Crowdsourcing Our Knowledge With a Conversation Hotspots Gallery Walk

During the month of March, my period 6-3 (6th grade Writing Connections) selected drones as a topic they wanted to explore.  Over roughly 10 days, we read roughly 6-7 articles on the uses of drones; as we explored each article, we tracked the benefits and drawbacks to using drones as part of our front loading work for writing an argumentative essay.

I wanted students to have a way to talk about the pros and cons and see each other’s thinking, so I set up what I called “Conversation Hotspots” gallery walk after we had finished reading all of our articles and compiling a master list of pros/cons for drones.  I used pastel colored lined chart paper to set up 8 “hotspots” around topics from articles like drones and firefighting, drones and privacy issues, drones and farming, and drones and airplane safety.  Next, I assigned pairs and gave each pair a starting conversation hotspot.  Each group had 2 minutes to share a pro or con on that topic.  We then rotated to the next station where the next group had to either add a new pro/con statement OR clarify a statement that a previous group may not have written in specific terms.  While two minutes is a short time, it seemed to be just right for the students to review what others had written and to add something new.

After rotating to all the stations, each group eventually landed at their original station.  Each group then shared out the collaboratively built list of drones pros/cons with the rest of the class; this large group review/share also gave us an opportunity to add any ideas that may have been missed in our first pass during the gallery walk, and students could also update their individual pro/con lists.

The overall response to the activity was positive from the students.  The activity seemed to particularly resonate with one of my 6th grade students.   About six weeks ago, I got a new student who was very scared and anxious. He has had a chaotic young life and outside of band, very little academic success. He has also had a difficult time socially because he looks like a high schooler even though he is in 6th grade. He let me know right away he hated writing. Since arriving, I have watched his confidence grow and been proud of my students who have made him feel welcome. Flash forward to the end of our class today after we finished our Conversation Hotspots Gallery Walk. He came up to me and said, “Ms. Hamilton, are we doing this again tomorrow because this sure is FUN!!!!” I nearly cried hearing the joy in his voice and seeing his smile. That is something our state Milestones test can NEVER measure.

I love gallery walks because they get students sharing knowledge, talking with each other, fact-checking information, and an opportunity to physically move about the room (an aspect that is important for wiggly middle schoolers!).  How are you using gallery walks in your classroom to create “hotspots for conversation”?

Crowdsourcing and Curating Collective Memory, Legends, and Local History with Facebook Groups

About two days ago, I noticed a flurry of postings from my local friends to a Facebook group called, “You’re Probably from Canton, GA (Cherokee County) If You Remember??” in which people were reminiscing about places, people, and traditions gone by in the local town and surrounding communities of Canton.   Out of curiosity, I began perusing the posts in the group this evening and am fascinated by the phenomenon I see happening here:  over 900 members are sharing collective memory, legends, lore, photographs, and remembrances of life in the past of Canton.

People are sharing musings and engaging in threaded conversations around historic photographs, school days, local events that no longer take place, “urban legends” (including one about one of my high school teachers, Miss Mauldin, who supposedly became distressed when she could not find her classroom after a group of mischievous teens pushed the lockers down the hall and concealed the entrance to her classroom), local figures, traditions, and cultural institutions of life in what used to a be fairly small north Georgia town.  Most of the memories center on life prior to the 1990s, a decade in which a population explosion changed the physical and cultural landscape of the community in many ways.

As I am browsing through the posts this evening, I can’t help but wonder what libraries and educators could take away from this kind of phenomenon of crowdsourcing collective memories; I’m intrigued what an ethnographer might also be able to take away from this collective narrative as well as individual narratives that are shared in this public space.

  • How can libraries and educators harness the power of social media to help people build a rich narrative?
  • Whose voices seem included and what groups might be absent from the conversation–and what might that in and of itself tell us about the culture of the community?
  • What can we learn from the stories that are shared in a medium like this and how could this be a medium for multiple voices telling the history, the story of a shared place?
  • Could we view this Facebook group as an alternative or emerging form of text?
  • What can we take away from this kind of narrative to inform our understanding of digital storytelling and digital composition?
  • Is Facebook a medium for curation, and if so, what are the benefits as well as challenges for using it as a curation medium?  How might libraries weave narratives from a group like this into a larger digital text using a tool like Storify?
  • What qualities engage and compel people to contribute to this conversation?  I saw numerous comments along the lines of, “This is fun!  I could do this all night!” or remarks about the number of hours people were devoting to sharing and reading the posts and comments in the group.   Clearly, people are experiencing flow in this learning and shared story space–how can libraries and educators tap into the power of shared storytelling and construction of local history/memory?
  • How is this group functioning as a site of participatory culture?
  • Do groups like this encourage people to use social media who may be reluctant to join a social network or who may not feel a sense of agency or desire to participate in social networking?
  • What motivates people to establish and engage in sustained participation in groups like these?

Crowdsourcing Recommended Reads for Issues in School Librarianship

CC Image via http://goo.gl/jE7ra

About two weeks ago, I received an email from my mentor and cherished friend, Dr. Mary Ann Fitzgerald, of the University of Georgia, who shared the following charge:

Here’s a question that’s perfect for you.  I’m teaching an Issues class this summer as an elective (M.Ed level). In the past, I’ve come up with a laundry list of topics and we’ve explored those.

Another approach might be to choose a single book — a paradigm shifter sort of book that relates to SLM.  Not a textbook.  Something like:

  • information + social + technology + education, multiplied by radical
  • Something we can all read and have some rich discussions about, preferably available in e-book format
  • TED talkish

What title would you nominate?  Something published quite recently.

While I had some titles in mind, I decided to tap into the wisdom of my PLN (personal learning network) via good old-fashioned email and crowdsource the list a bit.  Thanks to my sage colleagues, I have compiled a reading list that I think fits the criteria described by Mary Ann: I think this list gives veterans a rich reading menu as well!  What would you add?  You can share your own suggestions by adding them to the public Google doc I’ve created; you can also download the initial list I originally created in Word from SlideShare below.