Saturday, May 29, 2010

ThinkQuest.Org - a collaborative platform

My first encounter with the word "ThinkQuest" was almost a decade ago... Yes, which many local educators came to know it as a competition (er... a competition portal, too? I guess). Its fundamental challengs are: to work collaboratively with someone from another country, to come up with an educational website. Yup, collaboration was the key word then, I gathered.

It never came acrosss as a portal until last year when Mr Chua shared in one of the EXCO/ SLE meetings, to consider for project work... again... it was somehow forgotten, over time and shelved... Hahaha... I could imagine the degree of disappointment of not even taking a good look at it before KIV-ing it. Well, we have moved into using Google... and it's intentional not bring in another portal... again, not quite fair to it, without actually evaluating what it offers!?
[Anyway, I think no lose... till now... after we've evaluated the portal for another purpose]

So, why dig it out and talk about it? Well, well, well... it's all being 'NEED-driven'. I guess, this makes a difference! In terms of assessing its features to match the needs. I guess, this is when I learn - appreciate the purpose the platform/application serves before criticising what it is lack of. Yesterday, Mrs Chew reminded me of the analogy - do not ask for Chinese food in an Indian restaurant. Yes! It was a good one - if I want to eat Chinese food, I'll sure be disappointed when my demands not met - however, forgetting that I was in the wrong place! I step into the Indian restaurant because I wanted something that's specific that only the restaurant serves!

The same analogy applies here! Basically, the purpose of the ThinkQuest platform is to facilitate collaboration - working on a project together. Notice I added the word "Project"? Well, the purpose of adding this word is to differentiate the kind of collaborative activities that we talk about in a classroom - not so instantaneous. It's a co-contribution of ideas and materials, hence making the content enriching, and of course, the kind of 'sharing' & 'collaborating' experience of students who might not have even meet each other.

If we look at the platform, indeed, it has all that's necessary:
  • creation of pages and posts (which are equivalent to wikis and blogs!)
  • uploading and sharing of images and media files - which is definitely very useful.
  • the tracking feature enables the teacher track students' participation
  • other features like messages are useful too...

I like it being highly flexible, enable me to move and organise the various components in the page and across the pages very easily. It is very helpful - which enable us to customise the sections, hence, providing scaffolds to students too!

Being an international platform, that's where it provides and creates opportunities for collaboration, even if one does not have any partners out there at all. It's simply an online platform that encourages the community to interact and work together.

So, back to the Indian restaurant analogy. So, now we know what this "Indian" restaurant offers, it's good to think how to leverage on its features :D

Quite like the components and structures the platform provides... while it does not provide fanciful look and feel (e.g. wall papers, etc) - which is not the key thing either, it allows one to focus on what to accomplish for the task :D

More importantly, this platform works in China!!! and therefore would be a great platform for students in both Singapore and China come together :D

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