In the first post on this topic I shared how Lewison, Flint, and Van Sluy's four dimensions of critical literacy can be enhanced when students use Google Apps under the guidance of a skilled educator, empowered by Hapara's tools for Google Apps. In this second post I examine more specifically, how research supported literacy development structures that leverage peer learning, as identified in Fisher and Frey's Improving Adolescent Literacy, translate into the world of digital student work.
The first major topic addressed in Fisher and Frey's work is the value of peer learning. Adolescents development, in particular, is heavily reliant on social context. Teachers establish a safe, but challenging academic environment, and students provide for each other a peer network that governs the amount of electricity present in the learning process. Hapara tools help structure Google's cloud-based, peer interaction capabilities in a safe and easy to monitor fashion that encourages teachers to help students increase the current in their learning.
Fisher and Frey identify both heterogeneous grouping and task interdependence as preconditions for success in peer learning activities. Google spreadsheets and forms are excellent tools for list making, data collection, and organization of groups and activities. Hapara's Teacher Dashboard adds a color-coded grouping layer onto each of the Apps in google that is flexible, customizable, and allows educators to structure who they see at any given moment to allow for 'in the moment' differentiation. Additionally, the grouping structures are embedded into Hapara's Smart Copy Wizard, a tool that turns upside down the drop model of student work sharing. By using groups in Smart Copy Wizard, teachers can push out readings, assignments, and even place holders to the entire class or each selected group. This makes it simple, for example, for a skilled educator with a deep pantry of resources, to share with each student reading group a text on a topic that is relevant to them and at their own reading level.
Google Plus Communities can turn each Think/Pair/Share event into a United Nations Assembly. Unfortunately, Google Plus is a full function social network, and is consequently still limited to secondary students. Google Plus Communities allow educators to contain student discussions in a walled garden where the only participants are those that the teacher has invited. I have experienced first hand the power that sharing your thoughts before your peers has in these communities. The special ingredient here, that those unfamiliar with social networks might not fully appreciate, is that adolescents pay full attention to their activity when they know that not only will their peers read their ideas, but their peers will also read what others are saying about their ideas in the comments. These three layers of accountability make Google Plus an incredibly powerful tool in the classroom.
Hapara's Teacher Dashboard feeds educators the content of student posts in real time, organized by class and by student. Additionally, a place where young adults sometimes get themselves in trouble is in their online profiles. Teacher Dashboard also presents educators with an up to date summary of what students are saying and showing about themselves there.
The jigsaw is a tried and true method for facilitating both independent resource collection and review as well as social learning in an 'each one teach one' style event. Again here, Google Sites, shared Docs, and Blogger can be useful for structuring the activity. Add to this, Google's video conference tool called Hangouts and you can now make the jigsaw asynchronous, and perhaps even cross disciplinary. With free video-conferencing tools, Google gives free to schools, workplace functionality that many small businesses wish they had. Google Hangouts are already being used to facilitate collaboration between students in different schools, to bring experts into the classroom for live Q and A, and even to allow collaboration between students and their teachers outside of structured class time. Hapara's chronological feeds of student activity across the Google Apps suite gives educators and administrators the confidence they need to push the boundaries of the classroom; making what happens in school look more and more like what happens at work.
The social part of social learning is paramount for adolescents. Hapara tools with Google Apps help educators to meet adolescent learners right where they want to be. In this place, the boundaries between school and life disappear, and learning becomes living.