The first chapter gives us a definition of a digital learning farm. According to Alan November, a digital learning farm is based on the idea that in the past children provided much needed help around the farm by doing jobs that they were capable of doing. Mr. November says that this filled a need in the children - the need to be of value or the need to be needed. A digital learning farm is set up in schools to give students jobs that need to be done and that they are capable of doing. The jobs are often using digital tools and are focused on supporting the learning of others. Chapter 2 focuses on one of the jobs possible in a digital learning farm - the student as tutorial designer. The two chapters for this week left me filled with questions so I thought I would organize this post around them.
Question 1: Are there more good examples out there of students/teachers solving a problem or filling a need in their community?
I would love to see more examples of the type of multi-disciplinary, solving real problems type of learning mentioned in Chapter 1 (the student created ways to share community health information). I would especially love to see this in the primary grades. I know that my students are very capable of the kind of critical thinking that is needed to solve these types of community issues. I teach at an Expeditionary Learning School and a big focus of ours is service learning within our community. So far the youngest learners at our school have been able to provide a service within our school community. While this is very valuable, I would like to begin to think of ways to branch out to surrounding neighborhoods or even our town like the older grades do. I need to find ways to bring community issues to the attention of my students so we can consider ideas for this type of learning.
Question 2: How do I prioritize what my students should spend time on during a school day?
I feel that this question is very specific to primary grades. A large part of what we do in first grade is to teach students to read, write and do mathematics so that they can participate fully in this type of learning now and in their future. I fully agree that primary grade students can and should do some of the work involved in a digital learning farm but the question for me is always how to do it most effectively. I try to blend the learning of reading, writing and math with the technology learning but there are always times (especially in the younger grades) when you must focus on one more than the other. It shifts back and forth, but this is something that I am always aware of and thinking about - how to determine what is most important for this group of learners at this point in time.
Question 3: How do I allow myself and my students more freedom to just "go with" the learning that presents itself?
I feel that I am getting much better at following the interests and needs of my students but I still always have to have that conversation in my head telling myself that it is okay to follow the lead of my students and ignore whatever curriculum piece might have been on the agenda for the day. Let me tell a story that might illustrate this a bit for you. I have my students create tutorials for each other using the iPad app ShowMe (similar to what Alan November suggests). However, I did not start with this idea in mind.
I began using ShowMe as a way for me to assess what my students know and are able to do. I wasn't all that sure that they would be interested in watching ShowMes created by other students. I was very wrong. We began creating ShowMes and posting them to each student's blog. Over time I began to notice that trends would move through the ShowMes. When one student began to use a variety of colors to illustrate a point, others did, too. When one student learned how to clear the screen all at once, others did, too. I began to hear students asking each other how they did certain things in their ShowMes. The best thing that happened was when students started to quote from each others' ShowMes during discussions in Math saying things like "I like how Cutter explained this in his ShowMe" and then going on to share Cutter's thinking.
I learned that when I let students figure things out on their own, they would and did. So what I am left wondering is if I can let students figure out a way to solve a problem in our community just by giving them some time to explore problems that might exist in our community. I am still struggling with how to "find the problem" with primary grade students. They have shown that they are good at solving problems that come up in our classroom but how do I expose them to problems that exist in our community that are still developmentally appropriate for primary grade students to grapple with?
Student created Math ShowMes
Student created Reading ShowMes
Student created ShowMe about how words are spelled
Video of a student teaching others how to create a multi-page ShowMe
Our #cyberpd event consists of multiple parts:
Today: Join the conversation about chapters 1 and 2 - Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community
July 10th: Chapters 3 and 4 - Hosted here at My Primary Passion
July 17th: Chapters 5 and 6 - Hosted by Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate
Date to be determined: Final chat about the book on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd
You can participate in several ways:
- You can write a blog post with your thoughts about the section we are reading for the week and add the link to your blog in the comments of the host blog.
- You can add your thoughts directly in the comments of the host blog.
- You can share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberpd.
- You can come up with another way to share you ideas. We would love to see a new, creative way to join the conversation.
If you are interested in past #cyberpd discussions, here are some links for you:
2011 #cyberPD: Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop
2012 #cyberPD: Opening Minds