Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Exciting Chapters in Cyber PD!

                 Last Wednesday, Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine hosted the first week of the #cyberPD title:  Alan November’s  Who Owns the Learning?:  Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.  Jill Fisch hosts today’s discussion of chapters three and four on her blog, My Primary Passion.  Stop by her blog to link your posts for today's reflection or just visit to see what all the excitement is about! Thanks Jill!

      Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate will host next week.

Chapter three – The Student As Scribe
         Important words: The student scribe work represents low-hanging fruit for educators and students alike.  I like that the book helps educators who need easy-to-use ideas in order to implement these new ideas into classrooms.

        As I described last week, in the school where I work, each student studies an individually chosen topic.  At first, I thought this job as scribe would be a challenge to see how it could work.  But there are aspects of the curriculum that do involve the entire class.  Everyone begins on Monday with individual agendas of expectations where students make goals for the week.  This involves conferences with the teacher not only about the unit topic, but also group goals for writing and other assignments for the class.  Each week students also choose personal reading goals, sketch in field journals, meet with writing groups for different purposes, etc.  They are expected to map out their goals and the time working in class along with when they’ll do homework.  All goals are to be met by the following Monday.  I think the job as scribe could post the week’s agenda and students could respond personally each day, explaining what was going on that week in the class.  As the weeks pass, The job as scribe would aid students in becoming more reflective about their work, as well as improving the ability to explain to others what’s happening. 
         Also, students could take turns showing their current individual research projects—how they are doing, what’s worked, and what’s been frustrating.  Sharing with a wider audience could result in connecting to someone expert in the topic, or someone who just enjoys the kind of work that they are doing. 
        And, I loved the idea that those who are often quiet in the classroom will have a chance to share their ideas in another way.  The story on page 42 of a new student who had a different way to ‘shine’ is a great point.

        One final thought is that this kind of sharing can be much more interesting to parents than the usual newsletter from the teacher.

 Chapter four – The Student As Researcher
         Important words: One of the most astonishing gaps in many students’ educations is their inability to validate information on the Internet. I believe our school does well in the teaching of the ‘how-to’ of research online.  As the Internet became more and more important in the past years, we realized that more deliberate teaching had to be done to help students research topics thoroughly, accurately and safely.  Yet, this one line on page 51 gave me pause, and I will bring up the topic with my staff this fall.  Are we doing enough?
Students also needed to know more about crafting good questions, how to research for deeper answers as the topics and questions became more complicated, and how to find the resources.  Our librarians work hard to keep up with print resources and online article services for the myriad of topics chosen.  I am so excited about the possibility of at least the older students creating their own search engines via Google.  And if we decide to open up the learning this way to the wider world, people will be able to comment with new ideas and resources for topic research. Another added bonus could be as a literacy resource person I could create my own research engines for both students and teachers, depending on the resources needed.  With younger students, teachers may want to create class search engines which narrow their fields for inquiry so it won’t be so overwhelming.  My mind is whirling with the possibilities.


  1. Linda,

    Two things caught my attention in your post:

    1. I was one of those quiet students when I was in school. Having a way to share like this would have been great for me. Even as an adult, I tend to share more in small group and one to one settings and on my blog than I ever would in a large group. I can/do share in large groups but not as much or as often.

    2. I was wondering if it would be a good idea for me to create a custom search engine for my younger students, too. I can see times when it would and times when it might be better to let them sift through some sites using a kid friendly search engine. I guess I still don't really understand deeply enough yet the value of a custom search engine so I am hoping that you share what you learn as you begin to explore.


    1. I hope to have some time tomorrow to work on at least one search engine. I am so interested in seeing how it might work, Jill. And I do believe there are ways we must search out in order to empower those quiet students too. I was excited when this part was pointed out. I often used writing for this because I could highlight different pieces and share without even saying who wrote, then asking the group who they thought wrote it? They often were surprised because the quieter child didn't share very much. Thanks Jill.

  2. I want a field trip to your school!!

    1. Any time you're in Denver, Mary Lee. I'd love to take you on a tour!

  3. I'm still fascinated with hearing more about your school, Linda! Your ideas for how to implement some of Alan's work seem to flow well with what you're already doing, but you're also giving pause to some big questions. Can't wait to hear more from you next week!

    1. Thanks Laura. I just read Michelle's (Literacy Learning) post & have taken some ideas from her applications to her unique situation too. It's such fun to hear from everyone. I hope to get to more tomorrow too. And I really want to work on a search engine!

  4. Linda,
    Our school really emphasizes individual inquiries as well, so seeing how you envision the role of scribe is interesting to me!
    I was intrigued by having kids make their own search engines, but I am not sure it is going to happen with my third graders.

    1. No, I suspect that that task won't work well with third graders, but creating on for the class might be helpful. These ideas will start some good conversations I think at my school. Thanks for sharing about your school. I'll find you in the links!

  5. Linda,
    I love hearing more and more about your school! As it is so very different than a public school, it is enticing, yet still scary to let that control go! Even though I know we need to change our shift in thinking and let the learners own it. It's still hard to think about!

    I love your "version" of the class scribe, reflecting on the weeks agenda. I was also wondering as the teachers meet with individual students and small groups, they may note an idea that they need to teach/re-teach the whole group (or even small groups) through mini-lessons pertaining to research, note taking, writing, etc. that could be scribed by a student for others to refer back to if needed? A "textbook" of what the students needed to learn to be more successful on their independent learning studies. (And this would change from year to year.) Just a thought.

    You mentioned journals, but I'm wondering if any of the work (collecting of info, notes, sketches, etc,) is captured all in one place online. This would be a powerful transition to house everything electronically and then perhaps a blog is also available for students to begin sharing their learning or thinking or questions and this could be shared globally for others to respond to help further the thinking and learning or asking of deeper questions.

    I could definitely see the potential in the teachers and students creating their own searches! Share with your teachers and I know it will be amazing!

    Not sure if any of that is helpful, but just what came to mind as I read your reflection. Please ask if I wasn't clear or share what the students are doing. :)

    Thanks Linda!

    1. Whew! Didn't realize how much I wrote until the comment was published! Sorry for the length and hope there is at least one take away! :)

    2. Michelle, wow, thank you for such an informative response. I enjoy all your ideas and will take notes of the details for further thinking. I just had a colleague who is moving to a middle school job with science and social studies and she has been following our discussion, is going to get the book, is very interested. I can't wait to share with colleagues!

  6. Linda

    I was inspired to create a search engine on the topic of GLOBAL ISSUES. It wasn't hard to do. I kept the ability to add links open and have already shared it with other teachers who will be involved in the first inquiry of the year (Global Dignity). I am anxious for students to try it out!

    Simply click on the Custom Search button in the top left-hand corner to see what's behind the search screen.

  7. Linda,
    Sorry to be so slow to come around. I am working from my phone and finding it quite challenging. I think you make a smart point about helping students to ask better questions. This is so important.

    I learned a lot about search engines and plan to do a little more study on this. Our library has somehow created a kid friendly search engine and I am interested in checking out Kidplex (I think that is what it is called. Thanks Amy and Laura.). Here I am once again reminded if how important it is to know which words to choose.

    More to ponder,

    1. Thanks Cathy-if you read today's post, you'll find I did explore those search engines-how easy it is! I agree it's so hard to write from the phone-ugh! I too want to check out Kidplex.


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