Can you think of a time when you had a question? Of course you can—
Can you think of a time when you had a question but:
A. Couldn’t get a word in edgewise
B. Weren’t quite sure how to word it
C. Thought someone might judge you
D. You actually didn’t have one- but now you do- and it is too late!!!
Questioning. Hands-down the most important skill that will further our learning at any given point in time, yet some learners may have barriers. Consider the pace of thinking among learners in your classroom. Teachers know that students need “wait time” and while that can be challenging to remember sometimes, wait time is only one management strategy. We can have students turn and talk, we can have them journal their current thinking and questioning- but what if the question happens at home? Or interrupts the creative process during an assignment? Asking parents is not always helpful, no matter how willing and intelligent they may be, because the parents were not in the class that day- they have not been read-in on the experiential details!
For us as humans, thoughts can appear and disappear in seconds, no matter our age. Young learners do not necessarily have all the access and all the tools that we have. So let’s give them what they need. Read the following plea of questions, and pause to absorb the imagery it provides:
Mrs. K I am stuck writing about the adveture from the point- of- view of [Sacajawea] . I have no clue I really have no clue. I guest that I have writers block. What should I do about it . I wiil try to thing about what I can do about it. I don’t what I should now. Should I justdo or not. Should I holed off from it or not. I have no clue what to do . Can you please help me please.
A handful of very important things have happened:
First, she is clearly trying to do her best, yet feels stuck, so she aims her question to a trusted source. Second, she thought to USE that source, or was encouraged to-and did-despite struggles with writing. (This probably took her 10 minutes to write.) Third, she didn’t have to cry to a parent to get them to write a note, just to hand it to me the next day with a defeated look. Finally, and most importantly, she could get it off her chest so that the next morning I could greet her and say, “Hey! I got your message. Let me help you later today during Writer’s Workshop.” I mean, it’s one assignment and it’s about the learning, wherever it happens!
How does this happen?
Edmodo is a Social Learning Platform- think secure Facebook for classes/schools Carefully instructing students how to use this platform is key. Knowing that is a learning tool for communication and information sharing is central to its success. Creating a space where teachers and learners can share information in an asynchronous (without time constraints) environment allows process time for ALL. Whether you are the student that is still gaining the confidence to speak up or the student who process at a much slower pace than your peers, you get the benefit of sharing your thinking in your time. Of course, establishing guidelines for appropriate use is extremely important, especially so students and teachers have an understanding about the platform’s purpose and that you will not be sitting at your computer all night at the students’ disposal! The nuts and bolts of use are for another day- today I want to talk about the power it hands to kids by placing this tool in their kit.
A few students have posted questions on the weekend, and perhaps I didn’t see them until Monday, but again- I can still let them know that they have been heard. The few kids on my mind would not necessarily remember the question come Monday morning, for a variety of reasons. But posting it to me on Edmodo gets it in print and in my hands- no strong memory needed! Students with anxiety? This helps in numerous ways! Another student began to find links that enhanced our study of Biographies. He was able to post these so others could benefit. When one girl accessed these sites, she was extremely thankful to the fellow student. I replied, “I am so glad you like information sharing!” She responds, “I don’t just like it, I LOVE it!”
I can post sites for all students to access and catalog in personal libraries called “backpacks” but most importantly I can directly and privately post sites and information to differentiate for individuals. No more asking, “What was that site?” or wondering “I think I typed it in wrong!” However, individuals with “student status” can only post to the whole class. The latter is a feature that is really important for security and teacher monitoring. During an intense class project, I was able to post a poll asking if they felt prepared to move forward, which gave me clear information about their perception of confidence. Edmodo became a home base, teaching us as a class its power for the remainder of the year.
Not all of my students are into it. And that is the best part, because that makes it truly a differentiated tool. We still have a lot to learn, but for now, I will add it to my toolkit.