I’m delighted to share that I have joined the blog team at DMLcentral-–I’m humbled and honored to write and think in this learning space as so many people who are part of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub have inspired my work and pushed the boundaries of my thinking. My first post, “Literacies and Fallacies“, is now up if you would like to read the first of what will be a series. If DMLcentral is not already one of the resources in your learning network, I hope you’ll consider adding this collaborative blog and curated collection of free and open resources that will offer you multiple perspectives, research, and and provocative ideas to contextualize your thinking about learning environments, ecosystems, and the dynamics that inform them.
I want to thank the Iowa Association of School Librarians for inviting me to speak at their conference this past week; I so appreciate everyone’s hospitality and the opportunity to think aloud and learn together. I’d also like to give a special thanks to conference chair Kathy Kaldenberg for her efforts in coordinating a flawless day of fun and professional learning.
Below are my slides from my opening keynote as well as my concurrent session that was a conversation exploring the concept of transliteracy.
I’m excited to team up again this month with Deborah Frost, one of the most experienced and talented teachers here at Creekview High School. Deborah’s 9th Honors/Literature Composition students are in the library for the rest of the month as they inquire into a controversial/hot topic of their choice and craft a persuasive research paper on that topic as well as an oral presentation. Through trial and error over the years, Deborah and I have learned much together as instructional partners as we’ve reflected long and hard about what has worked and what hasn’t in each collaborative project we’ve endeavored to do with her students.
Last year, Deborah was more than willing to implement two new aspects to the research design we were crafting. As part of my effort to make a more concentrated effort to frontload the initial connecting, wondering, and investigating stages of inquiry, she agreed to let me build in a larger initial chunk of pre-search time with the students to help them:
1. gain background knowledge about their controversial/hot topic and determine if that was really the topic they wanted to explore or to see if there were other topics of more interest to them
2. read more intentionally and thoughtfully to help them begin discerning big ideas from facts
3. to begin building background knowledge to develop research questions and to determine if the articles really spoke to their information seeking needs
The students worked for approximately six weeks as they researched, submitted research questions, and collaboratively composed a persuasive paper in Google Docs. The other new component of the learning experience was teaching students skills and concepts associated with the “Presentation Zen” style PowerPoints for a class presentation to compose an oral presentation supported by those visuals that helped tell the narrative of the learning and insights.
Because that design was so rich and successful, we are doing it with this year’s freshmen. We’ve made a few tweaks to the new and improved pre-search graphic organizer (see below).
We’ll also be incorporating some new search skills to the students as well. The other new component for the project is the use of EasyBib in place of NoodleTools since EasyBib allows us to more easily create citations for our database articles. We will once again do the Presentation Zen style presentations, and in April, I’ll blog a few new minor but helpful modifications I’ve come up with this past year to help support the learning curve for the skills associated with that endeavor. Finally, we’re being flexible with the schedule/timeline of learning activities to be responsive to student needs; while we have a working calendar, we’re letting it be fluid so we can be responsive to the students if they more or less time for a specific skill or learning activity, then we can do that without feeling married to “the calendar”. I’m appreciative that Deborah Frost is willing to experiment and to be improvisational as needed within the larger framework we’ve co-designed for the students.
I invite you to check out our research guide and to take a few minutes to listen to Deborah’s reflections on the value of pre-search and Presentation Zen style for student learning!
Earlier this week, I blogged about about first efforts in Media 21 to use mindmapping as a strategy for thinking and inquiry as well as a springboard for discussion in our Fishbowl groups. One of our creative mindmappers took a few minutes today to share her first two mindmaps that go outside some of the traditional mediums and how mindmapping helps her as a learner.
I’d like to share with you a conversation for learning I had this morning with fellow teacher Lisa Kennedy and two of her students. Lisa and I have been contemplating the aspects of the inquiry driven, participatory learning classroom that students embrace as well as the pushback we’re seeing from students (which includes some Media 21 alum). The backdrop of prior student learning experiences, extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation, pressures of standardized testing and choices students make about using class time are layers of this learning ecology that we’re trying to negotiate as Lisa and fellow 1:1 netbook pilot program teacher Cleve Ard work through the tensions of shifting from a teacher centered classroom to a student centered focus. The range of reactions to this model of learning from Lisa’s students mirror what Susan Lester and I have observed for the last two years: a continuum of responses ranging from pure jubilation and a sense of feeling empowered and liberated to intense resistance. In terms of student responses that are a pushback to this model of learning, Lisa sees similar themes or motifs of student response that Susan and I witnessed, particularly during the 2010-11 academic year:
- some students desire to be “spoon fed” knowledge rather than actively constructing it
- some students expect the classroom is the only site of learning and do not desire to engage in learning outside of the school day
- some students privilege classic literature over nonfiction texts (online and in print—memoirs, biography, journals, magazines, newspapers) as what counts as “real” reading and are concerned they aren’t reading “what we’re supposed to be reading” in an Honors or AP course.
For the last two years in my work with teachers like Lisa Kennedy and Susan Lester (Media21), I’ve been immersing myself in the discourse of a participatory learning ecology (and by default, the library as a site of participatory culture). In the last year or so, I’ve really started thinking critically about some of the pushback we’ve seen from students who are struggling with this model of learning and the reasons for that pushback—what are the stories behind this and what do they tell us about the bigger picture of the dynamics of education and learning in an educational culture driven by standardized testing and standards? Consequently, I’m wondering how do we effectively think about the challenges inherent in these narratives and the complexity of the layers we’re trying to peel back. In the next couple of months, I’m hoping to look more closely at this challenges through the theoretical lens of scholars like Bakhtin as well as other critical theorists to hopefully have a better understanding of what I’m observing and to be a better teacher and practitioner; I also hope to draw on this to more thoughtfully contemplate how a model of participatory learning informs my conceptualization of “library.” All of these wonderings reflect how I’ve become increasingly immersed in my role as learning specialist at my school.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll take time to watch this 18 minute video and listen closely to the ideas, concerns, and reflections, especially as they relate to matching learning tasks and assessments, the importance of failure, trust (or lack thereof) in a learning community, social/collaborative building of knowledge and meaning, ownership of learning, and inquiry. A heartfelt thank you to Ms. Lisa Kennedy and her students for their honesty, constructive feedback, and willingness to share their thinking in such a public way and to help push our thinking.
Fontichiaro, K. (2009). Nudging toward Inquiry: Re-envisioning Existing Research Projects. School Library Monthly, 26(1), 17-19.