Continuing the conversation about Who Owns the Learning?

51h8ptz5ZBL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Thanks to Cathy Mere, Jill Fisch and Laura Komos for hosting this discussion. After being slightly negative about certain aspects of the book last week in my post, I spent a good amount of time reading the blogs of others.  WOW, I learned a lot and Lesa’s response to the book knocked me over.  It was very helpful to have Cathy Mere take the time to list many examples of primary grades using technology.  Even if you are not interested in the discussion of this book, but just happen to be reading my blog today, I suggest you take a look at some of these examples.  Cathy makes it easy to just click on the examples.  (In my defense about my negativity, I can’t help but worry about the gap that will be created between those students who have every tool at their disposal along with parent help and those who don’t.  We must pay attention to that…. But I promise not to mention it again.)

This week’s reading assignment was chapters 3 and 4 in which Alan November describes the roles of scribe and researcher.  Many of his examples were from upper elementary to high school — classes where students are already fairly proficient writers.  Because I work with many primary classrooms, I had to think of the term “scribe” with a wider lens.  Primary students can present their learned information in various ways.  For example, if they were studying life cycles, I could envision one group taking the pictures of a pumpkin’s life cycle and telling about the stages, while another group does something similar with the caterpillar/butterfly or tadpole/frog life cycle. November describes the scribe as a note-taker, but we have to remember that sometimes K-1 students take notes or show what they know in drawings, diagrams, photos, or voice-overs. The scribe can be the child or group of children who are summarizing the learning for others to read or view in various formats.

November’s point is well taken that students need to have a real audience in order to see purpose in their work.  By going public with their blogs or other digital creations, they receive feedback from the global community.  He contrasts this with work that used to be done in classrooms for an audience of ONE, the teacher, and then the work is basically trashed after the grade is given. This idea of a real audience reminded me of when we first began writing workshops in classrooms.  We wanted students to share their work; we taught them how to give positive feedback and helpful suggestions when children shared their drafts; we expected that the final pieces of writing they chose to share would be conventionally correct so that others could read them and this fact inspired students to do their best work; and so on.  Technology allows students to share their thinking, their newly learned information, their digital creations, or their writing with a much broader audience than just the other students in the classroom.

In chapter 4 November brought up so many good points about teaching students how to use technology to do research.  Even if there is only one computer in the room, a student can be assigned to be the researcher of the day and find out answers when questions arise.  I see many primary teachers who begin curriculum studies in science with “wonder charts,” i.e., what the students are wondering about and would like to find out about this topic. The idea of a student researcher fits well with these charts, although in K-2, the researching part may be done with teacher support or as a shared project.

When November suggested that teachers help kids become “savvier information analysts” by teaching them how to vet sources for reliability, I began to wonder how many teachers actually know how to do this. Before reading this chapter, I didn’t know how to interpret an address of a website, use an advanced search, or other ways of evaluating authors’ reliability and content validity.  It’s all a bit overwhelming to me.


  1. Pat,
    I, too, learned so much during the discussion of searches. I knew a bit before but it was very nice to have so much information presented so clearly. I agree that we will have to make modifications for the primary grades when deciding how much to teach them about effective searching.

    I think your point about access is well taken and should not be ignored. We will need to continue to think about this and be sure to provide access to technological tools in our classrooms and schools.

  2. This sounds like such an interesting read. However, I kind of wish you would stop suggesting books because I want to buy them all and I don’t have the money for that. 😉 (Really, keep them coming!). I am with you with the tech gap growing. I hear all the time, “Oh, that would be great for my TD kids!” I finally started speaking up and suggesting letting our “lower” kids use some of these things, too. I think you should keep mentioning that piece!

  3. Pat,
    I think it’s overwhelming for many of us! However, if we want to encourage our students to dive into the learning, we must do the same! (Additional flippers and floats are OK!) I was most overwhelmed by chapter 4 as well!

    Thank you for sharing your ideas about how the role of the scribe and researcher may look in a primary classroom. I think that was most difficult for me to envision – the look and feel in a primary classroom. I love the ideas of note taking with drawings and voice-overs. Also, be sure to check out Amy Rudd’s reflection: She tweeted Darren about ideas for her first grade classroom and received more great ideas about narrated images!

    Thanks for sharing,

      • Thanks Ladies,
        Glad you found the ideas Darren shared and the Wesley Fryer’s site as a resource.
        I share your concerns when it comes to the poverty gap-that’s why I think it’s more important now than ever for schools to step up and say we can do this in spite of the level of poverty we see daily-what matters is what we have control over when they are with us-making every moment count. I am certain only few children from my school have home internet access so I think that what ever I can expose them to when they are with me will open the doors of opportunity. I know this is not enough-but we must start somewhere!
        At the same time, there are those that have it-but don’t know how to use it well-the $1,000 pencil example comes to mind. There is a lot to think about with all aspects of this learning. It’s also about the technology being the tool to help not the end itself.
        Yes, my head is spinning from all of this…still thinking.

  4. I missed your post last week! Glad to find you here!

    The issues of equitable access, illiterate parents, and students whose attitude toward technology is that it exists solely for gaming or social networking (about gaming) are hard ones with which to grapple. So I was just ignoring those bits while I make my pie-in-the-sky plans for next year. Thanks for shaking my shoulder a bit and making me think about the hard parts, too!

    And your last line? Yeah, me too.

  5. Thanks for sharing all of your ideas, Pat. I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one totally overwhelmed. In fact, I almost didn’t participate in the discussion because I felt I wouldn’t have anything to say. But that’s the thing with a virtual community. You learn from so many people, and I already am beginning to understand more by being linked to others. I’m glad I stayed and I’m glad you joined. I agree that extending the audience for kids is like starting writing workshop. So we have a common understanding on which to hang our new learning – that helps to make things clearer.

  6. Pat, I almost made the decision not to participate in this discussion because I felt overwhelmed and didn’t think I would have much to contribute. But that is the beauty of being connected to a wider audience. I have learned so much already just by reading other’s posts. I’m glad I stayed and I’m glad you joined. I agree with you that opening kids up to a wider audience is like beginning a writing workshop. It always helps me to put new learning in the perspective of something I already understand. Thanks!

  7. I think it’s great that you shared about things you are concerned about, and I wonder how many teachers are overwhelmed with “more”, more CC learning, more tech, etc? I do know a lot of tech stuff & much because I really just like doing it and I’ve taught a few tech classes at my school. BUT-my challenge is trying now to create ways that make it “easier” for teachers to use some of these ideas the book is suggesting-working on my explanations, how to nudge with lots of support. Thanks for being so candid.

  8. Pat, I think it’s really important that we keep these issues/concerns at the forefront of our work. Things aren’t always rainbows and unicorns (although it is summertime… so I like to dream big!) And through it all, we have to consider what we know to be true about teaching and learning, while still moving forward. We are very grateful to have your voice in our conversation!

  9. I am so glad to read that others feel overwhelmed as well! I think that we have to be up front about that as we work with our students. It is hard to get away from the idea that I have to be the all knowing expert (but a relief too!).

  10. I worry about the gap too, Pat. I work in a poor district, so not all of my high school students will have their own devices. We will always have to have technology for many of the kids. And yet, that isn’t my biggest worry.

    I have just spent three years at the system level where I lobbied long and hard for the development of a tech integration plan, tech support that understands education, and leadership from senior admin in making the shift in practice (that is to model being a connected learner etc.). After three years, there has been no movement in any of those areas (although this summer we may be having our tech infrastructure upgrade, but no devices). It is incredibly awesome when teachers like you take charge of your learning. However, the system needs to support those teachers who cannot or will not pursue ongoing learning. That is the gap I worry about.

    #Cyberpd teachers are making the move to modern teaching, and we will get there. Darren reminds us to continue to push ourselves. “As long as you’re asking what’s next, you’ll get there. But never be content with where you’re at” (pg. 47).

    • Julie,
      Thanks for your comments. You are right about the gap in teacher knowledge also. That is going to be a real problem. In my county we have over 145 elementary schools. Our district is HUGE. I remember way back (when computers first started coming into schools) how hard it was to get ALL those teachers trained on just basic computer use. There is such a span of knowledge right now between those teachers tweeting, reading blogs daily, and researching on-line, connecting globally with others in their field,etc. and others who just use their computers to “type.”

  11. Pat,
    As I have been reading this book I too have been thinking about the gap. Most of what kids can do with technology they learn and do at home and bring back into the classroom. Those that don’t have the technology are left way behind very quickly.

  12. Pat,
    Thank you for sharing your reflections. I enjoy your primary lens and literacy perspective. I think accessibility is a point we have to consider and matters greatly in this conversation.

    The significance of audience cannot be underestimated. Primary writers are still developing oral language, still learning to write, still learning to navigate literacy. Digital tools provide a variety of ways they can create and share their work with a larger audience. I have students who like to blog, some who like to use photo booth (oral storytelling), some who like to compose digitally and some who like to take pictures to create a digital book from handwritten stories. Oh, the possibilities for creation, but more importantly the expanded audience. This audience gives them feedback, helps them to understand the power of their words, and motivates them to continue.

    I am glad you found the links from my post helpful. Trying to keep all the amazing thinking going on across blogs organized is a challenge.

    Glad you are joining us,

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