Saturday, June 12, 2010

RIch Teaching Interactive Tasks: New Zealand and the USA

Mrs LindaYollis, is a classroom teacher from California, USA.  I've always enjoyed her class site for not only the variety of resources and work that she's posted but also the interactive nature of her students work and site.  I've spoken about this before but a recent exchange between our classrooms has reinforced to me about how vital it is to involve your students in a rich collaborative task.

Having been online now for three years its fair to say there are a significant number of classrooms online.  I try and get out and about as much as possible, leaving comments on students work, and having the members of my classroom do the same but generally I only persist if there's comments and communication coming back the other way.  One of the things that initially caused me to connect to Will Chamberlain, Joe McClung and Jarrod Lamshed from At the Teachers Desk was the fact that amongst these educators there was feedback and feedforward for the students in our classroom from the point of first contact.

Mrs Yollis has take time and care to respond to comments that we've left on her site and highlight the contribution that individual students have made.  I have seen the affect this has had on our students and how well they have responded to it.  Early this year Mrs Yollis and her class produced a video entitled 'Lets Learn Spanish'.  While we could have responded, and we did respond by commenting, I felt that it would be an excellent opportunity to film our students in an interactive example.  We did so and the students were really enthused and engaged by the task.   Mrs Yollis also mentioned the fact that they would do something similar with one of our tutorials.  Lo and behold on Thursday we found a video that was produced in response to work that we have posted online.

As far as I am concerned this ticks all the boxes in terms of being a higher order activity for our students. Its empowering, the students have had a meaningful experience, its involved our students as global citizens and they've made a meaningful contribution (in forms of teaching) to students in another part of the world. I would implore everyone reading this to think about this in terms of commenting and interacting with other classroom sites.   While the commenting is a vital part of the learning process just as important is interacting with students in a collaborative sense, if you haven't tried something like this think about it, I cannot recommend it enough! On an educational level I would also like to thanks Mrs Yollis and her class for their help with this work.


Linda Yollis said...

Dear Mr. Webb,

I agree! There are many educational blogs out there these days, but what really takes it to the next level is the interaction.

The comment section is one of the best parts about blogging. My class follows other classroom blogs, like yours, and we try to comment as frequently as we can. Often classes comment back to us, and before you know's a community. It is as if we are all in the same building.

I find that students are very curious to see what other classes are learning and my students are definitely interested in sharing. It is a teacher's dream.

This type of interaction also validates for students that there really is an authentic audience out there. What they're producing is important. I think that kind of validation makes students want to rise up and contribute/create more. At least that has been my experience.

Finally, I think this type of interaction helps teach students how to be positive participants in an online community. The way the world is moving toward more social activity online, the skills required to be a contributor online are more important than ever.

Keep up the great work!

Linda Yollis

Kathleen McGeady said...

Dear Mr Webb,

My Grade Two class has had the privilege to work with Mrs Yollis' class for over a year now.

I agree that global collaborations are the richest and most authentic learning tasks that can be had in the classroom.

I agree with Linda that online interactions really create a sense of community and allow the students to have an authentic audience for their work.

My Grade Two students have learnt so much from interacting with their blogging buddies overseas.

It does not surprise me how committed Linda has been to responding to your work - she is amazing!

Keep up your great work!

Kathleen McGeady

Kelly Jordan said...

Hi Mr Webb,

I also have a class blog ( have followed Mrs Yollis' blog, amongst others, for the past few months. My students love to blog and particularly like to receive comments on our blog as a form of feedback and positive reinforcement for the great work they do.

It really is "blogging ettiquette" to reply to comments on class blogs to keep the interaction alive. I try very hard to make sure any questions that arise from other bloggers on our class blog are answered. While time constraints in a crowded curriclum can make this difficult I have one suggestion. This year, I have several students who are fantastic commenters and often reply to other comments independently. They often do this at home in their own time which is wonderful! This frees me up and takes the pressure off me having to reply to every comment. It also builds my students' skills so it's a great solution! I would encourage other teachers to "train up" a handful of students (or indeed your whole class!) to get this happening for you too.

Keep blogging,

Kelly Jordan

NZWaikato said...

@ Mrs Yollis - I agree completely about the importance of interaction and what a rich tasks it is for students, that's why I wanted to highlight the interaction here, its my hope that others will consider it by reading it here!
@ Kathleen McGeady - I have found Mrs Yollis to be an awesome collaborator and love her class site, and we've loved like your class having the interaction that you have had with her, she's a great online educator and I will have to check our your class page as well.
@ Kelly Jordan, yes interaction is blogging etiquette but there are so many people for a variety of reasons that don't follow up interaction which can be frustrating, because I have been online for three years or so now I suppose I would say that I pick and choose about who I interact with the emphasis being the fact that you do tend to communicate with those who are communicating with you.