The following is a post that I originally wrote on a private blog as part of an online course I took on Children and Technology.
The idea of “community” as it pertains to technology is an interesting one. I think the concern which has always encompassed any new form of technology has been how it will affect communities, and the relationships between individuals in communities. Even from the earliest forms of technologies, such as the written word, there were concerns arising that eliminating the need for passing information in the oral tradition would impact the way that we interact with one another. Socrates himself was opposed to the written word, which we know of course, because his student Plato wrote it down. I know for myself I have had concerns about the way that technology has changed and will continue to change my relationships with others and the community in which I live. This course has presented an interesting opportunity for me to reflect on these ideas.
Looking at the different types of “community” technologies presented in Chapter 6, it seems there are several different ways in which collaborative technology can be used. Wikis are a wonderful example of collaborative technology, in that they are contributed to by many users and shaped by those users, however although they are collaborative in a cumulative sense, they aren’t interactive. Many can contribute to a wiki and many can view these contributions, but users don’t connect directly to each other. Knowledge Forum seems to be a little more interactive, in that users are building on each other’s ideas and knowledge in a way that sets apart individual users comments, rather than Wikis, in which all users contribute to the same article. I am also intrigued by the language used in the Knowledge Forum, such as scaffolding. Coming from a Reggio background, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the how and why of scaffolding but this is the first time I’ve seen it applied through technology. It’s an interesting thought, as I wonder if online scaffolding would produce the same support as it does in the more traditional use. I also wonder what Vygotsky would think.
I’m most interested in the more “social” community technologies, since I think that humans by nature are relational beings and as such we learn and flourish best in relationships. I find the international opportunities to be of the most interest because this is the one way in which I think technology can really enhance both our learning and our ability to form more relationships, specifically those with individuals of other backgrounds and cultures. I participate in a Reggio listserve which has members worldwide, which has been a great learning experience for myself. Additionally, one preschool room in Hawaii did a project on Wind, and the teacher was communicating to the listserve about this project. What came out of that was collaboration with other preschool rooms around the world, who also began projects on wind and they were able to set up various interactions and communications between these classrooms so the children had opportunities to share what they had been learning. I hope that with our continued advances in technology, there will be more opportunities like this in the future.
All in all, I think there are benefits to all these types of communities and collaborative technologies, but I think that the best methods for learning with or without technology are those which are interactive and relationally based. This is true for young children as well as adults. This is why I’ve appreciated the approach that has been taken with this distance course. The use of the blog and social media has made this much more interactive than other distance courses I’ve taken and I’ve found that helpful to my own learning.