How can I use “blogger” in the classroom? How can technology assist in collaborative groups working together?
As tech savvy as teachers may be personally, translating that into classroom practice isn’t easy. Often technology simply becomes either an encyclopedia for questionable information with shady sources or a vehicle for a glorified bulletin board. Many including myself have used the web to publish student work in the past, but it wasn’t until very recently that I pushed my students to create an online collaborative piece of work. Students’ truly working on the web was an amazing thing to be a part of.
In my ninth grade social studies class, students in group of four were brought to a mock crime scene an (idea James Woolsey came up with three years ago) from there they were given a digital camera to take crime scene photos. [The unit was based in NYS Regents standards for Global Studies] From the photos they then proceeded to research the evidence that had been displayed and asked to publish a webpage with the groups’ findings. Ultimately the groups linked all their WebPages together. The students were then asked to evaluate pages based on their resources and utilize and cite the sources of their classmates.
A couple of interesting things happened:
- Students realized that information on the web must be critically evaluated for its veracity before being cited in their work. Many for the first time questioned the authorship of many websites.
- Students realized that gathering information from “real world” experts in the field is quite simple on the internet. (One student contacted an archaeologist for help)
- Students appreciated the real world skills of creating an attractive blog. (Students were thrilled that someone was recognizing that making a “MySpace” type page had value in a classroom.)
- Students were very excited to share skills and information, the class, as a whole, was constructing knowledge together as the web content on each page improved. Students started asking each other "Where did you find that? Did you see what their team wrote?"
- Students became furiously upset when plagiarism of their work was suspected. They began to take true ownership as a group of their work.
At the conclusion of the unit the students used Google-docs to create individual hyperlinked essays. These essays will now become the examples for next year’s class.
The whole process really created a buzz and students are already asking what is next? Admittedly this is where I am stuck. How do I go back to “tech-less” learning? We opened a door together as a class and because of limited resources [school has limited amount of accessible computers (one cart of 36)] we have to step back out. Admittedly the work was immense for me as a facilitator [ the process of getting the laptops each morning from a safe, securing the key, and at time s the laptops are not connected to a password protected and filtered network] and didn’t work for every student, but I see this becoming easier and improving the accessibility.
I was thrilled to have this work. The future of collaborate groups in a classroom looks interesting.