Beware of focusing too much on the tools because they are going to change so fast we won't know what hit us. Just as I'm wrapping up the Networked Student article and designing the methodology for my dissertation research, I watch this demo of Google Wave.
By my calculations, it should hit the market just about the time I'm finishing the research component of my dissertation. So, what does that mean to the networked student model?
Well, the most difficult aspect of using this model with k12 students (or anyone else for that matter) is organization. How do we help students organize their personal learning environments to best leverage all this diverse content coming from so many different sources? One solution is to use iGoogle, PageFlakes, or NetVibes gadgets and widgets to pull all the learning apps into one page. iGoogle is great, especially for the younger students, because it limits the number of ids and passwords a student has to manage. (Though it cannot be made public which is a major frustration.)
But, imagine if email, chat, threaded discussion, live concurrent collaborative editing (in documents and wikis), multi-user games, photo sharing, language translation (as the user types), blogging, and other applications such as Twitter were all integrated into one interface that could easily be shared among a group of people. Enter Google Wave! All of these components are presented in the demo along with a playback feature that keeps track of the wave history. Better yet, it's open source and Google is encouraging developers to get moving with APIs that will allow new apps to run within a Wave and Waves to exist within external apps. What this means is that learning objects and whole interactive courses could be built upon Waves. (These are the times I wish I had better programming skills, or that developers would team up with some solid instructional designers.) Ultimately, students will be able to construct PLE Waves making it much easier to capture and organize their learning journey and the content they collect along the way.
Of course, the devil is always in the details, and we'll know more when Google Wave debuts "later this year". But, I really feel us moving closer to interconnected personal learning environments that students share and build collaboratively to solve complex problems.
This brings me back to my initial warning. We can't just teach our kids how to use tools. Somehow, we have to articulate the learning power of these tools and more importantly how students can recognize this power on their own as new applications emerge. We have to get them thinking about technology for learning and personal empowerment - not just socializing and entertainment.
One last question I have yet to seen answered...can a wave be made public?