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Category — Technology Links

Please Join the Seedlings!


Please join the SEEDlings at 8:00 PM EST on June 2 for Summertime and Your Personal Learning Network, a free webinar from PBS and Classroom 2.0.

Click Here to join the session.

June 1, 2009   No Comments

Article at Media Infusion

I’ve posted an article at PBS’ Media Infusion’s blog called, “4 Weeks to a Flatter Us” (as a follow-up to last year’s “4 Weeks to a Flatter You”). Please leave comments at the Media Infusion page as I’d love to continue the conversation there!

June 2, 2008   No Comments

There, Not There

 (cross-posted at TechLearning)

My daughter reflected on a learning experience with me the other day. She was talking about the last play she was in (she played a chicken) and was explaining why the entire cast got so much better by the last show of the run. She thought they had always been doing a “pretty good job” but really hit their stride when they performed in front of an audience made up entirely of 8th graders. The oldest children in the cast were no higher than 8th graders and the youngest were in 3rd grade, so they were playing to peers and older peers and what they quickly found in the beginning of the performance was that they needed to “step it up.” Eighth graders aren’t easily impressed and the laughs that the cast was getting in earlier performances for younger kids and their own generous parents and families were suddenly missing. Rather than panic, an unspoken plan of attack spread across the stage: make it bigger; make it funnier; make it better; throw more energy into everything. And it worked. By the middle of the show, they were receiving chuckles, and by the end, actual laughs.

I gave a lot of thought to my daughter’s assessment of the performance and I came up with a conclusion: that no matter how supportive we parents and family members were trying to be, we were in some way holding our children back. They were very safe with us in the audience, perhaps receiving our laughs and responses without having to work their hardest due to our already overflowing adoration for our kids. A necessary step in their growth, to be sure, but they didn’t really reach their peak until we left them entirely alone to fend for themselves. The actors felt good when they performed for the audiences that included family, but they felt really INCREDIBLE when they performed for those eighth graders.

Watching some 3rd and 4th graders working with video the other day was a highlight in my week. They were reviewing the footage that they had taken and were critiquing the work. Initially, their teacher led the discussion, but soon, he “got out of the way” and they continued —in kind and caring language— to provide feedback for each other’s shots and writing and set challenges for future work. One of the reasons this class is so successful in doing this is clearly credited to the teacher’s year long work on helping to build a strong community in his classroom. But a more important reason, I believe, is his willingness to “get out of the way” in order to let them raise the bar for each other by candidly identifying what improvements were needed. Perhaps, much like my daughter’s cast, these students were able to stretch themselves more by responding to the critique of their peers than they would from their teacher, or an adult.

Thanks to the Internet, students are able to get constructive criticism from a multitude of audiences. We’ve heard it time and time again that using a tool like blogs or podcasts, drives students to work harder and to challenge themselves because the whole world might be listening or reading their work. It is a much more enduring and difficult task to write for an unknown global audience than it is to write for an audience of one, the classroom teacher. In watching the video class the other day, those students got very serious about their work because they realized that the footage wasn’t just for laughs and giggles among themselves, but was geared to a more critical audience.

I believe that as teachers we have the duty to open up our classrooms to a larger audience in order to provide our students opportunities for many voices of feedback rather than limiting them to the one that we can provide. This doesn’t necessarily need to take place on the Internet; it could be conducted with another local school or another classroom, for instance. However, in bringing the students’ work to the Internet, we are preparing them with an authentic arena for offering up the fruits of their efforts, preparing them with and for a medium that will ultimately be unavoidable in their futures.

Another essential responsibility for the teacher is to oversee and moderate the audience feedback delivered to the students. We want to garner constructive criticism and make sure we weed out any damaging and incendiary comments. This is a rare event for many student blogs, but if we look at some of the harsh feedback on a site like YouTube, we must admit that not all feedback is geared to assist or encourage. However, along with keeping such things as Spam and hatred away, we must also help our students learn the skills necessary to cope with the range of responses they will receive.

It’s a delicate balancing act for parents and teachers to help prepare students for their futures. It’s knowing when to protect and guide and knowing when to step back and leave them alone.


…rachel…. “spot-on” Flickr – Photo Sharing. 10 Apr. 2006. 17 May 2008 .

May 22, 2008   4 Comments