Friday, August 13, 2010

A Container for your Classroom

What's your container for your classroom? Now, let me first say that I think Jeff Utecht writes articulately about this with examples in his Thinking Stick blog post titled What's your container? That being said, he has probably helped popularize this terminology and idea in the region more recently but the concept and term has been used for some time.

I've been in many conversations here at the beginning of the year with teachers trying to decide what they are going to use as a container for their classroom. The meaning of container is how they are going to contain or hold together the content for their classes. This idea of a container brings coherency to instruction that may point to links all over the web, Google App files, or digital interaction just to name a few. It becomes one place where important materials related to instruction can be located.

CC Sealand Florida by Louis Vest

For some people, I think the term hub is more fitting. A hub is a centerpiece where other things spiral out. For some, all they need is one place to get students and then they point them all over the web to other resources. They need a location to store and organize all their links. They have no "stuff" because everything is on the web somewhere else with various Web 2.0 sites. Containers can act as hubs but in some ways imply more substantial content being posted on them.

To give an example, Moodle could be a container. It can link to whatever you like on the web but it is extremely useful for interaction such as discussion forums, dividing the class into groups, and posting files. Google sites or one of the wiki services can act as a container to hold files and "stuff" in a similar way. At the same time, a wiki can just be a hub with links and embedded code from other sites. A diigo list or a Google doc with hyperlinks might just act as a hub. A blog may act as either one.

So why is it important to distinguish the difference between a hub and a container? It's probably not. It is important is to clearly know your purpose and what you want to accomplish before you select a tool. Doing a blog because "everybody's doing a blog" is hardly a good reason. How will your container enhance, support, and engage students in learning? Think through what you want to do with your container/hub and consider how it can interactively engage students in your content. Then, select the best tool for the job.

Do you have suggestions for a container that you'd like to share? Post them in the comments.

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