It's the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!
I'm also participating in Margaret Simon's DigiLit Sunday link-up today.
Margaret's theme is today is blended learning. She included this definition by Beth Holland: "True blended learning affords students not only the opportunity to gain both content and instruction via online as well as traditional classroom means, but also an element of authority over this process." I love using digital tools with my gifted students. They are quick to tackle the various processes and challenges technology presents, and they enjoy finding out what each tool can offer. Student experts quickly emerge, and they help out classmates as needed.
I feel much the same way as Margaret in that I'm not sure I've completely switched over to blended learning yet, but technology sure has made things more interesting. I use Google Classroom almost exclusively - no worries when the printers jam in my building since I hardly ever make copies of anything - yay - and I've flipped some instruction. We read a lot of material digitally and use tools such as Storybird, Animoto, word cloud generators, and of course, Kidblog, to enhance our writing. I know some of this is technology-rich instruction and not truly blending learning (thanks, Fran McVeigh, for alerting us to this distinction). However, I'm always trying to strive toward Franki Sibberson's blended learning style of teaching. She teaches kids about all kinds of digital tools, and her 3rd graders make decisions on which tools to use for various purposes. Some day...
Recently, it was time to culminate our 6th grade Social Responsibility and Leaving a Legacy unit (I throw "Redemption" in there, too). Traditionally, I would create a mind map on those theme topics together with my classes on the Smart Board at the beginning of the unit and would add to it as we go. I still like that method, but this time, I asked kids to work together in pairs or groups of three and use digital tools to display their thinking. My requirements were they they had to write 10 claims/big ideas/concepts about the theme topics and then add another layer of 3 sublcaims and explanations around each of those. I gave them choices about which digital tool they used: Bubbl.us, Mindmeister, or Coggle. They quickly tried them out and made decisions about which they preferred, and got to work. They had to use our readings and experiences throughout the quarter (novels, biographies, online and magazine articles and short stories, read alouds - the stage version of The Diary of Anne Frank, The Seventh Most Important Thing, and Freak the Mighty - and our #ReadWalkWater fundraising event following A Long Walk to Water). They could also do extra research to add to their thinking.
Creating these mind maps took a long time, but it was worth it. They would never have written that much if it was only on paper, and if I had created it with them, we wouldn't have had the diversity of thinking that resulted when they worked collaboratively. The technology allowed them to do some creative organization and think in patterns. Here are some of the finished maps - unfortunately I'm having issues with Mindmeister right now, so I can't include those, but Coggle and Bubbl.us are represented here (I can embed Coggle - just move your cursor around the image to see all the parts, but not Bubbl.us, so those are going to be hard to read, but you'll get the idea):