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.