I've posted about my daughter a few times, but as a refresher, Rylee will be 7 this month and is in the first grade at Northeast Hamilton. I don't teach elementary, but so many of my experiences come from that level through my own children and the people I work with, that from time to time I feel that I have enough authority to make observations.
Rylee started blogging recently. She lives the life of a teacher's daughter and is often stuck at school with me for much longer than she'd like. The other day she was particularly chatty and I was particularly busy, so I asked her if she'd like to blog. She was intrigued, so I quickly created a new blog, put her name on it, and set her up to type. At 4:15 she was still typing and I was ready to go. I had to promise her we could save it and work on it the next day before she would consent to come home! We came to school early the next day so she could keep typing. Twenty minutes later I had to cut her off from her "proof-reading" (and proof read it myself) before I could get her to go down to class.
Later I showed her that I had shared her post on Twitter and Facebook and she was ecstatic to learn that 32 people had viewed her blog - her writing - her creation! In pro blogger world you can laugh at 32, but to a 6 year old girl from small town Iowa it might as well have been a million. She was back at it the next day, sharing it with my husband, sharing it with her teacher, and planning what her next post would be about. She wanted to know when we could stay at school again to work on the computer so she could write on her blog.
Her experience got me thinking about how important it is to give kids a public sphere for their work. She craved the attention and feedback that came with sharing something she had created. She wanted me to read it and make sure it was okay to post. She wanted to add pictures to make it more interesting. Is it perfect? No. But I showed her how to use the shift key to make capital letters, so it's improving. She wants it to be good before she publishes. She WANTS to produce quality work that she can be proud of. How often do we see that in students' work? They want to do well not because they'll get a good grade or their parents want them to, but because they want to produce something that other people will be impressed with and they can be proud of? Not often enough.
I was in a PD session a couple weeks ago where we had a similar discussion. Scott McLeod (@mcleod) was leading the discussion and he said when students produce work for teachers, they want it to be good enough. When they produce work for the public, they want it to be good. This is absolutely true of my students. How does this change your classroom? Your project expectations? Your outlook on student work?
I'm not looking for the minimum requirements, I'm sitting with students in small group meetings discussing what quality work looks like and helping them build their own rubrics for what "good" work looks like. We are connecting with people all over the globe to contribute to their work. Next week my 7th & 10th graders will discuss their projects with people from the World Food Prize, the Gates Foundation, and John Deere's South Africa branch.
Say what you will about the Common Core, but I'm excited about the push for literacy across content areas; about the emphasis on writing and producing. My students - and my children - are capable of greatness. Technology is going to offer them an opportunity to share that greatness with the world. I can't wait to be a small part of that.