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.
Global Read Aloud 2012 has begun. In July, I pitched this idea to a group of teachers and two jumped in—head first. We had lots of learning to do since we had never before collaborated beyond the school. Of course, this meant making contact with other teachers (via Edmodo, which we had never used), deciding on a platform for shared communication (what’s a platform? They asked.), organizing the groups of students across the classes, introducing the students to digital citizenship, and oh yes, preparing the content of the lessons.
The novel, The One and Only Ivan, provides a wide array of topics and themes that students can ultimately choose to explore. Along the way, the class will read/listen to the story, and the student groups will use Kidblog to share their thinking with each other, weekly questions will be posted on Wallwisher to help support the extension of ideas across all the classes. Already, students are lobbying for time to delve more deeply into different aspects of the text. Some are curious to learn more about silverback gorillas, while others want to understand why poachers capture animals for captivity, and others yet, are offended by the treatment of animals in captivity and want to learn more about what is being done to end this practice. And we have just completed week one of four! In this project, students can choose what they want to learn more about and how they want to share that learning with their classmates and group mates. Storybird, Glogster, VoiceThread, and a wiki are all possibilities for students to choose from to create their final project.