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Building the Co-Lab with Howard Rheingold: A Working Communication Environment for the Social Media Classroom

1. What are you most excited about accomplishing so far as a HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition winner? How has winning this award helped your project accomplish this goal?

Building the "Co-Lab," which is the actual working communication environment for the Social Media Classroom, has been nothing less than thrilling. I'm testing out an early version right now with a workshop of educators, and watching them really get it and use it is exciting. The whole notion grew from my experience kludging together various Web 2.0 tools to enable students to use blogs, wikis, forums in class, and reacting to the students' desire for an integrated, easy-to-use environment. Drupal has the basic framework, but it's too technical for most educators to set up, and in my opinion, the forum modules available did not meet my requirements. The award enabled me to hire a developer and work with him throughout the summer. I wouldn't have been able to do that without the award.

2. What are your goals for the next three months?

But the Co-Lab is only part of the Social Media Classroom. In parallel, I've been developing curriculum (syllabi and lesson plans) for using social media to teach social media issues (and, will use these syllabi and the Co-Lab myself with students in the 2008-2009 school year), animated and still graphics that provide easy how-to documentation, and videos that illustrate the "why to" part, which has meant working with a tutor to learn to use video. So it's been a real learning summer for me. Next, we're going to put the Co-Lab, the help material, the why-to videos, together via a website that also links to resources for educators to download and install or create a hosted version of the Co-Lab for their own uses. Then, when all those parts are in place, I will call upon interested educators and developers to join a community of practice, hosted, of course, on an instance of the Co-Lab (forums, wiki, blogs, chat, social bookmarking).

3. Is there any kind of assistance, advice, PR, communications, networking, or any other kind of support from fellow Digital Media and Learning Competition winners or HASTAC staff that could help you with
your project in any way?

YES! When the Community of Practice is ready to launch, I need help getting the word out.

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