One of my favorite roles as a librarian is igniting conversations around reading. I especially want students to share their thoughts and opinions about books they have read with classmates as well as other students in the school. With a structured library schedule there is little opportunity for face-to-face discussion other than a few minutes in weekly library class. A colleague and co-advisor of our school’s Best Book Club also felt the need for richer discussion with our 4th-6th grade team members who will read books from the state nominated list then compete with other school district teams in a “Battle of the Books” quiz competition. This school year we introduced book clubs as a way for team members to discuss books in a more engaging and collaborative manner. We invited interested parents and teachers to lead the monthly book clubs. Over the last 3 months, we’ve had parents, principal, district instructional staff, as well as primary and intermediate teachers, find a weekly time before school, after school, or at lunch to lead book clubs with groups of 4-10 students. In my book club, having read the book, Rump, and in feedback from other facilitators, we agree on the same principles: The level of engagement is extremely high, students are motivated, they finish the books, and all participate thoughtfully. We sense they feel valued for their thoughts and opinions. Students from different classes and different grade levels share equally. Because they will eventually compete in the district competition, they share the common goal of learning as much about the book as possible. Students are not just cooperating with one another but are collaborating by working together to create winning teams. Rheingold states that collaboration is the most purposeful means of collective action. People collaborate because their coordination, sharing, and attention to common goals creates something that none of the collaborating parties could have benefited from with collaboration. Collaborators develop and agree on common goals, share responsibility and work together to achieve those goals and contribute resources to the effort (Rheingold, 2012). It made me wonder how we could continue the sharing and collaborating when students aren’t face to face.
This quarter of Seattle Pacific University’s Master’s in Digital Education Leadership Program, I am assigned to understand more deeply each of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) student standards. Using the Practical Inquiry Model for course design, delivery of instruction, and discussion facilitation, the triggering event question tying the ISTE Student Standards: “How can students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others?” was the perfect opportunity to explore communication and collaboration between the Best Book Club students and their reading.
My Triggering Question:
Which digital tool is best for the 4th-6th grade Best Book Club students to share questions and answers as they prepare for the school district’s Battle of the Books competition?
During the exploration stage, I searched for digital resources that support ongoing discussion rather than a quiz format like the popular and fun programs Quizlet and Kahoot. While extremely engaging, these programs don’t fully allow for ongoing collaboration about the books amongst classmates. The article, “Blogging in the 21st-Century Classroom,” encouraged me to consider Kidblog as a resource our students could use. Lampinen suggests that blogging holds students accountable while minimizing stress, is varied enough to keep students engaged and is structured enough while giving freedom to experiment (Lampinen, 2013)Kidblog won the 2013 American Association of School Librarians Best App for Teaching and Learning for Content Creation. AASL states, “It is designed for K-12 teachers who want to provide each student with an individual blog. Students publish posts and participate in academic discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. Students can write for an authentic audience in a safe environment. The interface is easy to use and student-friendly with choice of themes. Posts can be kept private within the “class” or made public. This blogging platform allows teachers to monitor all publishing activity within the classroom blogging community.” Kidblog advertises its program as safe, simple, authentic, and transformative (Kidblog). As I move towards the resolution stage of my inquiry, I look forward to using Kidblog with our Best Book Club team members to share their individual perspectives of the books as well as include great details to support comprehension and thinking. Mallon and Bernstein see the potential value using online collaboration tools as excellent ways to engage students in both virtual and physical classrooms. Online tools not only enable active learning, but also facilitate peer learning (Mallon & Bernsten, 2015). Their ideas support the SAMR model and the blog format specifically reaches the modification stage where student work will demonstrate more – and more varied critical thinking cognitive skills, particularly in areas related to the examination of their own thinking processes.
I look forward to many hits on my inbox as students share and respond their thoughts on the quality children’s literature they are reading via Kidblog. I look forward, too, to further bookclubs that will inspire continued work outside of the meeting where students can add value (and hopefully score points) for our teams.
American Association of School Library (AASL). (n.d.). Best apps for teaching & learning 2013. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/best-apps/2013
Kidblog. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://kidblog.org/home/#why-kidblog
Lampinen, M. (2013, April 8). Blogging in the 21st-Century. Edutopia. Retrieved January 19, 2016, from www.edutopia.org
Mallon, M., & Bernsten, S. (2015). Collaborative Learning Technologies. Instruction Section Tips and Trends. Retrieved from http://acrl.ala.org/IS/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/winter2015.pdf
Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from Proquest ebrary. Web 29 November 2015.