Last week I had the opportunity to visit a seventh grade social studies class at Felix Festa Middle School and observed a group of thirty students purposefully using a full set of Google Chromebooks as part of their study of Harriet Tubman.
The students were at their desks and logged on to Google Apps even before the late bell rang. The wireless access was rock solid (http://goo.gl/T0Owt) and students were collaborating on summarizing and synthesizing information from various research articles they read online.
As I walked around the room and observed the various ways in which the students were engaged, it was evident that they were thoroughly self motivated and comfortable in a domain with which they are quite familiar. I observed them referring back to the articles and used “close reading” strategies to further analyze the content. In my conversations with the teacher after the class ended, we agreed that the level of work was significantly more meaningful to the students and reflected a deeper understanding of the subject.
It is no surprise that online collaborations with others can elevate a student’s performance and provide experience in a vital college and career skill. By expanding purposeful and authentic learning opportunities, we increase the likelihood that our students’ learning will have meaning and context, and that their knowledge will go well beyond the minimum expectations of state exams.