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The Connected Learners- A Book by Students for Teachers

We have heard plenty from teachers. We have heard plenty from educational “gurus” and theorists what students should/shouldn’t be learning and how we should/shouldn’t be teaching.

I have written and talked plenty about the need for globally connected educators. I have even written a chapter in Heidi Hayes Jacobs‘ upcoming book about Global Literacies.

It is time to hear from students!

Ann Michaelsen, a High School English teacher from Oslo, Norway did precisely that. She gave her students a voice, the time to research, write and platform to share THEIR perspective. What does it mean to be a connected learner as a student?

Ann shares in the book’s introduction

As a classroom teacher, you cannot create your own educational system. however, you can change what is going on in your classroom. This book will show you how to help your students become connected learners. Our hope is that teachers and students will be able to model a true learner centered environment!

The secret seems to lie in giving students a voice, letting them take ownership and asking them to learn skills that help them perform a “just in time” not a “just in case” authentic task.

The chapter on motivation is especially interesting. Marie and Silje relate their motivation in school to the ever important question: WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THIS?  The two young authors conclude that it is not just about finding ONE answer to that questions. HOW many answers one can come up with is  directly related to the degree of motivation you will experience.

We, as educators (in the classroom, but also as curriculum writers and decision makers) need to truly start making MOTIVATION  part of our priorities. How can we help students come up with more and more answers to this eternal question…beyond “because you might need it in the future”, “because I said so”… or “you want to get a good grade”.

Let’s make learning authentic and real! Let’s make knowing “why they are learning about something” a priority for our students. Let’s help students answer the question “Why do I have to learn this?” in a variety and in many creative ways.

connected-learners

Interested in the book? Take a look at their website and a reflection on the process of the work.

The Powerful Learning Practice Press made the book available as a PDF file.

Written by a team of 27 students at Sandvika High School (Oslo, Norway), Connected Learners: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Global Classroom is a unique compendium of stories, advice and how-to articles designed to help high school teachers and their students around the globe shift from classrooms that are isolated and teacher-centered to digitally rich environments where learning is student-driven and constantly connected to the global internet.

The 220-page collaborative book takes the reader through all the steps to create a digital classroom, says a spokesman for the team of Grade 9 students, “ranging from setting up Twitter and blog accounts, to finding educators and students online for global learning activities, to how to optimize the use of search engines and teach the key elements of digital literacy.”

The book represents the culmination of a student learning project supported by English teacher and international blogger Ann Michaelsen, recognized by Microsoft Partners in Learning as a “Global Hero in Education” in 2012.

“This book offers a unique insight into what students and teachers need to know in the 21st century classroom,” says Michaelsen. “I’m extremely proud of what my English learners have accomplished and shared in this remarkable example of project learning.”

Entirely written, edited and designed by the students themselves, the 10-chapter interactive digital book is designed to be useful for teachers and students in both high and middle school.

“PLPress is helping with the promotion and distribution of this unique book as a public service,” said Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, CEO of Powerful Learning Practice LLC, “and in recognition of all the educators and students around the world who are leading the shift to connected learning.”

All profits will go into a fund for the Sandvika High students to support physical field trips to schools they collaborate with online.

 

 

Take Another Look Around You- Learning to Learn in a New World

Will Richardson said:

If you are not feeling a little bit uncomfortable about being a teacher or being in education right now, then you are not paying attention

Working in schools and in education tends to put us in a “bubble” sometimes. We have our own micro-organisms of the way things work.  The way our school world works has not changed as fast as the world around us. We still hold on to models that are outdated outside the world of education.

I am asking every teacher to TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AROUND.

takeanotherlook

The sense of urgency is real and PERSONAL to me (as it should be to most of you!).

You will mostly see my own granddaughter as the model in the presentation slides below! She is just a little over a year old and has all of  her “formal” schooling ahead of her. She will go through pre-school, elementary, middle and high school and hopefully, possibly, maybe to (a traditional) university (???).  She will have good teachers and not so good teachers along the way. Teachers, who will care about her and her learning and teachers who will only care about test scores.

  • Will they prepare her for the year 2030 and the way the world beyond will look like?
  • Will she be learning from textbooks only?
  • Will her learning inside the physical classroom be unrecognizably different from her learning outside of school?
  • Will her teachers allow her to use devices/tools to demonstrate evidence of learning instead of traditional methods of assessment?

It is PERSONAL… when I look at my own three children. Below is a picture of my youngest daughter on her first day of school (with a traditional German school cone in her arms) and then again on her LAST day of high school. Notice the big, heavy textbook in her arms on the last day. Time past in a blink of an eye..

urgency

She went to a so called all “A” schools (Schools in our State are classified with a grade according to the results of the standardized tests). Her classes sported Smartboards in the rooms and her teachers were given iPads to use for their teaching. It did not change how she was prepared for life outside of school. It did not change how she was taught in order to pass tests, instead of learning how to learn in HER world. There was no collaboration beyond working with her classmates. There was never an authentic task beyond “getting the grade”. There was no strategic intent to embed skills to expose, support and strength literacies beyond traditional reading and writing  (One of the teachers tried “blogging” with her English class once, but abandoned it quickly, since it was too much work to monitor all the students’ writing).

If you have children in school…blink once and they will too graduate in no time. There is no time for baby steps in order to think about trying this or that. There is an urgency to take a good hard look around and take action.

Stepping Up the Backchannel In the Classroom

Students need our guidance to use virtual platforms for ACADEMIC purposes. We can’t rely on their “so called” native status to know how and what to do. Just a few years ago, no one had heard of “backchanneling”, nowadays, it has become main stream (although most people might not associate the term “backchannel” and “backchanneling” with something they might be familiar with.

  • when you watch one of your favorite TV shows and are asked to use a twitter hashtag to interact with other viewers or the actors/participants…. you are participating in a backchannel
  • when you are listening to a live political speech and are updating your Facebook status,  “liking” of commenting on someone else’s status… you are in a backchannel
  • when you are passing a note (in the same room) or texting a colleague or classmate during a meeting or lecture… YOU are in a backchannel

Definitions:

Wikipedia

Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of Linguistics to describe listeners’ behaviours during verbal communication,

Think Eric Think

It’s a kind of parallel discussion, a collectively shaped comment on some ongoing conversation. An alternative channel, often with a different conversational modus.

Lee Lefever

It’s a little like passing notes in class- except via the Internet. Wireless Internet connections at conferences and lectures are allowing people to use laptops and other tools to communicate in real time during presentations. These communications occur in what is called the “backchannel”

The more ubiquitous mobile devices, among the general population and in our schools are becoming, the more we need to be exposing, preparing, supporting and teaching our students to be able to use them:

  • for academic purposes
  • collaboratively
  • with integrity and as a good digital citizen
  • focused (but at the same time multitasking)

“Backchanneling” academically is one of the skills that no one is born with. I have been thinking about, testing out and reflecting on backchanneling in the classroom for a few years now.

At last year’s edJEWcon conference, quiet by surprise, our Middle School students, who were invited to listen in to Heidi Hayes Jacob‘s keynote, created their own backchannel to document and discuss what they were hearing and understanding.Everyone was surprised and impressed, as Mike Fisher wrote in his ASCD post titled “Strategic and Capable“.

At this year’s conference, we asked attending students to participate in a backchannel again. Part of the process of backchanneling with students includes the debriefing and reflection by going over the saved backchannel log. We used the Notability app on the iPad to color code some of our observations and bring attention to skills practiced, chat-iquette, grammar, understanding, connections made, value added, quality content and depth.

backchanneling-log

What I learned:

  • just because students backchanneled one year, did not mean they could transfer the skills nor step up the quality of contributions. (… we need to practice backchanneling more… not a one time event…give them a guide to support their growth in using a backchannel tool)
  • some students didn’t understand WHY we asked them to backchannel. They could not articulate the purpose for the activity, nor pinpoint skills that were related to backchanneling. (… we need to do a better job at explaining to  our students the WHY of an activity, the skills we want to them to develop and the real world application)
  • students shared with us, that they were not able to focus, in their opinion, they would have taken “better notes” by themselves without the distractions of the other students. (…we need to make it clearer for our students, that the value of a backchannel is the collaboration, the added perspective, the sum of different voices versus their thoughts and understanding in isolation)
  • some students admitted that they were not happy with their keyboarding abilities. They could not type fast enough. Someone else posted “the exact same thing” they wanted to say. (…we need to encourage them to practice their typing/thumbing skills in their own free time)

David Kelly, on his blog,  underlines that

the value of the backchannel is in the sharing, not in the technology.  In much the same way that a person can not really appreciate the joy of riding a bicycle until they can do so without consciously focusing on balance and pedaling, getting the full value of a backchannel requires an understanding of what the backchannel is and how you use tools to participate in it.

I went back to the drawing board to create a framework, a guide to help teachers AND students understand the value, purpose, skills and steps of growth.

Purpose:

The purpose of using a Backchannel with students is multifold. From collaborative note taking, to curating information, capturing quotes, gathering and Linking resources, sharing notes and adding one’s own perspective to others.

Considerations:

Presence:

  • Active
  • Substantive
  • Timely

Conversation:

  • Respond to questions
  • Initiate questions
  • Make connections

Digital Citizenship:

  • Leadership
  • Respect
  • Network

Evidence of Learning:

  • Connections made
  • Development of skills
  • Quality of Content:
    • Relevance
    • Depth
    • Added Value

Skills:

  • Language
    • Clarity
    • Spelling
    • Full sentences
    • In context
    • Grammar & Syntax
  • Multitasking
    • Listening
    • Thinking
    • Writing
  • Multimodal
    • Curating
    • Note-Taking
    • Conversation
  • Recall
    • Remembering
    • Restate
    • Summarize
  • Logistics
    • Typing
    • Backchannel Syntax/Format

backchanneling-blooms-taxonomy

What Kind of Backchanneler Are You?

Listener:

  • I have a hard time multitasking and can only concentrate on listening to the conversation.

Parrot:

  • I recall and reproduce exact words that I hear

Curator:

  • I only restate relevant information and bring in selected resources

Contributor:

  • I question content, respond to and initiate conversation. I add my own thoughts and perspective.

 

backchanneling

Download the Backchannel Guide as pdf file.

Further resources:

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cross posted with permission from Dr. Silvana Meneghini,’s On The Edge Blog. Silvana, the High School Technology Coordinator at Graded, The American School of São Paulo, shared a How-To post to connect augmented reality to student reflection by adding a layer of learning (not technology for technology sake). I highly …

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Upgrading Our Recipes for Learning: Digital Learning Strategies

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In an attempt to bring  new additions to your Blog reader, I am starting to feature  guest posts on Langwitches. Be assured that these guest posts are from educational bloggers, I highly value and their voices contribute significantly to my own learning. Today I am sharing a blog post and …

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Is Technology shoving Pedagogy to the center stage? TPACK Reviewed

TPCK

Guest post by Silvana Meneghini, Academic Technology Coordinator, Graded- American School of São Paulo. Originally posted on her blog On the Edge. Pedagogical ideas like student centered learning, collaboration, and critical thinking have been around for a long time and are slowly making the way into the classroom. When technology …

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Professional Development

How to Create a Backchannel Exit Ticket for Class, Presentation or Workshop?

Creating_a_BackChannel_or_Exit_Ticket_on_Google_Docs_on_Vimeo

This screencast below will show you how to use Google Docs as a backchannel or exit ticket during a presentation, lesson or workshop. Creating a BackChannel or Exit Ticket on Google Docs from langwitches on Vimeo.

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story

Silvana Meneghini and I  work as Academic Technology Coordinators at Graded, the American School of São Paulo. ” A flashlight in the fog of technology integration“, initially the title of a conference workshop proposal, quickly developed into the desire of creating a framework to guide and coach teachers based on …

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SAMR Exercise Google Hangout: Mark Your Calendars

SAMR-exercise

Silvana Meneghini and I  have created a template for technology, learning and literacy coaches. In an effort to create a depository of examples and scenarios for lessons and activities and how an upgrade movement through the stages of the SAMR model actually looks like in the classroom, we are shared …

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Download

21st Century Learning

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fail

The conversation about visible thinking in Math started with one of our teachers at Graded, The American School of São Paulo, Adam Hancock, wanting to know how he could incorporate having students’ use their blogfolios in Math class. It seemed natural to have students write for Humanities (Language Arts and …

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Redefining My Learning

story

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Reflection in the Learning Process, Not As An Add On

Reflection

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The Digital Learning Farm in Action

Student Tutorials- MineCraft, How to Ride a Horse, iMovie and more

minecraft-tutorial

It is no secret, that I am a big fan of Alan November‘s Digital Learning Farm concept. I especially believe in Teaching is the Highest Form of Understanding and the power of motivation and demonstration of evidence of student learning via the Tutorial Designer role. See a myriad of blog …

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core-value-icons-tibet

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official-scribe-poster

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Global Education

Selfies Around the World

selfies

  On the heels of The Cultural Phenomena of Selfies and  iPhoneography: Photo Challenges, Ideas & Literacy, students from the American School of São Paulo, Brazil want to know more about Selfies around the world. If you and your students would like to CONTRIBUTE with actual images for an in- school and online exhibition …

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Julie Lindsay: Designing Engaging Curriculum for Global Collaboration in the Classroom

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eduplanet

As part of Curriculum21 Social Learning Institute and in collaboration with Eduplanet21, I have authored a Learning Path for the Globally Connected Educator. Take a look at the modules offered. If you are interested, Eduplanet is giving away 5  free access codes to the learning path.  Continue reading to find …

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Blogging With your Classroom

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SLC

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Visible Thinking in Math- Part 1

fail

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How to Cite Images on Your Blog

citing-images-thumb

When using Copyrighted work with written permission from owner… Used with permission from “name” , URL link to original source and or owner online presence. Ex. Used with permission from Silvia Tolisano http://langwitches.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/google-glass-recording-225×225.jpg When using images licensed under Creative Commons… Image licensed under Creative Commons by “name or username “. …

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iPads

Evaluating iPad Apps

ipad-components-content

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Visible Thinking in Math- Part 1

fail

The conversation about visible thinking in Math started with one of our teachers at Graded, The American School of São Paulo, Adam Hancock, wanting to know how he could incorporate having students’ use their blogfolios in Math class. It seemed natural to have students write for Humanities (Language Arts and …

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Self- Directed Course: iPads in the Classroom

image2-lens-of-pedagogy

Professional Learning Board just released a Self-study  iPads in the Classroom course I wrote. It is a  self-directed course to take in your own time and at your own speed. “You have an iPad in your classroom, now what?” The iPad helps us prepare today’s student for today’s world in …

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Digital Storytelling

Poetry on Record

Slide1

Inspired by Poetry, Performance & Taylor Mali and Beyond…, 8th grade Humanities teacher Shannon Hancock coached her students to create their own original “Mali Poem”and record a visual and vocal performance. I joined the class to give a brief overview of presentation design. I used selected slides from my slidedeck below to …

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pedro

After teaching a 1:1 Toolkit class for incoming Middle Schoolers tothe 1:1 laptop environment this past quarter, I am currently teaching a Media Basics course for sixth graders. I am using a school blog to document the class (among others), showcase student work, share resources and give written step-by-step directions …

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storytelling-app

Matt Gomez shared a post today with a screenshot of his storytelling iPad app folder. I wanted to reciprocate and share mine. Storytelling I Folder StoryBuddy StoryBuilder StoryPagesHD Toontastic Tappy Memories StoryBoards Premium StoryMaker HD StoryPatch In a World … Drama Build a Story PhotoPuppets HD Epic Citadel Sock Puppets …

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