Content Collaboration in the elementary classroom

This semester I am in the midst of my secondary fieldwork at Ithaca High School. Nearly every day that I have been there, the librarians have been engaged in teaching content collaboration tools to students. I have been a part of multiple lessons using wikis and student blogs for classroom projects. Students use google drive for nearly everything, both to organize their own learning and to collaborate on projects. This is not to imply that every high school teacher is taking advantage of these tools. But content collaboration tools are so much a part of the school culture, and how students work and think, that it is impossible to envision the school without them.

When I compare the high school scene to my experience with elementary fieldwork, the contrast is stark. At the particular K-5 school where I spent my hours, I did not witness a single classroom, teacher, or project making use of these tools. To a certain extent, it makes sense that these tools would be used more extensively by older students. However, I’m very interested in how wikis, student blogs, group space, Skype, etc. can be introduced at the elementary level. Although elementary students would need more scaffolding in order to use these tools appropriately, they stand to benefit immensely in terms of motivation, peer connections, and authentic writing practice through their increased exposure. If I become a librarian at the elementary level, I will make it one of my goals to increase teacher, administrative, and student comfort level with content collaboration tools.

Here are just a few ideas that jump to mind:

  • Skype an author, Skype an expert, Skype a classroom across the globe: this idea has come up in earlier class discussions, but I mention it again because it’s such a stellar way to enlarge the horizons of the educational setting.
  • Blog those reading journals: many elementary classrooms require a reading response journal for reflections on independent reading. The same assignment in blog form, with peer interaction, would add new life to this somewhat deadly old standard.
  • Google docs for playwriting (and everything else…): The 4th graders in the district work in groups to compose original plays. This has been done somewhat painfully with pen and paper. A collaborative composition space would add convenience and motivation to the process.
  • Library wiki with book reviews: having students share their opinions and suggestions for pleasure reading is something I hope every librarian will take on. A wiki could be a perfect way to organize this process.

Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg. By working closely with willing teachers, I hope to find a thousand other ways to incorporate content collaboration tools into the elementary classroom. If you are looking for more details on this topic, I found this to be a helpful starting point: http://wikibin.org/articles/online-collaboration-tools-in-elementary-education.html

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Content Collaboration in the elementary classroom

  1. I love all of your ideas for using content collaboration tools in the elementary school! I also had a similar experience in my practicum in that there was basically no use of these tools. You mentioned that in your high school the students use Google drive for just about anything and I think this is a great tool for students! One of my projects at my practicum Middle school is to introduce the teachers to Google docs because most of them don’t know this tool exists and they are stuck emailing files and lesson plans to each other and themselves from school. We should not only be teaching the students how to use these tools, but the teachers as well, because you never know what tools they might not be aware of and you can introduce them to tools that will make their lives easier!

    • Erin, great point about many teachers needing to learn about these tools as well! Sharing the possibilities provided by collaborative tools with students and staff and community members, etc. will be a huge goal as we enter school library jobs someday.

  2. Milly I’m really glad that you listed book reviews. I’ve been working with my supervising librarian and the lower school librarian to integrate more technology tools for collaborative learning and simply to enhance lessons when relevant. We’ve been using the Destiny catalog functionality to have students post reviews and rate books with the five star system provided. However, what if Destiny, metatags, and wiki-like book reviews could be better integrated?! Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have a library catalog where you could write a review that you could develop collaboratively while adding tags and have it directly aligned with the catalog listings? It would be like combining several Web 2.0 tools. In any case, I thought you made some excellent points with examples about translating collaborative tools to the elementary environment. Check out the Google Chrome apps to enhance Google Drive!

  3. Jessica

    Milly great points about elementary tools for collaboration. I thought it was great you mentioned book reviews. I’ve been working with my supervising librarian on a lesson in a unit where students are reading book reviews and writing them in the Destiny catalog with the five star system. However, how cool would it be if Destiny integrated a wiki-like structure for the book reviews with meta tags! I guess that would require more interconnection between tools and for Follett to release some control. So yes, I’m dreaming but I’m so glad you pointed this out and thanks for sharing your ideas. Check out Google Chrome’s apps if you haven’t already to enhance Google Drive!

  4. Marilyn Arnone

    Thanks for sharing your story and experience with elementary schools not using the available tools much. I think this would be a great in-service training opportunity for you when you get your own library!

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