulty, apart for our different curriculums is the term times - we have just one 10 week term left before the end of the year. I will add to the wiki as time and energy permits and i would be very interested in seeing some of your curriculum documents to see what overlap we may have.

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