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Action! The Digital Learning Farm

This is the follow up post of the survey results I shared in “Do Student Jobs in the Classroom Affect Learning?

The concept of the Digital Learning Farm is based on Alan November’s work.

Years ago, when farms dominated our landscape, children were responsible for performing meaningful jobs that were vital to each family’s success. Depending on their age, children would care for animals, repair farm equipment, prepare food to sell at local markets and more. Children were essential to the very survival of the family. At the same time, these jobs taught children the value of hard work, leading them to become more productive citizens within their communities as adults. [...]

If our children are to grow up to make important contributions to our society,it is essential that we provide them with powerful tools and experiences across the curriculum. This will require a new culture of teaching and learning that engages students as contributors.

The Digital Learning Farm

I have taken Alan’s call to engage students as contributors to heart. Coupled with the desire to put learning, not passing quizzes and exams, at the heart of a classroom learning community, I keep 21st century skills, literacies and Digital Learning Farm’s roles to empower our learners in mind at all times.

Mr. Curran outlines on his Classroom Blog of Room 302, the different teams and responsibilities his students participate in each week. I love the thought that went into setting his teams up and by the look of his blog the consistency he integrated the roles into his classroom (instead of being a one-time project).

  • Official Scribes–Each week the official scribes take notes on the things we are reading and learning. They post these notes to an internet page that everyone can view if they want to review what we’ve been doing.
  • Global Collaboration Team–This team is in charge of making contact with classrooms around the globe. They will be emailing other teachers and classes, trying to make as many contacts world-wide as possible. They will also be managing any projects that we’re working on with other classes. Finally, they’ll be keeping track on several maps so that we have a record of where the schools and people we’ve contacted live. Oh, and they’ll have a blog they have to post to, too!
  • Society Contribution Team–This team will select a fundraising project to work on. To do this, they will use the website www.kiva.org. Kiva is a site set up for donors to locate projects around the globe to help to fund. (e.g. building a school in a poor town in Africa, etc.) Once they choose a project to help, they’ll manage the fundraising. Oh, and they’ll blog about it, too.
  • Research Team--We have a class of curious thinkers. And they have lots and lots of questions. Every week, the Research Team will collect our questions and post them to our class “Wonderwall.” Then they will help find the answers to those questions. They’ll also be given certain research tasks along the way to complete so that they build their research skills.
  • Learning Documentary Producers–Each week this team will produce a “learning documentary” of all the things we’ve learned about and done during those school days. They’ll produce a podcast and post it to the web so that everyone can see the exciting things we work on from week-to-week.

The following are references to websites and blog posts that show The Digital Learning Farm concept with its roles to empower student learners in action.

Ethical Treatment of Animals (7th Grade)- Contributors to Society, Researchers, Collaboration Coordinators, Curriculum Reviewers

7th graders wanted to learn and understand how humans in our society treat animals today. To gather the information, they interviewed two veterinarians and representatives of different associations and local businesses concerning their research. They hope that the people that take the time to read their website will benefit from the information and then pass it along to another person. Their  hope is that their research will help inspire people to treat animals with respect and understanding.

Navigating our Classsroom Blog Tutorial (2nd Grade)- Tutorial Designers

After the classroom teachers started to use a classroom blog as the primary means of communication between school and home, the importance of teaching parents how to navigate the new blog environment. Second grade students took it upon themselves to create a video tutorial for their parents explaining to them the basic blog vocabulary and navigataion of their classroom blog.

Quality Commenting (3rd Grade)- Tutorial Designers, Collaboration Coordinators, Contributors to Society

The first Seminole Swamp Morning Show. Students interviewed several bloggers of our school community to learn about quality commenting. They formulated questions, storyboarded, wrote scripts and recorded a news show to share with the world.

Jacksonville: For Kids by Kids (3rd Grade)- Collaboration Coordinators, Contributors to Society, Curriculum Reviewers

As part of their unit about “Our Community”, students wrote a script and recorded a video to suggest places to visit and things to do in Jacksonville, Florida. Recommendations for kids by kids.

Jacksonville Reads (3rd Grade)- Collaboration Coordinators, Contributors to Society

In the third installment of the Seminole Swamp Morning Show, students interviewed members of our city’s community regarding their reading habits and their favorite childhood books. From the mayor of Jacksonville, a police officer, a chef, a 100-year old man to the city’s baseball team’s mascot.

Math Tutorial Designers (4th Grade)- Tutorial Designers, Contributors to Society, Curriculum Reviewers

We asked our students to create a tutorial explaining multiplication to peers, future fourth graders of our school, etc. We started out with a lesson on Becoming good Tutorial Designers to show them examples of tutorial design techniques as well as to give them an understanding of the importance of clear and precise step by step directions.

Florida Explorers (4th Grade)- Researchers, Official Scribe

4th graders created a storybook, using Mixbook , where students contributed different parts from a common storyline. Students collaboratively worked on ideas for a possible storyline and how each explorer would be represented and how groups would be able to research and contribute their portion of a story.

Christopher Columbus Creates 21st Century Explorers (5th Grade) Researchers, Contributors to Society, Curriculum Reviewers, Collaboration Coordinators, Official Scribe

Follow along an “upgrade” process from textbook to globally connected learning. Students connect via email, face-to-face interviews, online surveys, Twitter and Skype with people from around the world to learn about different perspectives of one historic figure. They research, analyze and share their learning in a

Facebook Pages for American Revolution & American Revolution Myths (5th Grade) Researchers

Students showed their research and knowledge about historic figures of the American Revolutionby creating a fake facebook profile page. Since the students are under the age of 13, they created them offline in a PowerPoint slide, which we later uploaded to their classroom blog. In addition to the Facebook pages, the class  created a Snopes- Urban Legends inspired video. What myths about the American Revolution could they debunk? Students used the a range of programs (their choice)  to produce a short intro video

It’s About Learning Style and Collaboration (5th Grade) Official Scribe, Researchers

5th graders experiment with different types of note taking as part of creating “Official Scribes” for the classroom while taking into account the students’ different learning styles. From individual note taking with paper and pencil, individual note taking on a word processor, collaborative backchanneling to visual note taking (on SmartBoard and paper)

Tutorial Designers- Empowered Learners- Contributors (5h Grade) Tutorial Designers

We divided a 5th grade class into two groups (Quantity vs. Quality) and asked them to create a Grammar tutorial/practice for “Contractions” with the SmartBoard notebook for the first graders of our school. The Quantity group had to create as many separate tutorial/practice slides as possible, while the other group was told only to turn in ONE slide with a perfect tutorial/practice.

Taking Notes- Summarizing Information (2nd Grade) Official Scribe

2nd graders are learning about different communities. As they are watching a video they are learning to take notes in different ways. From paper, pencil and clipboard to “screenshooting” visuals that will be organized and categorized in a Venn Diagram.

Backchanneling-Movie Watching-Note Taking-Information Scribes (Middle School) Official Scribe

Middle School students watch a movie about copyright as they are using Today’s Meet as a backchannel tool. Collaboratively they create the “perfect notes”, then review the content by formatting, editing and organizing the information.

Take a look at these third graders who are creating their own “textbooks” on LiveBinder (3rd Grade) Curriculum Reviewers, Contributors to Society

Michael Thornton decided to have his students create their own “textbooks” using Livebinders.  ” The class and I go over the curriculum and/or standards.  We discuss what it is they are expected to learn.  Now armed with that knowledge, they find websites that fulfill what is expected of them.  In addition, they search for websites that engage, enlighten and enrich their learning.    This year my students created four unit “textbooks”.  I am going to continue this process with my new students next year.  In addition, these current textbooks are adaptable and will change with time.  This was a specific request from my students.”

If you have written about or documented “The Digital Learning Farm” in action, please leave a link in the comments. It is important to gather examples and resources to model for others.

Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. ben curran says:

    Thanks for mentioning my class! I’m looking to improve on our “farmwork” next year. This collection of resources is terrific, Sylvia. Thanks for sharing; these teachers are doing amazing work.

    • @Ben- I like your expression “farmwork”! I will also focus next school year on expanding the comfort level with different (new) roles and observe students competencies and development in areas that we had focused on this year.

  2. [...] Tolisano] On 06/13/2011, in digital learning, K-12 related, roles, by Daniel Christian Action! The Digital Learning Farm — from the Langwitches blog by Silvia Rosenthal [...]

  3. Brian Kuhn says:

    Reading your list of exemplars one would conclude that teachers in our education system are doing some pretty amazing work with their students. It is unfortunate that there is so much “bad press” about schools, teachers, and student learning. There are problems with the education system for sure but they are not insurmountable. The focus should be on the exemplars and great work teachers are doing with kids and spread the word on how this is possible in any classroom.

    Thanks for doing your part to spread the word!

    • I completely agree with you Brian. It is time to highlight to great examples that are happening in the classroom. As a presenter, I focus on showing classroom examples and not just theory “how it should look like”.

  4. Continuing to be totally inspired by this series of posts for Students as Contributers, Sylvia! Blown away by Michael’s 3rd graders creating their own LiveBinder “textbooks”- what an innovative idea, thanks for sharing. Ben’s class blog is also very well done and I will be borrowing some of those roles for my 4th graders next year. My number one priority for next year is to take the focus away from the technology and put it onto the amazing LEARNING that can happen when students are empowered with this model.

  5. BethelTan says:

    I am amazed by the type of activities 3rd and 5th graders are doing!
    But I am curious to know why there are no examples of high school educators jumping into this.
    I’m a high school math teacher and yes- we are pressured with tests, curriculum pacing, college readiness, AP/IB exams…but I still want to know how I can help my students learn collaboratively in the 21st style.
    Any ideas?

    • The reason that there are no high school examples included is probably due to the fact that I primarily work with K-8 teachers and students. This does not mean that High School teachers are not moving into the 21st century. All the ideas that you see above can be tweaked and adapted to fit a High School curriculum. The 21st century skills and literacies addressed are as important for high schoolers as they are for elementary students and educators. Looking forward to reading about your examples from the classroom.

  6. [...] The Action Digital Learning Farm was a great idea of incorporating jobs for kids in the classroom that are all tech jobs. One title for example was Official Scribe. The child is responsible for taking notes on different subjects for the week and posting them on the class page. There were many listed and I thought that was a wonderful way to make children participate in all aspects of the class!!! Great ideas for a teacher!!! [...]

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