Community Trumphs Content

Its amazing… we live in a time where I can access my friends nearly 24-7, touch base with colleagues in various parts of the world and never leave my office. Sometimes all I can do is say “Wow” and just marvel in the craziness of life in 2010.

While doing some last minute work on my final project and creating on-line communities I stumbled across a great TED video titled “Community Trumphs Content”. It it Jeff Utecht a technology consultant and presenter, spoke of the importance of allowing students to have access to communities and networks, How there is such huge value in what we are learning and creating in various network communities that it  can take precedence over what content they are exposed to. Its exploring what others have to say, collaborating and sharing, rather than blocking students from making those connections.

I certainly can relate to this as I’ve always believed in the importance of educating students on the value of social networking tools rather than restricting them. Teaching them more than “how” to use the tools but rather the “why” we  use it. As part of one of my other masters classes this term in distance education we explored a relativly new on-line experience (well at least for me) called Second Life. It allows users to create a virtual “avatar” of themself and move freely through an on-line world. Initially I really wondered what the importance of this was to distance education? Why would this type of community be important? I quickly learned (after a guided tour of this site) that schools, companies and other various institutions can buy “land” and host a virtual site or meeting area. This allows users to interact with one another in real-time with virtual characteristics. Classrooms can be set up, students can participate in pre-designed content activities and  members of these communities can interact with one another throughout. The experiences were powerful and eye opening!  

I can only imagine the day, when students use these “avatars” to attend class in a virtual environment. There are however many areas in the Second Life world that would not be suitable for younger viewers (some are not even suitable for me!!) but I think this goes back to Jeff’s video. That sometimes the content is not as relative as the interactions amongst those members of a community.  If students and teachers could see beyond the basics of Second Life and look at it from the life of a 22nd century student…. who knows what would transpire!!

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