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