The power of an authentic, global audience

May 14, 2011 at 10:47 am | Posted in 21st Century, Collaboration, Global Collaboration, Shift, Tech Integration | 1 Comment
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I’ll start with my inspiration for this post, a comment about From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg from one of my grade 3 students:

“Hi Peter.it’s Cole.My favorite character is also Claudia but my favorite part is when they go to the Egyptian exhibit because James asks the tour guide how much did it cost to be a mummy.And after the tour guide tells him her answer Claudia scolds him for drawing attention to himself and she wants to go away but then she sees the next exhibit with all that golden jewelery that also had jewels.I liked the part when Jamie described his sister “as still as the statue of the cat that she was standing next to.”That made me laugh a tiny bit but I still did laugh.I also liked the part when Jamie was trying to make Claudia bored so they could go back to their house so he chose the Italian Renaissance because it sounded important and boring but going their just made his chances of going back home even worse by a lot because his sister saw a statue of such beauty that she wouldn’t leave without knowing who made it but that was something that even baffled the experts.It was something nobody knew but it was also something that lots and lots and lots and lots of people were trying to find out!Any way I think I’m like Claudia because I like mysteries and she likes mysteries.”

And another comment about Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle:

“What I really like is the boy is treating the mouse in a nice way and he lets the mouse out of the trash can and lets him ride the motor bike and he goes really fast as fast as I can ride my bike at full speed and the boy tells the mouse to hold his tale so it does not get stuck in the wheel because it got to hurt if your tale gets stuck in a wheel.”

There were many other comments that showed my students’ thinking and writing about the books they were reading at a higher level than I had seen all year. Here is the story behind one of my best Fridays ever in school- and it was Friday the 13th as well!

Matt McGuire, a teacher in Fredericton, NB, Canada, and I have been collaborating on and off this year. We talked on skype last month throwing around ideas for a simple, end of year collaborative activity and the idea of book group discussions came up. I had used Edmodo last fall for participation in the A Week in the Life elementary pilot Flat Classroom Project and we thought that would be a good place for our students to discuss books together. Edmodo is a closed environment for students to have discussions and submit assignments assigned by the teacher. It’s free, students can be placed in groups and students don’t need an email address to establish an account.

We then compared book titles we had multiple copies of and found a few matching titles and put students into groups based on the book they would be reading. During the first week I shared the idea with Heather in Beijing, a colleague from A Week in the Life and our current online Flat Classroom certified teacher course. She was ready to jump in and found a few copies of each book for her students. We now had “reading groups” of students in Beijing, Canada and Prague.

Starting a little before Matt and Heather, I tried out the assignment feature in Edmodo and gave my students reading assignments based on the first few chapters while also meeting face to face in groups in the classroom. But on Friday morning I announced that they had students from Mr McGuire’s class in Canada and Ms Davis’s class in Beijing and a new discussion prompt to respond to in their group in Edmodo. The room was silent as they read and responded to the prompt. A few students also added comments welcoming the other students to their Edmodo group. At the end of our reading time I started to read their comments and was grinning from ear to ear. Nearly every student wrote reflections from the heart that showed deeper thinking than I had previously seen.

Matt and Heather said they were seeing the same thing in their classrooms. I also shared with our Principal and she was impressed with their comments as well. When she asked one student about the experience later that day, asking how this experience is helping her learning, Nicole replied that she shares ideas with other kids not just in our class and that will give her more ideas. I also told my students after reading many posts how impressed I was with what they shared and asked why sharing in this environment promoted deeper reflection and more thoughtful writing. They said that they liked writing on the laptops more than on stickies and on paper and that having other kids read what they wrote made them more careful and want to share more. There was also an appreciation for Spellcheck expressed.

This is not a grand project or idea. The online sharing environment provides students with a larger audience and more opportunity to share- there is simply not enough time in the school day for everyone to share every day with their book group, and then they are limited to me and the other students in their group as an audience. I also love it because I’m building friendships with Matt and Heather- they inspire me and I can see our collaboration growing in the future as well. Matt and Heather have also added groups to the mix based on other books their students are interested in- books my students are already interested in. I can see this evolving to a more fluid, book-sharing environment that we can start on the first day of school next year based on what we are doing right now.

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  1. Thank you for sharing.. I would love to see more of our classrooms round the world collaborating like that ..


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