I love my seventh graders! They are freakishly AMAZING!!!
If you are new to this blog (If you are a new reader, welcome! Like, 4 people have been here since this blog launched … LOL!), I teach a required course for 7th graders called Library and Technology 7. About a quarter of our course is old-school “library research”–Using call numbers, building bibliographies, taking notes, searching the book catalog, using indexes … You get the point. The rest of the course is about using technology as a tool for learning. Because we have launched a 1:1 laptop initiative with our 7th graders, we decided to tweak our course curriculum. Well … our “tweak,” basically, has turned into a full course re-write and I couldn’t be happier with the results that we’re beginning to see!
My class is in the midst of our “Technology Basics” unit. Interestingly, as we have gone to a 1:1 computing model, our course has become LESS about THE TECHNOLOGY and more about how one becomes technology literate and applies the technology. Much of my classes’ time to this point has been spent working to collaborate on a document that outlines, “What constitutes an education worth having in the 21st century.” They worked in small groups to brainstorm ideas, shared their groups’ ideas in a shared Google Doc, then collaborated as a whole class to synthesize the ideas from the 5 groups into a unified format. They did great collaborating in their small groups and great at posting their groups’ ideas to the Google Doc. When it became time to collaborate as a whole class to put the final ideas together in a unified way, however, they really struggled to overcome their instinct to defer to me as the teacher. A classmate would make a suggestion and 15 sets of eyes would turn toward me and wait for me to say something. I consciously refused to take the reins and forced them to figure out the way that collaboration would work for them as a learning community.
I finally gave up and had to say, “Hey folks, I need to go to the restroom so you all keep talking and figure out how you need to proceed. Keep in mind, though, that we need to finish this by the end of class.” I then left them to work it out and got a cup of coffee (my classroom computer lab is next door to the library work room so I wasn’t far away). I came back 10 minutes later to find that they had worked out three broad categories into which all of their groups’ ideas could be worked and they had divided up the tasks. Some kids were finding images (“because we don’t just want a whole big poster of words …”); some kids were re-writing and formatting the text so that it had a consistent voice; and some kids were working together to build a Wordle image so it could go on the final document.
It was CRAZY! And it was AWESOME!
This is our document!
It is odd. At the end of a class, I sometimes feel like I didn’t teach anything and yet … I think my kids are far more engaged and that they are learning SO much more than ever before. I feel, sometimes, like I’ve become so much less “necessary.” And isn’t that the point?
As teachers, I think that the best gift that we can give our kids is to teach them so that we make ourselves obsolete. Then our kids can end up on an island with no adults like in The Lord of the Flies … Except with a happy ending!!!