Friday, September 2, 2011

Students as Contributors

Last fall, the following tweet grabbed my attention:

As ZPS educators return to classrooms this fall, we have new responsibilities and new opportunities to use technology alongside our students to collaborate, communicate, and create.  For many this is a welcome challenge, but for others there may be a feeling of "how can I add this to my day?"  I'd like to suggest, why not allow your students to assist you with the technology and give them a meaningful role in your classroom?

Alan November has written and spoken on this topic at great length over the past few years and has summarized his thoughts in an article entitled Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm.  In the article he begins by describing the time when we lived in a predominantly agricultural society and children had important roles to fill on farms.  Then, as industrialization began, children began to take on a more "passive role" in society.  He writes:
We have come full circle as globalization quickly becomes the norm, and it may now be essential for our students to compete with peers from around the world. Today, we can restore the dignity and integrity of the child as a contributor. Across the country, pioneering teachers are providing students with new roles that have students making contributions to their learning communities. We have powerful, easy-to-use tools such as screencasting and podcasting that give students opportunities to contribute content to the class. At the same time we can also provide them with rigorous and more motivating assignments and better prepare them to become more productive in our new global economy. It’s an exciting time.
Alan continues by describing six different roles that students can take on in a classroom, roles that challenge students to take ownership and contribute to the learning environment.  In a given week, he suggests giving students roles such as class scribe, tutorial designer, or researcher, to name just three.  Stemming from the article, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano has created a PDF containing visual representations of these six roles, if you'd prefer another way of visualizing the roles (she also wrote a post on recommended screencasting apps for the iPad).  Finally, you may want to check out this thirteen minute video of Alan explaining his thoughts surrounding the idea of students as contributors.

As students return to our classrooms next week, I hope we can all use technology to allow our students to make meaningful contributions to our learning communities.

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