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Using Online Community in the Classroom

The social group of people, who are sharing the same environment and oftentimes sharing the same interests, creates one community. The individuals that comprise the community communicate face to face with each and every people within the community. On the contrary, if they prefer to use communication media for interaction, then they would likely form a virtual community or online community. Online communities have served as a supplemental form or tool for communication amongst people who first and foremost know each other in real life.

Though it can also be the other way around, where people would meet through online communities and then meet in real life. Online communities use social software such as text-based chat rooms, forums with audio, voice or video texts and even avatars. However, if we look closely at the characteristics of the community, we would understand that it is human connections, not the tools or computers, which create it. The transformation of social institutions only becomes powerful and beneficial because of these tools or electronic networks.

Public schools nowadays are starting to use online community and their experiences can greatly teach us on how to use networks to forge new connections among parents, teachers and students. Most people believe, think or imagine the use of computers in classrooms when referring to “technology in schools”. On the contrary, this is the least important and the lowest impact of the term or phrase “technology in schools”. More often than not, it is a counterproductive application of technology.

It is the networks which are actually building the community and raising the educational performance of both teachers and students. An example of this is the inner-city school districts of Union City in New Jersey. Their school was considered to be failing, however, their team-up with Bell Atlantic for Web access has changed their status. Their relationship had greatly improved the level of education in Union City’s schools. Government officials as well consider the use of online community in class rooms.

Congressmen Robert Menendez, who was formerly the mayor at Union City, planned to create a wired city, specifically transforming Union City into one. He planned to incorporate the other schools as center of a community network in his wired city. Since the year 1992, the partnership which was established by Bell Atlantic has already opened up high-speed communications in schools. In addition to this, Bell Atlantic was able to provide connections for students and teachers alike, with the school (Kanter, 2001).

After the actions taken by the school officials, the Bell Atlantic and the government officials, learning inside and even outside the school, have become possible even for those who usually don’t have access to schools or universities. There are some universities or schools with little libraries or few shelves to accommodate books for a lot of students like the library at Columbus Middle School. With the help of the Web or online libraries, students, teachers and school administrators could triumph over the problem of scarcity.

Classrooms through the online community or the Web can also become a system of team-based collaborative learning. In addition to this, students could work inside the schools, and also outside through the Internet. Through the Internet, the students would be able to interact with their fellow students and teachers even if it is beyond class hours. Teachers, on the other hand, could be very well versed when it comes to using books as media for teaching or as references for their subjects. However, this usually limits the teachers, putting them confined within the walls of the book.

Opening, searching and using the Internet especially for teaching, would be a whole new world for these types of teachers. Teachers, students and parents interactions could also broaden and be more frequent through the use of the online community at school. Through the use of the Web or the Internet, they would be able to improve the current existing relationships that they have, and even create new ones. For example, the Web-savvy students could work together with their teachers in helping their fellow students. Conventionally, it is always the teachers who would be giving lectures and lessons to the students.

However, through the online community, students could also share their knowledge to their teachers especially if the technical know-how of their teachers is not that good, like for conventional or orthodox teachers. The students or children, and even their teachers, could also teach their parents about their school and how the internet or online libraries work. They could also improve or teach their parents new technological skills in order to improve their family fortunes. In addition to this, school children could create websites for community organizations.

Parents as well could participate more in the interaction and be able to understand their children and even their teachers more. They could access the Internet or the online records of their children and regularly check the scholastic performance of their children and be able to do something if there are problems or shortcomings. The parents could also send messages and regularly talk with their children’s teachers. They would no longer have to wait for monthly or yearly conferences or parents-teachers association meetings to discuss the academic standing or status of their children.

Teachers could utilize the Internet in providing and updating parents with academic information about their children. Teachers could also share lesson plans to parents, students and other teachers easily through the Web. Their knowledge can also be improved through apprenticeship from experienced teachers. Submitting and editing peer reviews or papers also becomes easier through the Web. Whenever a teacher needs somebody to replace them in teaching due to emergencies, they can easily log-in to the Internet and check the schedules of perspective teachers.

In addition to this, they can also tap into e-learning or continue their academic degrees through online universities without troubling themselves with time and travel expenses. Through the internet or online community, academic performance, school attendance and interactions can greatly soar in number (Kanter, 2001). Considering a more systematic example to understand how the use of online community in class rooms could work. In 1994, IBM’s Reinventing Education initiative launched the online community to facilitate learning and better education.

IBM worked hand-in-hand with K-12 public schools in order to test and provide sufficient data that indeed, online communities could improve the level of education. The experts at IBM created or developed solutions to remove barriers to excellence identified by the school districts themselves. On the other hand, the communications network which is connecting schools and parents, the “Wired for Learning”, was created by Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina which is a data warehouse, the electronic portfolios of students’ work was designed to display much more than final grades or test scores.

Financial aspects relating to the creation and maintenance of learning material, especially in the context of various teaching and learning styles are also becoming increasingly important. As such, the reuse of learning materials and course syllabus, as well as interchangeability of content and organization information like user information, is a key requirement in modern knowledge-based societies (Claus, 2008). As a result there is a wide variety of e-learning standards and content description and exchange as well as for didactical goals and student information have emerged, such as IMS and ADL SCORM (Paramysthis and Loidl- Reisinger, 2004).

By narrowing down to future-oriented e-learning systems, based on several situations, it is obvious that such systems must be flexible and adaptable in order to consider diverse didactic goals and student’s learning needs. The concern and use of online communities and Web based learning media is increasing because of the availability and economic advantages of these tools. As a result, companies and schools are continuously creating, developing and improving Web based platforms and online community systems to improve the level of education.

Client-server, peer-to-peer and Web services architectures often form the basis. Podcasting is also one of the tools which can greatly improve E-learning between one school or university to the others. In addition to this, podcasting has quickly emerged as leading technology in the field of mobile learning. Tracing this new technology’s history over the past two years reveals just how broadly the use of digital audio files may become in the fields of education and training.

The ease of use, low cost of creation and hosting, and most importantly pervasiveness of user access to compatible hardware combine to make podcasting a major force in both traditional and distance education (Claus, 2008). Online communities formed by parents and students can be easier through the use of podcasting. There are countries in South-East Asia or Asia as a whole such as the Philippines which utilizes podcasting to broaden the knowledge of both the teachers and the students. International lecturers and new and detailed information or studies can be easily accessed and transmitted via podcasting.

Moreover, in Shanghai, ChinesePod, which is considered an on-demand training (ODT) solution, was founded by native Dubliner Ken Carroll with Hank Horkoff in August 2005. They have successfully launched daily podcasting service to facilitate the learning of Mandarin Chinese language. The vision for ChinesePod came from Ken Carroll’s experience running a chain of English language schools in Shanghai China. The company is also revolutionizing the learning of new languages via podcasting. This would greatly help and allow customers to download both audio and video files, and listen to them on a PC or portable media player.

Because of podcasting, students especially on learning languages such as Mandarin, had greatly increased. Mandarin is already the world’s most widely spoken language, with an estimated 1. 3 billion speakers globally with roughly thirty percent of these outside of mainland China. According to Beijing’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, over thirty million people globally are learning Mandarin via formal academic settings, private tutors or using online solutions like ChinesePod (Iyar, 2007).


Claus, P. (2008). Architecture Solutions for E-Learning Systems. United Kingdom: Idea Group Inc. Iyar, S. S. (2007). Why Buy the Cow: WebEx. Kanter, R. M. (2001). Evolve! : Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow. USA: Harvard Business School Press. Paramythis, A. , & Loidl-Reisinger, S. (2004). Adaptive learning environments and E-Learning standards. Electronic Journal on E-Learning, 2(1), 181-194.

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