Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Growing the Learning: #cyberPD

"It's not about any one of them.  It's about all of them pulling together."  Alan November (p. 46) 

Today is the second reflection for our #cyberPD title:  Who Owns the Learning?:  Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age.  Jill Fisch is hosting today's event on her blog, My Primary Passion, for today's discussion of chapters 3-4.  Remember to stop by her blog to link your posts for today's reflection.  It's quite a conversation that has been growing this month!

In chapters 3-4 Alan November discusses two roles for students in learning:  Student as Scribe and Student as Researcher.

Student as Scribe:  In November's example, students take turns sharing the role of notetaker in the classroom.  The job of the scribe is to capture the notes from a day's learning, edit, organize and share them with the class (blogs, Google docs, and other applications).  In his example, over time, students learn the significance of their role to the learning community and begin to work hard to create helpful notes, adding links, examples, and other helpful information for the class.   They become better able to synthesize information and learn important collaboration skills.  This system proves not only to be helpful to the community, but also to the teacher for evaluating effectiveness of lessons.

Student as Researcher:  In this role, there is a student each day responsible for finding answers to questions in class.  Again, a collaborative role for the greater good of the learning community.  November reminds us, "We can't assume that if students can read and write, they can search the web. (p. 50)"  Having a student as researcher provides opportunities to help students improve searching techniques, understand copyright, and teach them about effective research tools.  "Student researchers learn to answer better questions, find real answers, and apply the information they uncover in their work. (p. 50)"  Students also learn ways to curate an share information effectively and efficiently with others.  November makes library media specialists everywhere happy with his discussion of the significance of their role in the process.

Do Individuals Own the Learning?  
It is easy to get caught up in the role of learners in November's work, but I feel there is a bigger point he is making here.  Originally I thought his point was that individuals own the learning, but more and more I feel his point is that groups own the learner.  It is the collaborative community that strengthens the learning and grows the learner.  It's the fact that what each individual does matters to the learning of the entire community.  When I saw Terry Thomas and Jeff Anderson speak at NCTE in 2011, they talked about this collaborative, interdependent, zone of learning in which we can all accomplish greater learning together than individually.  I found it fascinating to consider the way groups scaffold learning.

Collaborative Learning
As I've followed this year's #cyberPD discussion I am struck by two things.  The first is the way the group owns the learning.  This year's #cyberPD hasn't been just about reading and retelling main ideas and key details, instead it has been synthesizing, sharing, pushing, and growing the thinking.  Participants are using applications to create representations of learning, to share deeper thinking, and to find classroom possibilities.  They're collecting posts they've stumbled upon that develop the idea of creating environments in which students TRULY own the learning.  They're commenting to one another, asking questions, rethinking ideas.  Michelle Nero talks about this in her post which discusses the impact of #cyberPD.

The second thing I've noticed is everyone is taking away different pieces (Jog of posts here); making the learning work for them.  Do we let children do this?  How often do we, in our age of standardized testing and response, expect everyone to come away with the same ideas?  Yet, as readers is that even possible?  Is it interesting?  I'm fascinated as I move from post to post and read the take-aways of my colleagues.

In the Primary Classroom
Once again I was left pondering what this means in a primary classroom.  Our notes are often created together on large charts that hang around the room.  Our research is often completed collaboratively.  I'm thinking there are ways I can use the ideas discussed by November to share learning more effectively beyond our learning community with a more global audience.

  • Connector:  (similar to work of scribe) finds connections to learning outside of our classroom and shares them either through blog, video, or audio.  
  • Photo Team:  (similar to scribe) take pictures of learning and choose daily photo (or weekly collection) to share with others
  • Reflector:  (similar to scribe, but more about synthesis) shares learning in narrative video format or VoiceThread as a resource for friends in the learning community, but also to help parents and other classroom communities know about what we are learning
  • Wonder Team:  (similar to researcher) perhaps a wonder team could collect wonders, choose one to research, and search for answers to share with the community
These are some possibilities for helping to strengthen the learning within the community while sharing learning outside the community.  


  1. November's ideas about student as researcher and your idea about a wonder team connect to my latest thought after reading other's thinking about using wonder, curiosity, and research to get to know our kids at the start of the school year. I just blogged about how to promote an intellectual community with our new students right from the beginning of the year....which supports the community owning the learning, not just the individual.

    Thanks again for hosting!

  2. Love your post! "The group owns the learning" -- what a powerful concept. I think it explains why I am so invested when collaborating/learning with my different PLNs.
    I will be anxious to see how assigning roles in the classroom works. I generally shy away from doing that with learning, but the four groups you have chosen make a lot of sense.
    Though I am not actually writing posts of my own for Who Owns the Learning, I have so enjoyed reading the smart thinking of those who are sharing. Thanks so much!!

  3. Cathy - The ideas of connector, photo team, reflector, and wonder team are perfect for primary classrooms. Thanks for the great thoughts today. Pat Johnson

  4. Cathy,

    I totally agree with you that this year's #cyberpd has moved to a new level of learning. I think this is what we are hoping for in our classrooms and will have to work to find ways to create an environment that will support this type of learning.

    Perhaps we should make signs that say "the group owns the learning" for our classrooms. (Although as I was typing that it felt a little like a campaign you might see in a futuristic YA novel.)

  5. Echoing the comments above I agree-the comments and posts are lifting my thinking to a much higher level. I appreciate your "It is the collaborative community that strengthens the learning and grows the learner." because that is where I am focused on building this year. Thanks for your comment on my post.

  6. I enjoyed the 'new' titles and responsibilities you've created for your primary classroom. I need to check out VoiceThread especially so I can show the primary teachers I work with. It's amazing to read everyone's thinking about this, Cathy. I'm so glad I am reading the book, but it's much more fun to see everyone's thinking, too!

  7. Cathy,
    Yes, yes, and yes! Thank you for your synthesis of the two roles of students and then opening my eyes to the idea of individuals collaboratively as a group own the learning. In my mind I was thinking that individuals own the learning, but as a group grow in learning. Similar yet still different. That gives me more to think about . . .

    I completely agree with you about making the learning work for us à la #cyberPD and how our students can benefit. I made that connection again today in my reflection. If it works for us, how can we make it work for our students - expanding the learning walls to push our thinking and learning? There is no standardized way of learning!

    The four jobs you mentioned are definitely viable in a primary classroom. I'm thinking I could do something similar to the photo team (capturing our learning and thinking charts) and reflector (talking about our learning) -- both would continue to encourage listening and communicating -- all shared on a new blog/wiki.

    As always, thanks for sharing your insightful learning and pushing my thinking.

  8. Love your job titles! And I love the way you stood back and analyzed our process as adult learners in #CyberPD. It is fascinating and freeing to know that I can focus the bits that resonate for me...and trust that others will lift my thinking beyond that level.

  9. Cathy-
    I think we definitely need to redefine the classroom jobs for the 21st century. Kids used to fight to be the messenger. Now I can see them wanting to be a part of the Wonder Team, or any of the other jobs you described. And if they work as teams it would involve everyone!
    Thanks for helping me grow.

  10. I love how you really zeroed in on the big picture of November's work - "It's the fact that what each individual does matters to the learning of the entire community." The four jobs you listed really bring things together nicely! I might just have to borrow them... ;) Matt Gomez often says that his favorite digital tool is a camera. All too often, I forget how powerful pictures can be in our classrooms. Thanks for the reminder!

  11. Cathy,

    You mention that there has been a shift in the interactivity and synthesis of information this year in #CyberPD, and I agree. I think part of this is becoming more comfortable with the venues available, but even more so, becoming comfortable with share with an unseen audience and re-imagining what an online book club could look like. The past two years have built trust and confidence in the community. Plus, we have been exposed to different ways of thinking, that paves the way for innovation.

    I've participated and attended the University of Michigan's Teachers Teaching Teachers Technology Conference (4TVirtCon)for the last 3 years. Here too I've seen this shift. You can learn about the conference here -

    The first year, most presenters, including me, presented like we do at most face to face conferences - power point with lecture style presentations. The organizers of the conference have worked hard to encourage and train presenters on using interactive strategies when presenting, so conference participants are more involved. It was a shift for all of us to think about changing the paradigm of presenting to interacting.

  12. Cathy,
    I LOVE your new class jobs and have been thinking about ways to include similar things in my class. Our first unit is all about how we organize our work place, so it will be interesting to see how this year's class develop class jobs with some of my new thinking.

  13. I think we can get to a place where students can have individualized learning that they co-create. Darren speaks about "shift of control", and I think this is the key. The issues are the same at all educational levels. At the high school level, for example, many English teachers require that all students in the class read the same novel at the same time. How does this pedagogy support voice and identity which leads to motivation and engagement? The shift of control from whole class reads to individual choice reading does not involve technology, but it supports a new way of conceiving teaching and learning. If we can give our students that measure of control ie read to self, then we can push to relinquish other tasks/jobs/events in order to build a learning community that is both collaborative and independent.

  14. Many pieces in this post caught my attention and elevated my thinking.
    "It is the collaborative community that strengthens the learning and grows the learner. It's the fact that what each individual does matters to the learning of the entire community." This is something that is evident right here in #cyberPD. Why is it I often forget to look at works for us in the real world and apply it to the classroom? Thanks for the reminder. Now I am pondering how to help the kids see their learning and struggles are powerful for everyone in our community.

    Can I just get a Amen for this next piece-
    "How often do we, in our age of standardized testing and response, expect everyone to come away with the same ideas? Yet, as readers is that even possible? Is it interesting? I'm fascinated as I move from post to post and read the take-aways of my colleagues." I really struggle with the cookie cutter approach standardized testing creates. Do we really want everyone the same? Do we value only type of intelligence?

    Thanks for sharing your thinking and pushing me to think deeper and helping me see the bigger picture!

  15. Love your reflection. I am fortunate to take part of cyperpd this summer. You are right we are a community of learner and we will learn more by reflecting on each others' learning. I am finally catching up to reading the blogs.

  16. Cathy,
    You've really "brought it all home" in your reflection here. I agree that the group owns the learning as we've all pushed each other to the next level-and I appreciate how we've followed a differentiated approach-this is great because you (Jill and Laura) could have set parameters and made our learning more convergent-directing us to a certain idea. Instead, you let us come to our own learning! You set the bar high by leading as examples for all of us.
    Thank you for all of your thinking here. I love the roles that you've defined as well. I am thinking about how those will be a part of my ideals.

  17. Cathy,

    Thank you for the ideas of possible jobs primary students could have. These will be useful as I continue thinking about shifting the ownership in my own classroom.

    Your statement, "this year's #cyberPD hasn't been just about reading and retelling main ideas and key details, instead it has been synthesizing, sharing, pushing, and growing the thinking" stood out to me. The group isn't just "talking the talk", we are "walking the walk."

    Thank your for continuing to push my thinking.


  18. I enjoyed reading your reflection and parallel points of view from Junior to Primary. Collaborators and reflectors at the primary level. Love the idea of capturing by voice and picture as well as collaborating with a larger audience.