One of the last things you ever expect in life, is to witness a company made famous for its database software, getting involved in a social networking project for kids. But that’s just what Oracle has done, with its creation of Think.com.

 Oracle's Think.com

An online social networking and collaborative platform with a diverse range of applications, Think.com is a sheltered environment for primary and secondary students to get engaged in social activities and collaborative projects on a global scale. I say ‘sheltered environment’ because Think.com has enforced a stringent authentication process, which ensures that students are interacting within a controlled environment.

A school interested in using Think.com has to review Oracle’s Administrative guide before submitting an application, which, by the looks of it, is fairly thorough. It has more stipulated conditions than probably a tax return form, but you don’t expect anything less from a database giant. And I guess, it’s well worth the effort since after all, Think.com is free, and Internet safety is ensured for the kids.

From what I understand, Nanyang Girls’ High School has plans to use Think.com as part of their students’ learning journey. This is a step forward in embracing what is already the inevitable. Because believe it or not, your students are going to be using the Internet, if not in school, outside of it. So why not just let them use the Internet in school, in an environment where the teacher facilitates proper use of it?

A controlled environment does not have to be a boring one. Oracle has integrated the ThinkQuest library with Think.com, to encourage students to work in teams, competing intellectually to build their own learning environments. Teachers can set up activities to stimulate creativity, expose students to global cultures, encourage intellectual debates, etc. I remember reading somewhere that a poem was written in Think.com. No big deal right? But here’s why I mentioned it. Each line of that poem was contributed from a student from another part of the world. How’s that for ingenuity?

I wrote about ePortfolios and Helen Barrett in an earlier post. Here’s what she said about using Think.com to create electronic portfolios:

I am impressed by the ease of entering data. All URLs are automatically converted to weblinks that open in a new window. The tool allowed me to reconstruct my portfolio in less than an hour, copying the information from various online portfolios, including my Mozilla portfolio, where I had the URLs on the page (not just links). I easily uploaded my only file artifacts (on the Portfolio-at-a-Glance page).This is the first tool that I have used that adds Interactivity to the portfolio (other than the blog tools). The software allows these forms of Interactivity:

  • Message Board – Invite people to post a message on a page
  • Ask Me – Answer questions (about anything)
  • Debate – Pick a topic and have a debate with others
  • Vote – Have an election or poll on a page
  • Brainstorm – Invite others to share their ideas on a page

I am very impressed with this interactivity, since it makes an electronic portfolio a socially-constructed document. The tool also allows the addition of “Stickies” that can be added by anyone and deleted by the page owner. The Stickie can be used for providing formative feedback as a portfolio and its artifacts are developed.There are also five types of “Media and More” that you can add to a page:

  • Pictures – Upload your favorite GIFs and JPEGs
  • List – Make a list of assignments or other things
  • Mini Pics – Add artwork to a page from the Mini Pics gallery
  • Multimedia – Upload Music, Movies and Animations
  • Files – Upload files from Word, Claris Works and other programs

To read her full post, click here.

Once students garner positive experiences in social networking and intellectual collaboration using Internet technologies, they’ll be the wiser when they step out into the real world. Yes, I am seriously convinced that the real world today constitutes the digital domain as well. Just ask fanatical users of MySpace (I’ve still got my reservations about Second Life though, when it comes to what’s real and what’s not, but more on that in another post).

Really, your school has no reason not to jump on the bandwagon, if it hasn’t already, leveraging Internet technologies to further students’ intellectual growth. Think.com has eradicated all possible excuses for not getting started. If your school has done the impossible and managed to squeeze out another excuse, post it here. I’m sure one of you intelligent readers will have something to say about it. Now, that’s collaboration.