During the fall of 2012, I worked closely with two teachers as they participated in the Global Read Aloud (GRA) for the first time. We were all beginners in reaching out to other classrooms-in our schools and beyond our schools-in using various web 2.0 tools, and in thinking through this kind of teaching and learning. The GRA 2012 ran the month of October, but our celebration happened in December because the teachers integrated other subject areas with the novel and expanded and extended the scope of the work. Students went well beyond a read aloud and summary posts. They connected the story of Ivan (The One and Only Ivan) to biodiversity and endangered species. They considered the larger issues as a class, and then small groups chose narrower topics to research. Each group gathered their findings in a Glogster, and then presented them to their families. This was a face-to-face event because for the most part the community does not yet communicate regularly via the Internet.
What can I now say about the role of celebrating the learning?
The event was spectacular. Students were showing off their work to their parents. They were accessing the tools, doing the explaining, and in total control. The teacher simply stood back and let it happen.
I think we need to always remember where we are in the collaboration process. Regardless of what is possible or of what others are doing, we needed to go through this step before we can really consider the type of collaboration and celebration that happens within a true global project.
Throughout the FCCT, I have focused on the needs of teachers and students who come to a global collaborative project with little to no experience with collaboration, Web 2.0 tools, and other multimedia technologies. The key is to find entry points that are within the comfort levels of newcomers and build from there. When I introduce a new tool like a wiki to a teacher, we begin thinking about what the students will do with it, and then from there, we create success criteria that we think the students will identify once they have explored some examples. The process of establishing success criteria is a familiar process to most of my teachers, so with our draft success criteria in hand, the teacher will be able to lead the students to brainstorm ideas and then group them into the four strands of the Ontario Achievement Chart. The Achievement Chart below comes from the English curriculum document, but the other disciplines are similar and they can be viewed here.
The above categories match nicely with work of the wiki: Content, Research process/synthesizing/ reflection, Language/presentation/audience & purpose, and Incorporation of web 2.0 tools, hyperlinks, hypermedia, diigo etc. Ontario teachers, beyond evaluating students across the four categories, also evaluate student learning skills: Responsibility, Independent work, Organization, Collaboration, Self-regulation, and Initiative. To our success criteria, I would add a fifth category representing the criteria for collaboration. Although other learning skills are at work here, too; it’s collaboration that we need to teach to.
The important part of this process is the student brainstorming for all the criteria they believe they should meet to create a great wiki because it will tell the teacher where the students are at especially in the areas of technology and Web 2.0 tools, and identify the areas that she will support with direct instruction. We cannot assume that because students use Facebook that they have any experience with tools like Animoto, Voki, or VoiceThread to name but a few.
The process of assessing student work is always recursive. We attempt to learn where they are, teach from that point, provide feedback along the way, revise the criteria as we go, and reflect on the final product to help us refine the process for the next project. Teachers attempting a global collaborative project for the first time need to start with what they know and build from there so that they have confidence that a positive outcome will be achieved.