For several years I have used Sharon Creech’s novel “Love That Dog” as one of my first read alouds. I love that it introduces the notion that using another person’s words and/or ideas as a springboard to your work is not “copying” but means that you were “inspired by” that person. I know from personal experience how important it is to have models to light that spark for me.
Our district uses Google Apps for Education, and I love it. This year we’ve enjoyed exploring uses for Google Classroom. Recently I gave my students a short writing task. I shared a Doc consisting of a class list of names and asked them to all contribute their ideas. In the past I’ve introduced Google Docs to students by having them all work on the same Doc, but found that dealing with the many complaints (he’s in my spot, she wiped out my writing…) led to many frustrations.
This time was different. Now that my students are very familiar with working with Google Docs, the difficulties were noticeably absent. What was evident was that all of my students, even my most reluctant writers, were busy writing. Why? I wondered.
What I observed was that all of the students were scrolling through all the comments. They were busy reading each other’s work, making connections and using them as the basis for their own writing. They all found inspiration from each other. It was a very quick and successful writing activity, and so I’ve tried it again several times with equally good results. It’s so easy to keep a template of the class list, make a copy to assign through Google Classroom, and have all the students work on their contributions. Everyone writes because they are inspired by each other!
I had another opportunity to reflect on the importance of finding inspiration this week as our staff was fortunate to be given some group planning time around the Learning and Technology Policy Framework focusing on Policy Direction 1: Student-Centred Learning. Each grade level met for an hour and a half for the first of three collaboration opportunities. I was able to arrange coverage for my class for several of the meetings, and loved being part of the process.
As teachers discussed their current curriculum focus, they wanted ideas that would support those outcomes. Having the opportunity to sit together and discuss ideas led to the sharing of
- research projects by Victoria Laird’s Grade 2’s using Funny Movie Maker and Blabberize
- a reading/fluency project using Green Screen by Do Ink by Victoria Laird’s Grade 2’s
- Projects by Jen
- ideas from Skype Classroom
- Virtual Researcher on Call
- Using Easy Blog Jr. with Grade 2 students for blogging (see how easy here!)
- Discussion of possible project using apps such as 30 Hands and Aurasma
- the awesomeness of Twitter for sharing ideas and projects
All of these ideas provided a starting point for our staff to develop projects that are student-centred, personalized and authentic learning opportunities.
Inspiration was the key element of the day. Having the opportunity to see the work done by others, and a willingness to share ideas meant we all left excited and motivated. As we move forward we want to keep this momentum, and are looking at ways to continue sharing examples and ideas. My principal has stepped forward and volunteered to showcase some of our work on her blog, and we hope that all the staff can use these posts to keep up to date on what is happening in the school, and recognize the skill and expertise in our building.
In a busy school with a large staff, it can be difficult to find out about what the class down the hall is doing. I would love to hear about how other schools and staff are meeting this challenge – please leave a comment to share and inspire us!