Tom Barrett in his short and engaging book Can Computers Keep Secrets? How a Six-Year-Old’s Curiosity Could Change the World, poses a number of examples of the engagement of children in posing “what if” questions, and exploring imaginative possibilities as a way of developing understanding of the world (Barrett, 2013). He advises all of us to consider the role of playfulness in learning.
Many teachers introducing knowledge networking experiences into their classrooms and building on this concept of engagement, adding a layer of serious skill development and giving their students an authentic voice. One educator who exemplifies this is Silvia Tolisano, who blogs about her experiences in working with technology to enable her students to develop knowledge networks (Tolisano S. R., 2015).
The case studies she shares indicate the planning that must take place before starting this type of learning journey in order to gain the maximum benefit. Skyping an expert from any field requires preparation with the individual concerned, and also with the students. Most skyping experiences work best if the students have specific roles in both facilitating and recording the processes involved (Tolisano S. R., Amplifying Learning Opportunities: Part III of Literature Circles:, 2013). Using a service such as https://education.skype.com/partners/14-penguin-books teachers can link their class to an appropriate expert to provide authentic discussion.
Having experienced a mystery Skype lesson as an adult, the excitement of the challenge, the online “conversation” and the desire to beat the others to work out the solution are powerfully engaging (https://education.skype.com/mysteryskype). Setting this up in advance as the teacher, and allocating roles to the class members ensures all are involved and the learning is central to the process (Tolisano S. R., Framing a Skype Learning Experience, 2011).
Tolisano provides a framework for teachers to use to assess the desired learning outcomes from such an experience (Tolisano S. R., Amplifying Learning Opportunities: Part III of Literature Circles:, 2013)
She has analysed the learning that arises from a Twitter experience:
This ensures that learning is assessed against rigorous expectations. A rubric for teachers to use when assessing such skill sets can be found here (Evidence of Learning in the 21st Century Classroom, Classroom Observation Rubric To Guide Leadership for Learning by Instructional Leaders, 2008) .
Other educators are also blogging about a wide range of activities which go beyond just linking up with other locations and contacting an author. Shannon McLintock Miller’s Rainbow loom project, for example, contains links to schools in another country as well as within the students’ own country (Miller, 2014). Again the entire project has been carefully weighed up in terms of learning outcomes.
Such educators provide crucial skill development across a broad spectrum of education for the students in their care. Their wok deserves emulation in a wide range of classrooms.
Barrett, T. (2013). Can Computers Keep Secrets? How A Six-Year-Olds Curiosity Could Change The World. Edinburgh: No Tosh.
Evidence of Learning in the 21st Century Classroom, Classroom Observation Rubric To Guide Leadership for Learning by Instructional Leaders. (2008, July 13). Retrieved May 22, 2015, from Gallileo Initiatives: http://www.galileo.org/initiatives/publications/21st_century_classroom_rubric.pdf
Miller, S. M. (2014, January 28). Our Rainbow Loom Research Project Is Going Global and Bringing A Whole Lot Of Happy With It! Retrieved May 22, 2015, from Van Meter Library Voice: http://vanmeterlibraryvoice.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/our-rainbow-loom-research-project-is.html
Tolisano, S. R. (2011, February 6). Framing a Skype Learning Experience. Retrieved May 18, 2015, from Langwitches Blog: http://langwitches.org/blog/2011/02/06/framing-a-skype-learning-experience /
Tolisano, S. R. (2013, November). Amplifying Learning Opportunities: Part III of Literature Circles:. Retrieved from Curriulum 21: Mapping the Curriculum of the Future: http://www.curriculum21.com/2013/11/amplifying-learning-opportunities-part-iii-of-literature-circles/