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#cyberPD Part 2: Who Owns The Learning?

This summer I am participating in the #cyberPD conversations about the book by Alan November titled Who Owns The Learning? Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.

Whew!  After reading these two chapters, I didn't think I would have much to say.  Was I ever wrong!  Thanks for taking the time to read and share YOUR voice!

You can visit the conversations this week about Chapters 3 & 4 at Jill's blog:  My Primary Passion or a compilation of all the #cyberPD posts at Jog the Web: Who Owns the Learning? #cyberPD 2013

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"As long as you're asking what's next, you'll get there.  
But never be content with where you're at
Alan November quoting Darren Kuropatwa (p.47).

My Thoughts and Reflections
As I read chapter 3: The Student as Scribe, I shook my head in agreement and furiously scribbled notes in my book of the possibilities.   

I can do something with this.  I know I can.  

Now, as a reading specialist meeting with small groups of students, we don't study specific topics or take notes.  Yet my brain was thinking, "What could I do instead?" We talk a lot about reading strategies, decoding strategies, comprehension strategies, word study, themes, books, authors and illustrators, etc.   I can (and will!) create a new blog or wiki to share our learning that can be shared with families and the world.  As Dareen Kuropatwa suggested: "I wanted the blog to be in their voices" (p.41).  My students can reteach what we learned or strategies that we are learning to use when reading.

As I reflect on the power of learning, I think about the importance of ownership.  The Daily 5 and CAFE framework created by "the 2 sisters" provides an excellent example when they encourage students to create the strategy labels for the living bulletin board.  Sure, we can easily go online, search the Internet, Pinterest, or TpT store and find beautiful signs to print out.  But who owns that learning?  No one.  It's not about a pretty bulletin board or classroom.  Imagine the excitement when a student walks a parent over to the board to share the sign they made for the class.  And guess what?  That student can talk about that strategy as an expert.  Guess who owns that learning?

Now imagine the possibilities when the audience widens to include not only classmates in the classroom, but classmates worldwide!  As Darren stated:  "Every voice speaks with the same volume, whereas in a classroom, the popular kids or the vocal kids are heard and the quieter kids sometimes fall through the cracks" (p.42).  Every student has a voice and online that voice can be heard  in the classroom and around the world.  The continued conversations and review of learning grows and grows and grows!

I love how throughout this chapter the focus is NOT on the technology.  It's about the "collaborating, communicating, organizing, writing and critical thinking" (p.39).  I also believe what is key to this learning is the shift in our teaching:  "...a shift in control and pedagogy, as well as an openness to imagine the possibilities offered by available technologies. However, perhaps the biggest challenges for some teachers will be redefining the role of the learner as contributor, and building a collaborative learning culture" (p.45).  This is what is most difficult for teachers - to let go and let the learning happen, even with mistakes sprinkled throughout.  

I believe all of us participating in this #cyberPD conversation are not afraid of shifting control or the technology.  It's the hundreds and thousands of teachers not willing to "think outside the box" of their four walls.  Yet, I love how November makes it inviting: "Anyone who can send an email can use the technologies necessary to launch a class blog, wiki, and student scribe program" (p.45) and then Darren suggests, "Even if all you do is lurk and listen to what other people are talking about, maybe that's a way to start" (p.48).  It is true.  Jump in!  Let the students take some control of the technology learning and lead us without fear.  

But are we ALL open to the ideas?  Are we ALL willing to let go of control?  Are we ALL wanting to dive into the 21st century digital learning sea?  How do we encourage ALL teachers around us to see the amazing possibilities?  My only suggestion?  

Live it and share it.  The results will speak loudly.  There are enough of us making waves.

The use of the Internet exploded sometime after I graduated from college. (Perhaps a good Wikipedia link would be useful here for more specific dates.  I admit: I was one to shy away from using it.)  Therefore, I was never taught how to navigate the overwhelming amounts of information (factual and not-so-much).  Navigating the web is difficult.  Click a link here and then there and now I'm reading about a topic different from where I started!  I slowly learned what was reliable and valid.  Perhaps I should say, I'm still learning!  And I think this is true for many teachers.  This is probably the number one reason why we shy away from online searches and research.  Yet, I know we can't because we don't want our students to flounder in the sea of information.  We want them to navigate the waters and become captains of their own learning vessels. 

Yet, as I read chapter four: The Student as Researcher, I cringed wondering how to begin this process with little ones (K-5).  I truly believe it has to begin in the elementary grades.  We cannot wait until junior high and high school - for by then they are navigating on their own with their own set of beliefs and researching tools, which would be similar to mine:  Guess and check.  Hit or miss.  This or that.  No, we need to start teaching critical thinking skills and researching on the Internet early with a structured approach.  I believe it is doable and I know there are many teachers, librarians, tech specialists out there that are willing to aide in the process.  November points us to many resourceful educators that we can connect with via Twitter, and blogs and articles to read.

Quite honestly, I need to reread this chapter.  It is about comfort.  In one breath I criticize that not all teachers are willing to step outside their comfort zone, and yet I am quick to say that this doesn't apply to me.  I have in the past turned my head because "I don't teach that" or "I don't need to know this."  Yet, I can assist students and teachers to learn about the importance of digital literacy.  It's a heavy chapter with so much information that I learned many tips and hints about researching.  I need to play a little more and become comfortable creating search engines.  I knew about Google's Advanced Search feature, but never used it or thought about starting there with students!  Brilliant!  And to know there is an option to produce results in any language is ridiculously amazing!   Again, think about the possibilities!  I need to tell myself to be open and get comfortable:  It's for the students.

"If we only teach one skill to prepare our students to survive in a web-based world, 
it should be that of critical thinking in the analysis of online information" (p.62).

Implications in My Classroom
As I previously mentioned, I will create a new forum to share our learning.  I want students to be a part of the digital sharing, so I may have to try a more kid-friendly site, such as Weebly.  (Cathy Mere has suggested this site.)  If you have any other suggestions, do share!

I will also incorporate opening student blogs to the world as I thought about in my previous reflection.  I talk about Internet safety briefly with students and this was my reasoning for keeping our voices quiet; however, I understand that I can still maintain control and moderate what students share and comments posted.  I know many educators share student blogs on Twitter requesting comments, and I love, love, love, Darren's suggestion of commenting with "a star and a wish"... "to push the students to expand their thinking" (p. 43).  I will also use this strategy as well with students, teachers, and bloggers!

Another specific plan of action:  check out VoiceThread.  Lucky for me, I already have an online mentor when I have questions: Deb Frazier.  You see, that's the power of sharing and learning together using social media sites like Twitter and blogging globally.  

#cyberPD is the perfect example.  I can read a book, close it, and consider how I would use my learning in my classroom.  Or, I can read a book, reflect and sharing my insights, learning, and ask questions globally to which in return, I learn more from others who share their thinking, learning, share suggestions and answers to my questions, and ask their own questions to continue pushing my thinking forward.  

Living and breathing like a "21st century learning specialist," allows me the opportunity to experience learning with others outside my four walls and I understand and see the potential for my students to be life-long learners.  

Thanks for stopping by and please share your thoughts and ideas!

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#cyberPD Schedule:


  1. I agree it should not be about the technology. Teachers get too wrapped up in it and forget that learning still needs to take place. Collaborating and contributing is a great way to provide some focus when looking at integration tools. -Anna Sexton

  2. Michelle,

    Your closing sentence was perfect:

    Living and breathing like a "21st century learning specialist," allows me the opportunity to experience learning with others outside my four walls and I understand and see the potential for my students to be life-long learners.

    I think this sentence sums up all that we have been talking about for the last two weeks. You certainly have shown that you are a 21st century learning specialist. You have ideas, mentors and links all connected to your thinking. I can't wait to see your new Weebly.


  3. Michelle,
    I've read and reread your post several times already, and I think I need to go back and read again. It is packed with ideas, suggestions, inspiration, and honesty!

    I love that you referred to the Cafe cards as one example of a place for kids to own the learning. There are some adorable pre-made cards out there, but you're right - it defeats the purpose of the "living" bulletin board (love that, by the way!)

    I was so excited to read that you are thinking about using Weebly. I know Cathy is a big fan, and my friend Jacquie (@MissSticker) is, too. I'm going to play around with it more and might just migrate my class blog over there. Another fresh new start! :)

    Thanks again for your thoughtful post!

  4. I had a busy day today so am late commenting, but wanted to thank you for so many thoughtful points Michelle. I especially enjoyed how you are applying the ideas from the book to your unique situation, i.e. making it work! I've struggled a bit too, but you've inspired me to look at your post and the chapters again.

  5. Michelle,
    The reminder to allow every voice to have the same volume is the one that I keep coming back to. I am determined to be more consistent with my class about blogging. We have used Weebly in the past and I love it. We will post pictures, video, and text and start out with a class blog and branching out after some shared experiences.

  6. Michelle,
    The researching aspect of the learning we've all read about needs to be viewed with a Primary Lens-to that end-I see it as the teacher modeling the process and eventually giving it over to students to try...Model model model!

  7. Michelle,
    This is one of my take aways. This learning is beyond tech, and is instead about the "collaborating, communicating, organizing, writing and critical thinking" (p.39)

    This is a wonderful post full of so much important information --- and so beautifully written. You, Michelle, are one of my favorite writing mentors.



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