School server/School district networks/lang-ko
School district networks
Indexing, whitelisting, blacklisting
A sensible index of suitable web pages for unlimited access by pupils in school could, for example, be built from the index of http://scholar.google.com/ (if available under license), the search index of the National Science Digital Library (if available under license) and further search engine indices (e.g. http://education.wikia.com/wiki/Search). A crawler could build a list of "neighboring pages" and permit websites into the index which were neither blacklisted nor filtered by automatic content filtering nor suspiciously "near" to blacklisted pages. Blacklisted pages could be pages without educational content but sufficiently interesting content so pupils could waste a lot of time on these pages. A small problem could be that some pages may contain games and edutainment adequate for younger pupils but inadequate for older pupils. A tolerant strategy would just allow these pages for all age groups. Use of a large web cache per school district or region seems to suggest itself for schools in developing countries.
A school district network in a developing country may also be eligible to receive free access to the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems.
School district wiki
A school district wiki for Cologne [CAS] could, for example, connect all pupils of the same grade (about 10000 pupils) in the whole city. Such a wiki could be initialized with the SOS Children 2006 Wikipedia CD Selection and invite the pupils to extend the knowledge base within their own grade. This could be a form of designed community: The overly large group could encourage pupils to experiment with forms of organization and would at the same time provide a sufficiently large pool to find any number of new acquaintances close-by. Pupils could be asked to publish select homework after correction as articles in the wiki but could otherwise be free to publish whatever seemed noteworthy or interesting enough.
The task of writing a wiki essay could involve forming an author group of three to eight pupils from different schools in the school district wiki and working, over the semester or the holidays, collaboratively on an essay about a chosen topic. The author group could cooperate with other authors to contribute to a larger project in a chosen knowledge area (similar to Wikipedia projects). The results should be graded by tutors and teachers. Mentors could help to locate information or offer advice on how to collaborate.
- Promote use of the wiki.
- Promote computer skills.
- Promote slow and considered communication through the wiki.
- Promote writing skills.
- Promote collaboration skills.
Promoting the use of a school district wiki may be necessary or infrequent use could spoil the community building effect. Other youth portals may suffer from lack of self-organization (an administrated forum leaves the users with nothing to organize), lack of motivation to produce appealing content (what good is an internet forum when the content is mostly small talk? Small talk is probably more entertaining when you meet people in person) and infrequent use (without an external motivation to visit a web forum pupils may chose to ignore it because the perspective of building an active youth community from an empty wiki or forum may not occur easily to young pupils).
A book project can be an interesting and entertaining project. The creative group work is good for community building and can inspire new thought processes in the participants. A book could be developed in a wiki and could be printed as book-on-demand when finished. Participants should probably be at least 14-15 years old (ninth grade).
Supplementary literature to school books
If pupils thought their school books were not interesting enough they could be encouraged to write their own supplementary literature to school books. Mentors and assistant teachers would be motivated to write supplementary literature for much younger pupils while tutors would probably aim at pupils of about the same age.
Planning and following a didactic approach in their work is also likely to improve the teaching skills of participating assistant teachers, tutors and mentors.
- See also: Meta-schoolbook Writer's Guide
The middle of junior high school may be a time when pupils may have sufficient writing skills and may be approaching sufficient understanding to build their own community. To facilitate cooperation teachers organized in their own school district wiki, inaccessible for the pupils, could prepare homework tasks to be published on the wiki that brought together pupils from different schools through converging research tasks. Converging research tasks are easily organized by publishing pages of topics and allowing teachers to note the specific tasks they have assigned or intend to assign on the pages of a topic. This way duplicate tasks can be avoided but groups of pupils would meet other groups with related tasks.
A startup phase could consist of two month in which every pupil would have to publish at least three articles in the wiki. Mentors could take shifts as mediators and administrators, especially during the startup phase, but could avoid to make any rules besides the self-given rules of the community.
An overabundance of community activities can also prevent independent and deliberate learning by creating a continual disturbance; this is why a learning community with respect for learning and rules to promote learning can be a valuable addition for a teenager. What does a school district wiki do in this respect? The community found in the wiki is bound to be interesting because there is no other meeting place with a similar abundance of new acquaintances. At the same time the wiki gives the community a purpose that is missing from many other internet forums or chat systems: The goals of creating meaningful content and of self-organization in this community. The presence of mentors in the system can help to guide pupils to make use of the wiki in a meaningful way and to push back less sensible uses or over-commitment of eager pupils. Mentors as administrators could temporarily block users showing unintended behavior (e.g. over-commitment).
A school district wiki would also allow to form more interesting pupil magazines centered on areas of interest rather than local school affairs. A sufficient number of writers for almost any given topic can be assumed to show up in a larger school district. Pupil magazines could focus on music, cinema, games, books, travel, tutoring, mentoring or any other specific topic that may be interesting for pupils and could try to aim for professional quality. In a wiki this would require defining, maintaining and defending editing policies of the individual publications.
A school district wiki can also be used to get together older people and younger people, which can be tricky outside the internet because teenagers are often too noisy and create too much disquietness for old people. In the wiki old people can participate in a community with young people in an orderly fashion without disquietness for the old people or possible prejudices for the teenagers. Possible uses of a wiki in inter-generational communication are courses in the way of Wikiversity held by adults for teenagers, corrector services and advice for the teenagers by adults or participation in joint publications.
Certified senior tutor
A "certified senior tutor" status in a wiki could make it a more orderly procedure, giving the old people the chance to qualify as senior tutors in different subjects and for different grades. The old people would be motivated to learn systematically and to help and teach the teenagers. The motivation of aiming for a qualification may also be beneficial for seniors to retrain (if necessary) their intelligence and to reach sufficient skills to become interesting as tutors and advisors.