A class as a team of co-learners

By Anne Collier

…with the focus on the learners, which can certainly include the teacher. This is the conceptual infrastructure, presented in educator Jackie Gerstein’s User-Generated Education blog, for using tech in the classroom. How does it play out? More emphasis on learners and learning, using technology to facilitate that. Starting when a class first meets. Literally – as in everybody really meeting each other. Here’s how Jackie explains it:

“Most classes, starting with about middle school, begin the school year with reviewing the content to be covered, expectations regarding grades, and other academic information provided by the teacher or instructor. The human or social element is often disregarded. What is interesting is that most learners enter the classroom wondering who is in the course. They want to know about the teacher and the people in the class not what material is to be covered. What this says to me as an educator is that it all begins with a social connection – between the educator and the learners, and between the learners themselves.

So she starts with icebreakers using cellphones or whatever technology everybody has access to. See her post for specific activities and the apps or programs she has her students use. I love the texting interviews randomly paired students conduct with each other. Then, as with all good experiential learning, class members reflect on what they experienced, through verbal discussion, personal writing, or thoughts “posted on a Sticky Note Board such as Wallwisher or Wifitti,” programs that collectively project students’ contributions onto a whiteboard or their own screens. It’s a great way to co-establish a classroom culture of respect for all future classwork together. Bonus question: You can see the “online safety” piece of this, right? A place of mutual respect and collaboration is a safer space. . [See also “5th graders teaching us about teaching citizenship.”]

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