Sunday, March 1, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: Growing Communities in Digital Spaces

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link.  

As technology and educational practice evolve I find myself constantly asking new questions. Are the changes I am making improving education for children?  Are the changes I am making helping learners to build connections with other learners?  Do these changes give children more control and ownership of their learning and work?  Is what I am doing best practice or am I just working in old ways in a new space?  

I think we constantly have to ask ourselves if this practice is empowering children in new ways.  If we are just delivering content in the same way, we have missed an opportunity to create spaces that provide information, share resources, encourage interaction and put students in charge of their learning.

One of the greatest gifts of digital spaces is the power to connect.  Digital spaces allow us to connect in new ways within, and beyond, our learning community.  Digital spaces equalize the voices in our learning community.  Everyone can contribute, ask questions, and seek more information.  Digital spaces allow learners to not only create and share with others, but to receive and give feedback to other learners in authentic ways.

Learning in digital spaces can create possibilities for students to own their learning in new ways.  In digital spaces, students can own the work they are producing and collaborate with other learners.  They create content for, not just their teacher, but for a much larger audience.  They can choose learning opportunities that match their personal interests and fit their needs.  They can find answers and revisit challenging material in digital spaces.

Joining Digital Learning Communities:  Slice of Life
Our Slice of Life Writing Group
New connections are possible in digital spaces.  This week begins the Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Two Writing Teachers host this challenge on their blog, connecting writers and classrooms around the world as they work to write every day in March.  This will be my fourth year in the challenge, and my second year to have a group of students to join the event.  The digital space hosted by Two Writing Teachers will allow us to connect to other classrooms and writers.  We will give and receive feedback from a variety of people, and learn new things about ourselves as writers along the way.

In this event, children aren't writing for the teacher; they are truly writing for an audience that reaches beyond the teacher.  Through the event they will connect with other writers.  They'll learn the power of their message and ways to get people to respond to their writing.  They'll understand the importance of making their writing clear and easier for someone else to read.  The process, and the feedback they will receive, will change them as writers.

Creating a Hub
Anytime I work with a community of learners, I think it is important to create some type of hub.  This is a digital space everyone knows they can visit for links to other spaces, important updates, and other  information that becomes useful as we work together.  Typically I use Weebly to create hubs with student learners.  In the case of Slice of Life, I chose Weebly for my hub as it will allow me to create a page for updates, links, information, insert video, and build a space useful for writers.  By adding a page to my Merely Reading website, I can easily bring together our community by putting all information in one space:  March Slice of Life Challenge.  On our page you'll find:    

Students learn to start at the hub.
Once students arrive at the site, they can click the blue
button to get our blogging space.

Buttons will take students directly to the
blogs of friends participating in the event. 

Here we will grow important links to other
participating classrooms and build resources for
helping writers.

The page allows me to continually
share important information with students
and families.  (Yes, snacks are important.)

I can also create short video tutorials
to answer questions commonly asked by students.
(I can also post video created by students here as well.)

This year my group of writers are students in grades 1-5.  They come from a variety of classrooms, and have a varying amount of knowledge of writing and digital publication.  For this reason, I know I will need space to create short video tutorials and share important updates.

New Possibilities
Digital spaces allow us grow our learning communities so students can access information outside of our school day.  Writers will be able to go to the website from anywhere, at anytime, to get to their digital writing spaces, access important information, receive help, and connect to other writers.  These possibilities completely shift the dynamic of learning.  No longer are conversations only teacher to student, but instead student to student, student to community, student to world.   Digital spaces make new things possible for young learners as they work meaningfully to discover, learn, curate, collaborate, create, and connect in purposeful ways.


  1. This is so great and piggy backs well with my post today. We are expanding the world for our students. I am so curious about your Weebly work. We have so many restrictions in our district internet use that only edublogs and kidblogs are open sites for my students during the school day. I hope more and more of them access outside the school day, but I haven't seen much activity. Any advice? I do not want to require it because some do not have access. And some parents do not allow their children on their computer. It's a dilemma. Thanks again for joining the round up.

  2. It's like you have a window into my brain! I need your help. Can we google hangout asap? I have been asked to help create a way (for teachers who have been through the Maine Writing Project) to hold an online writing workshop. This looks like the way. Remember? I was asking you about how to use Google+ this way? I need help and I want to be able to talk to you. Do you use google hangout? Do you use Voxer? Please send me a message at kagmoran at gmail