FirstClass is extremely popular at Emory. Even before Facebook came on campus, Emory students were obsessively checking for new messages on Learnlink (our FirstClass client) and the coolest professors (my dear colleague, Matthew Weinschenk for example) on campus would chat with their students during student friendly hours (like after 11 pm!) But it never really got the online collaboration piece right.
Online collaboration is a critical component of the learning experience for this generation. My three kids, 9, 12 and 17 hit the computer even before they throw their backpacks on the floor. Their homework is online, their teachers’ powerpoints are on line and yes, their friends are on gtalk and AIM.
At my start-up, Inquus, we are trying to work out all the different dimensions of online collaboration.
These are exciting times because successful online collaboration for today’s digital youth has to yet to be implemented. Visionaries (Terry Anderson, George Siemens and others) have defined the ideals and the shortcomings of today’s solutions. We know in theory what scaffolding to provide, what affordances we ought to provide and the outcomes we desire. But what will this look like?
So we pulled out the lego blocks and we are having fun imagineering the learning space. What will promote stickiness for this demographics? What environment will be easy enough for them to use so it is truly useful? What will get them motivated so that they spend more time in this collaborative learning space, and less on Club Penguin? If we build it, will they stay here?
Of course, our best consultants are the 10-17 year olds who crowd our home computers, playing games.