Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"WE" Own the Learning: #cyberPD

Today is the final post for our #cyberPD discussion of Who Owns the Learning:  Preparing Students for the Digital Age by Alan November.  Today's discussion about chapters 5 and 6 will be hosted by Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate.  If you'd like to join the conversation stop by Laura's blog to comment or link your post.  You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag:  #cyberPD.

You can find last week's conversation at Jill Fisch's blog, and the first week was hosted here.  Other #cyberPD information:

  • Our Event Jog:  Collection of all #cyberPD posts
  • Our Pinterest Board:  A collaborative board with #cyberPD related pins
  • Final Chat:  Our final Twitter chat, #cyberPD, will be Monday, July 22nd 8PM EST

"WE" Own the Learning
I suppose the digital shift began about four years ago for me.  When I think about the changes since this time I realize the biggest change hasn't been the digital tools, it has been the learning community.  Yes, we use Kidblog, Shelfari, Weebly, Pixie, PhotoBooth, and other tools for learning, but sometimes students still prefer markers, crayons, pencils, and scissors.  Our attention isn't on the tool, but on the message we want to share with others and the best way to share it.  All the changes have really stayed grounded in solid pedagogy from authors like Debbie Miller, Fountas & Pinnell, Katie Ray, Donald Graves, Stephanie Harvey, Regie Routman, Troy Hicks, and many others.  

The shift toward digital learning has required us to consider purpose and audience more thoughtfully.  This shift has resulted in students having more ownership of their learning, more choice in creating, more ways to collaborate, a great number of tools for communication at their fingertips, as well as a new learning dynamic which is much more student-to-student and much less teacher-to-student.  Now students work more for one another and our community has become much more about the learners in our classroom.  I hear them asking about friends' posts, requesting friends to read their latest writing, and going to each other for answers.  I've loved it!  

Global Empathy
As I've read November's book, I've realized this shift isn't enough.  Reading this book has made me realize that I now need to make the next shift toward more global learning and collaboration.  Not only do we need to support each other in learning, but we need to share our learning, and rely more on the resources available beyond our classroom.  

"A group can have intelligence that can be more (or less) than the sum of its members' intelligence. Group intelligence is related to...the average social sensitivity of the group. (p. 96)"  Peter Johnston 
November reminds us that our "group" needs to go beyond our classroom, "We need to start teaching our students global empathy by developing their ability to understand and appreciate other points of view (p. 65)."  One doesn't have to watch the news for too long to know why global empathy is necessary.  What are some ways to "connect...students to the world and to provide them with authentic experiences of working with people from different cultures (November p. 66)?"  
  • Skype is one way to grow our learning community by working with other classrooms and experts.
  • Class Twitter account (@snowleopards1M) will also allow us to follow authors, other learning communities, and content experts as well as to share our learning with others.
  • Weebly will continue to house our shared blog.  I like the way Weebly Pro allows me to have private pages for families, but public pages for sharing, curating, and collaboration (see more here).  
  • ePals:  I don't know much about this, but do plan to check it out.  I'm thinking, however, that collaborating with others classes on Twitter may accomplish the same thing.
  • #globalclassroom:  This is another group I need to learn more about.  I'm thinking Deb Frazier can help me with that.  
The Work & Legacy of Contribution
Participation in #cyberPD always been a positive learning experience, but this year seemed to be a perfect illustration of November's point.  The book taught me much, but the conversation really pushed my thinking as participants shared their take-aways, applied the learning to their educational situations, researched more about topics, discovered applications that might work for learning communities, and gave them a try.  Most of all, participants shared their learning with all of us.  Each step pushed the entire group farther faster.  I will spend the next weeks pondering all they have taught me and know the legacy of this work will live on for me to revisit on our jog and on Pinterest.  

When I begin this school year I will be searching for ways to "redefine the role of the learner as a contributor, collaborator, and leader in the learning culture (November p. 6)" and the global learning community.  


  1. It is great that you already use many tools for capturing students' learning. Good luck on joining a global group. I have tried Global Classroom it is great to join their activities. There is also a global read aloud that your students would enjoy tweeting and sharing reflections on blogs about the book.

  2. Thank you for connecting with Peter Johnston's words, too, Cathy. I also heard Lester Laminack talk at the All-Write Conference, and his words, "differences make us interesting" connect to this as well. Perhaps even more learning about empathy will also help the bullying that happens in our schools? Finally, I like your goal statement at the end-well-said! Thank you!

  3. I always look forward to reading your thoughts, Cathy. Last year I posted a quote from Peter Johnston in my room - Thinking well together leads to thinking well alone. Thanks for helping us all think well together through this cyber PD.

  4. Love the way you connected 2012 and 2013 #cyberPD big ideas!

  5. Cathy,
    You always give such powerful inspiration in your posts. From reading here and on others' comments, I sense your conviction to go global with your students' learning. I thank you for building and encouraging all of the learning for our group as we read and studied the book together.

  6. Going global! So much fun!. The Global Read Aloud is a super event to kick off the year (Sept 30 to Nov 7)

    Another option to explore is Kinderpals, which brings K and grade 1 classes together. Tasha Cowdy is a great source at Yokohama International School (; so is Jason Graham at Bandung International School (; and two Canadian teachers Karen Lireman ( Michelle Hiebert (

    I think we are all going to have an exciting and challenging year. Maybe we should have a day when we could all post an update on how our "Who Owns the Learning?" goals are fairing? November 20th might be a good day because (1) it's November and (2)it's Universal Children's Day ( Kinda cool, eh?

    What are your thoughts?

  7. Cathy,
    Again you composed a very thoughtful post. This comment,

    "Our attention isn't on the tool, but on the message we want to share with others and the best way to share it."

    hit home the most. I think that sometimes in our rush to provide more opportunities for students, we sometimes forget that paper and pencil (or crayons) may be the best tool. It is a recurring struggle that I have. However, what I have learned the last two years is that the power of production doesn't always mean the best way to learn. This is why I have worked hard to create a culture in our room where kids have multiple choices in terms of how to share their learning.


  8. Cathy,
    Maybe it's been my lack of technology in my classroom, but all too often, I still find myself getting wrapped up in the novelty of the tools/apps/sites rather than the learning that should accompany it. I'm hopeful that this will change as I grow and learn more. And I'm pretty sure having 1:1 tablets this year will help. ;) Thank you for continuing to remind me to focus on the learning. I need to remember that.

    Weebly is a tool you've shared (and loved,) and I've finally set mine up. It's really in the baby stage right now, but I'm excited to have the space up and running. I'm going to go back and reread your posts and investigate more.

    It's hard to believe we're wrapping up our third year of #cyberPD. The conversations continue to grow and deepen each year. Thank you for being a fabulous facilitator and co-host!

  9. Cathy,

    After reading your post and the posts of some others, I am looking forward to thinking more about building empathy. Empathy is one of the 5 character traits that we focus on at our school(Empathy, Beneficence, Stewardship, Integrity and Perseverance). I love that others are thinking about it and that this might help me deepen our classroom discussions about it.