Social-networking technology can provide
the rapid responses students value without
putting an undue strain on the teacher.
¡S; S; P;;;;!
Learning from a High School That Beats the Odds
Mediated Learning and the
Brain’s Capacity for Change
Reuven Feuerstein, Refael S. Feurstein,
and Louis H. Falik
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P;;;;;; ;;; K;;;;
Life and Learning on a Public School Playground
Deborah Meier, Brenda S. Engel,
and Beth Taylor
T;;;;;;; C;;;;;; P;;;;
grading each comment individually, I
would like to experiment with holistic
assessment, giving each student a single
grade and narrative feedback after the
discussion of each book is completed.
The finished blog itself became an
important artifact that I could use to
understand which prompts led to the
best discussions, to decide whether to
remove a book from the reading list, or
to identify places where future students
will be likely to experience confusion.
Do Your Homework
Like any new approach, blogging raises
a number of questions that you need to
think through in advance. How will you
pace the work to accommodate students
with limited Internet access? (A week
between discussion prompts gave my
students plenty of time to use school
computers during study hall or visit
the public library.) Will you provide an
alternate assignment to those who may
not wish to share their work online?
Should anyone be able to read the blog,
or only members of your class? Who
can contribute? Will you approve each
comment before it appears—ensuring
that nothing inappropriate is posted,
but slowing the rate of interaction—or
will you monitor from a distance, intervening only if necessary?
Privacy and safety concerns are real,
but they can be opportunities to teach
students about protecting their digital
identities. I set explicit boundaries: to
give first names only, and to never give
any contact information or identifying
details about themselves or anyone else.
Put expectations for your students in
writing, especially those concerning
privacy and acceptable use, and share
them with parents and administrators;
require that students use separate
accounts for their schoolwork and their
personal lives; and learn how to keep
search engines from finding your blog, a
basic setting in most blogging platforms.
Don’t be afraid to admit that this is a
work in progress or to collaborate with
your students on improvements. Their
technological savvy can work to your
advantage, and your candor may help
smooth over any bumps along the way.
For my students and me, the literature circles were a resounding success,
and I plan to continue using them,
refining the process each year. The blog
itself has become a wonderful source of
encouragement for me. After a difficult
day, visiting the archived posts of some
of my students’ most exciting discussions reminds me why I teach. EL
Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice
and choice in book clubs and reading groups
(2nd ed.). Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Oblinger, D. G., & Oblinger, J. L. (2005).
Is it age or IT: First steps toward understanding the net generation. In D. G.
Oblinger & J. L. Oblinger (Eds.),
Educating the net generation (pp. 2. 1–2. 20).
Boulder, CO: Educause.
Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2008). Born digital:
Understanding the first generation of digital
natives. New York: Basic Books.
Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts,
and other powerful web tools for classrooms.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Wilhelm, J. D. (2008). You gotta be the book:
Teaching engaged and reflective reading with
adolescents (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers
Stacy Kitsis taught English at Arlington
High School in Arlington, Massachusetts,
from 2005 to 2009; firstname.lastname@example.org.