Bringing Students Together in the 21st Century

On Tuesday, October 13th Jared Colley and Joel Garza presented their idea for an interactive and engaging assignment in English that resulted in a new community of students.   The original idea was to host a conference for students to share their work with students from different schools.   This would give them a real audience to deliver the information to and receive feedback from.  After a lot of back and forth, they ended up with a digital solution for the 21st century students.

After their e-mail exchanges, they decided to have all the students read the same texts and communicate with each other through media.  They would ask each other questions, present their ideas and critique each other’s work.   The classes started by communicating through MP3 files but they discovered they did not want to wait so long to hear from one another, and the blog site was born.  The blog site allowed the instructors to post helpful information and pose questions to students in other schools instantly.  What eventually happened is the students took over the blog modeling the instructor behavior.  The results were fantastic.  Students loved having a live audience.  They challenged each other, encouraged each other and felt great pride when students in one of the other schools gave them compliments.  A sports analogy made during the presentation may help to convey this.  In sports, the game allows the players to meet with athletes from other schools to display their talents and recognize their weaknesses.  The collaboration in the English classroom let this same process happen.

In addition to the benefits this experience provided the students, the teachers also made their own discoveries.  The communication among the teachers lead to a much more insightful call for papers than any one of them would have come up with on their own.  They pushed themselves to learn new technologies that today’s students are interested in and some students currently use.  Using these technologies resulted in lessons on digital literacy which is so important for students.  The teachers were also pushed to work through the different anxieties they felt about using technology, comparing their teaching abilities to others, having their students share their work with the world and once they worked through all of this, great things happened.

These types of assignments give students the opportunity to build a network outside of their classroom.  They are challenged in new and exciting ways that fit into their lifestyle.  They are forced to think about digital literacy along during the assignment which they may not have otherwise gotten from the course.  Collaboration and communication like this should not be limited to the English classroom.  During the presentation, teachers were chatting about how to get started.  What ideas do you have?  I posted a couple of links below that I think are a great place to start.

Skype other classrooms: http://www.theedublogger.com/want-to-connect-with-other-classrooms/

Blog other classrooms: http://www.theedublogger.com/check-out-these-class-blogs/

Speak with others in a different language: http://en-us.wespeke.com/language-learners/index.html

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