Educators have long been harvesting ideas from popular culture to imbue excitement into lessons and engage learners. We've used contests, treasure hunts, quizzes, creative works, and more to make the lessons interesting and fun. We know that play is one of the most fundamental ways in which we learn. The Internet has given us many new ways to provide learners with an environment that allows them to learn through discovery, play, collaboration, and just plain having fun.
The ideas I am listing in this two-part column [Editor's Note: See part 2 in the next issue of MMIS.] could work anywhere—the classroom, the lab, homeschooling, school libraries, public libraries' after-school programs, summer camp, The "Y," and boys and girls clubs—just about anywhere kids want to have fun.
Just remember one point: This has to be subversive! If they know we're tricking them into learning so many of the skills they'll need, they'll turn off. But you already know that. It is just part of the game we play.
The November 2005 Pew Internet & American Life report titled "Teen Content Creators and Consumers" shows that "American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the Internet as they create and share their own media creations. Fully half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the Internet could be considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or Web page, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations. Teens are often much more enthusiastic authors and readers of blogs than their adult counterparts. Teen bloggers, led by older girls, are a major part of this tech-savvy cohort. Teen bloggers are more fervent Internet users than non-bloggers and have more experience with almost every online activity in the survey. Teen Content Creators and Consumers: More than half of online teens have created content for the Internet; and most teen downloaders think that getting free music files is easy to do."
I suspect that this trend has already grown exponentially in less than a year due to the enormous influence of MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, and their cousins. Most of the seeds of ideas below are things I have heard of going on in schools and libraries around the world. Many of these ideas are based on simple (and usually free) Web sites and tools that take little time to learn, are readily accessible, and allow you to build content and learning units that are fun and engaging.
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