If you ask me to define a key hallmark of schooling in today’s world in just one word it has to be about connections. It became crystal clear after listening to designer Mary Featherston and internet whiz Michael Furdyk talk passionately about how they are facilitating connections between students, their environment, teachers, the internet, local communities as well as the global challenges.
I discovered Michael Furdyk at the ACEL International Conference in Sydney last year. He is a 26 year old Canadian who has taken his passion for the internet and making a difference in the world to a global level by creating a website called TakingITGlobal. Michael refers to it as social networking for social good and social learning.
This not-for-profit website is giving students a voice through technology by connecting them to other like-minded students to grow ideas, share knowledge and collaborate on local and global projects. One company donated digital cameras and scanners so that students in Afghanistan and other developing countries could ‘speak’ to the rest of the world. It forces us to ask what we mean when we talk about student voice!
An interesting point that Michael made in his presentation was that in a study (I think this was by Robert Epstein ‘The Case Against Adolescence’), teens in the US are on average as competent as adults when it comes to decision making. This may be surprising for some of our teachers but we have students who are already experts in using the tools. What they need is the opportunity to become leaders, peers, mentors through collaboration with other students on projects that really matter to them.
How many of our schools are prepared to take a great idea and turn it into something like TakingITGlobal? What I always find is that the work that students do when challenged in such ways always outstrips our expectations. Why not start with something that has currency such as designing relevant learning spaces? Which of our schools is prepared to take on the challenge and make the relevant connections?