When it comes to school stuff, I'm not a huge supporter. With all the resources and infrastructure, our schools could be second-to-none. But with all the competing interests and egos — not to mention billions of dollars — they've become a hodge podge of half-baked ideas, special interests, and union thugs. In other words, I'm a hard sell when it comes to the next big thing in anything school related.
When I learned about Collaborize Classroom today, I very honestly rolled my eyes. I imagined another gobbledygook education site that would take time and resources without producing a bit of real education.
First I looked at the website to get an idea of what this service is about. I learned that it's a free service. So far, so good. And it's intended to help teachers have meaningful discussions with students in a given class.
Watching the video helped me understand the system better. It's a little too sprinkled with “educationese” for my taste. For example, “Now, teachers can prompt dynamic discussions.” That's NEA-speak for “teachers and students can have good discussions.” And, “Instead, you'll start meaningful discussions that engage students and promote individual contributions to classroom conversations” really means, “You'll get everyone in on the discussions.”
To be fair, the promotion is aimed at teachers — and they are used to inflating common ideas into things that sound terribly technical. In fact, when I read my school district's periodic updates, I'm convinced that the adminstrators don't think anything is worth their time unless it does sound erudite.
But working past those issues, Collaborize Classroom seems to have real potential if used well. It could open up discussions to a range of students, while in-class discussions tend to be monopolized by a few personality types. Those who are outgoing and confident in a classroom setting will not be the only ones participating in this kind of private (password protected), online forum.
If you're a teacher without great technical skills, not to worry. Setting up an area for your class is easy and automated. Just takes a few minutes. If you're a teacher, I suggest you give this platform a try. I'm curious to hear the results. It looks like a great tool to help students and cut down on time and money spent teaching.