The reflective question posed:

Students working collaboratively and co-constructing knowledge is a powerful learning experience. What scaffolds can the teacher put in place to support all students as they collaborate?

Creativity, Collaboration and Communication are skills that students need to be college and career ready. The transition into teaching children in a collaborative setting has begun and I see students responding to the experiences that certain teachers are providing. There is so much that goes into building “digital citizens” in our classrooms. As educators, we need to practice what we preach, and that means knowing and implementing the nine elements that are listed in Mike Ribble’s post, Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.

Scaffolding for students is one of the most difficult instructional practices. Knowing where your students are, what they need on a continual basis, and bringing meaningful experiences to the table every day, makes me tired just typing it. I know teachers work hard to build background for students who seemingly do not have the experiences that they need in order to be successful. This is where the instructional shift HAS to happen. The students aren’t getting “more difficult” or “less intelligent.” The teachers need to teach to what students find relevant and meaningful.

I related so well to Will Richardson’s video about A New Generation of Learners. My daughter has provided many learning opportunities for herself by going to the Internet in order to find what she needs. His daughter teaching herself to to play a Journey song is comparable to my daughter finding resources to help her learn how to play a song by The Fray. The only difference was that she had me pay for the sheet music. The tutorials and resources that are available to users is infinite. Being responsible and knowledgeable about searching and critiquing websites is one of the more finite skills for Internet users. The fact that both girls were able to research, synthesize and then expand their searches to locate the information they needed to achieve their goal of learning new music may possibly go beyond anything they are asked to do in school. Do we ask students what they want to learn? Or do we consistently rewrite curriculum that we find isn’t meeting the needs of our students?

To address the question posed directly, teachers need to provide multiple opportunities, across all disciplines, in the responsible use of technology. Students need to be explicitly taught how to have constructive discourse (we all know they can talk about whatever), accountable for their own learning, responsible for a positive environment for others, and be life-long learners. If we can foster students and provide coping strategies for them, then we can create a positive culture for learning. These are not skills you can learn individually. There are so many complexities to maintaining individualized learning. Teachers need to streamline what they are doing as well… Building opportunities for teamwork, as well as a foundation for essential skills is always a challenge. But, I would much rather spend time front-loading students on a particular skill and then create collaborative opportunities, then allow students to continually work in solitude and not develop socially. It may be painful for some, but you can’t replace the learning experiences when working in a group setting.

My hope is that educators can create, or should I say refine, digital citizens. They can take their “savvy” and support them with digital literacy skills that create positive digital footprints of individuals who respect and stay safe online.

One share I have is the exercise I did with my students today. After reading the article by Judy Arzt, PhD. Online Collaborative Inquiry, Classroom Blogging Ventures and Multiple Literacies. CRAJ. (2012), I worked my summer school students to the bone! I realized that I needed to grow as a teacher and technology integrator. We have blogged before with the students. A very simplistic share of their favorite book that we have read. The experience was good, but it didn’t go much farther than that. It was a very stagnant exercise for these kids. I went in today with a new confidence about starting students on a collaborative journey. It was scaffolded, challenging, collaborative and entertaining.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Roll-A-Story with the students (interactive game of rolling different parts of story to create character, setting and problem)
  2. Students rolled a few times to experience different combinations of stories that can be created
  3. They decided on the main parts of the story and then began to piece together a brief scenario.
  4. The students then wrote about the character, setting and problem (from the story matrix).
  5. The students then went to blog their stories. They had two responsibilities for our lab time. First, type in their story on the classroom blog. Then, they had to reply to another student’s story.

None of the stories had a solution to their problems, so it was up to the students to create their own ending to each post. As the next few days go on, students will be responsible for addressing each story in a literacy station in the classroom. I have known these students for three weeks. I have not seen them so excited about a lesson until today (they were only more excited about the popsicles when it was 95 degrees in the room).

Check out the beginning of the Roll-A-Story blogging we are doing… photo