Learning in the Modern Classroom

I can die happy now :) I have seen learning in the 21st Century modern classroom!

The learning just oozes through the cracks of the physical classroom walls.

Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.

It all started out with a conversation between Mike Fisher and me. He had written over 40 children poems and was in the process of wondering what to do with them? I was looking for an authentic task for 9-11 year old students. We felt we had a perfect match! How about getting the students Language Arts  and Art teacher involved? The initial idea was to make a unit of poetry come alive, study Mike’s poems and visualize the poems by creating illustrations.

Great plan… it snowballed from there…

A quick Skype call between Mike and the teachers, helped flesh out each of our expectations and a timeline for the “project”. A critical component was the participants’ willingness to be flexible and see where the students would take “the project”.

What if…

  • …Mike allowed students to alter his original poems if they felt inspired to remix them, making the creation process fluid and embedding new ways of looking at forms of copyright?
  • … Mike offered to write a new poem to additionally created illustrations by students, flipping the collaboration roles?
  • …we published a poetry book on various platforms? (hard cover/eBook)
  • …we had student run a marketing and advertisement campaign?
  • …we involved the Math teacher to support students in calculating how much the book should cost, what would the profit be, how would a profit be split?
  • …allowed the class to handle the entire business venture?
  • …we incorporated Alan November’s concept of the Digital Learning Farm and leaving a legacy?

Each student was “given” a poem from Mike to be responsible for. We set up a first Skype call with Mike, the author, for students to meet him, ask questions about “their” poem.

skype

Part of our job as teachers was to observe students as they were taking on the roles outlined in the Digital Learning Farm. We were/are looking to identify NEW FORMS of assessment, since our “project” was not to be an add-on to traditional assessment tools.

The Digital Learning Farm

 

As I was watching students talk to Mike Fisher via Skype, Will Richardson’s call for Thinking Differently About Learning, which includes Learning to Talk to Strangers came to mind. As students interacted, I was watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction. Stay tuned for the publication of a Taxonomy of Skype Conversation to facilitate assessment of video conferencing.

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As the Skype conversation was happening in the foreground, other students were busy documenting and collaborating in backchannels. A Google Doc was opened and shared among all students, teachers and Mike Fisher. The multi-tasker Mike is, allowed students to Google Chat at the same time as he was talking to students via Skype.

googledoc

Other students had taken on the task to tweet the Skype call

twitter

Take a look at the 4th and 5th grade Twitter feed, documenting the skype call. Students are exhibiting understanding of Twitter grammar, syntax and etiquette. They are showing progression by starting to add value, links, citations and they own thoughts. They are summarizing and articulating thoughts in 140 characters or less. They are directly communicating, disseminating, collaborating and connecting via social networking.  We are using Twitter and HOTS as a way to assess these skills.

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We had other students use different tools to take notes too. The notes app on their iPad or traditional paper and pen

notes

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One student chose to summarize what he heard during the Skype call by mindmap doodling. He was able to re-tell the different poems that were discussed between his classmates and the author.

mindmapping

mindmap

Take a few minutes to peek into the classroom as students were debriefing from the Skype experience.

Poetry Book Skype from langwitches on Vimeo.

So, where do we go from here? The students are very excited and are taking ownership. There is no talk about what kind of grade they will be receiving for their work. An authentic audience will decide if they were successful. Students will volunteer to take on different roles in the publishing, marketing, finance, communication department. We will allow them to take the lead, consulting, coaching and modeling if needed.

Stay tuned as this “school project” unfolds.

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