“Teamwork has become the safe and default way of working in organizations. In fact most of us have a long-lasting romance with teams. Yet managers rarely stop and question the assumptions behind team mania. Like breathing, we just do it. Is teamwork still a safe bet or is it last century?” from “The Dream Team of the Future” at Management-Issues (http://www.management-issues.com/2011/1/12/opinion/the-dream-team-of-the-future.asp).
The author of this article, Karsten Jonsen, is describing, of course, teams in the business world, not middle grades teams or groups of young adolescents working in groups on a project. It would be like comparing apples and oranges to make too many direct connections between what happens with teams in the business world and middle grades interdisciplinary teams. However she makes an important point about social networking changing the dynamics of teaming that suggests some interesting possibilities for middle schools and their teams to consider.
Jonsen states, “The new generations (i.e. millennium kids or project generation) like to form their own teams, networks, Facebook groups, hang-out meetings or whatever it takes. They need freedom and support for different ways of working.”
Hmmmmm…how might teams make good use of social networking in school? Here are some things that I know are already happening in middle schools and a couple of ideas I’ve just brainstormed:
- Students work in groups across classes, teams, and grade level using tools like iChat, IM, Skype, Google docs.
- Students work with students in other parts of their state, our country, and across the world on projects using sites like ePals (http://www.epals.com/).
- Students invite experts in the field to be part of their team when working on projects (Vital Signs: http://www.gmri.org/education/vitalsigns.asp).
- International teams of students and teachers are created and work together for a year using technology like Tanberg Video (http://www.tandberg.com/ & at Skowhegan Area Middle School: http://www.msad54.org/sams/tandbergprojects/wales/index.shtml).
- Students collect their own data for research projects by using their social networks—Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Teachers have mentors from beyond their school to help them improve their pedagogy and content knowledge using video conferencing.
- Students and teachers join Internet groups of folks with similar interests and the ideas and skills they learn in these groups are integrated into their school studies.
Of course any of these ideas need careful thought and planning, and sites need to be vetted for safety and appropriateness. However, now that we are in the second decade of the 21st century it is time to stop lollygagging around and fully integrate the power of technology into our schools’ curriculum, instruction and assessment!
Check out the Maine International Center for Digital Learning (MICDL) for research and resources.
I would love to hear how others are using social networking tools to advance teaching and learning—please leave a comment.