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Learning is in the Conversation: From Monologue to Dialog in the K-12 Classroom
There is a time and a place for a good lecture.
Absolutely! Painting a big vision or even drilling down to explain a detail —
all opportunities for a teacher to stand in front of the class and present a
monologue. But a constant diet of monologues is not a productive way to learn. Telling
The way to unpack and understand that amazing lecture,
the way to tear open a thorny problem, the way to design a plan for action — dialog, dialog, dialog. From our life’s experiences, we all know that! Research tells us that! So, moving
our K-12 classrooms from places where monologue is primary to where dialog is
primary needs to be front and center. Indeed, inquiry learning,
project-based learning, knowledge building, 5E learning, are all
pedagogies that highlight dialog as a core activity. (Flipped classroom?
Not so much – but that critique deserves its own blog post; stay tuned!)
And we know that learning is enhanced when the ideas in
a verbal conversation are written down and made visible. Such idea-capturing is
valuable during the conversation
since it gives both focus to the conversation and it helps propel
the conversation further, and valuable after
the conversation, as an aid to memory. (Those among us who are aging a skootch do
welcome such memory aids ...ahem!)
Typically, one student is designated as the scribe who
keeps track of the ideas that bubble up in the conversation. But we all know
that the scribe, then, has a disproportionate amount of control over the conversation — what gets written down is the official record, and who does the writing gets to create the
Technology to the rescue!
With K-12 classrooms going 1-to-1,
now each student in the conversation, using his or her computing device running
a “collabrified” word processor, can be the
scribe and can contribute to the evolving document. That quiet, shy student,
who has trouble communicating verbally, can finally have a “voice” since he or
she can enter his or her ideas directly into the official record.
Now the standard collabrified word processors, the Google
Docs, the Grandmama of collaborative writing tools, and Microsoft Word
365, might be fine for high schoolers. But, those apps, to mix a metaphor, are
a bit over-weight for the shorter crowd. So, the digital cobblers at our
Intergalactic Mobile Learning Center (IMLC) have created a suite of
collabrified apps designed expressly for the 70 percent of students in
<Sound the trumpets! Cue the drummers!>
This blog post, then, is the Official Rollout of the Collabrify Suite of Productivity Apps for Education
— completely refurbished versions of our iOS/Android-native, collabrified apps
(WeMap, WeSketch, etc.). Most
importantly, the new Collabrify apps are now all device-agnostic
– the apps run on virtually any computing device that runs a browser, since the
apps are written in HTML5, and to a browser, HTML5 apps are just another boring
And, just like the previous, native versions, the new
Collabrify Apps are free. (Thank you
Educational Foundation for providing support for the development of the
Finally, BYOD classrooms have available to them a
first-class suite of apps that can run pretty much whatever a student brings
in: an old netbook or a new iPad, a Windows laptop or a Mac laptop, an Android
tablet or an Android smartphone (Yes!
Collabrify apps support smaller-screened devices!).
currently five apps in the Collabrify Suite:
Flipbook: Collaboratively construct drawings and “flipbook”
On Flipbook's canvas, students can draw freehand, insert different
shapes, include a photo and then draw on top of it or label parts of it with
text, as well as combine multiple drawings to make an interesting animation.
Map: Collaboratively “graphically
map” out ideas using nodes and arcs (relationships).
Within each “node” in the
concept map, students can add informational notes, or add images using Google
Image search or images from their own Google drive.
Writer: Collaboratively use multiple
media in “writing”.
Writer offers students two
views: Question & Answer and Document. In the Q&A view, teachers can
preload the file with questions that students need to address. Videos,
pictures, or sound clips can be added by the teacher or student in either the
Question or the Answer frame. In the Document view, students can co-construct a
story using multiple media.
KWL: Collaboratively use the KWL
technique for learning.
In Collabrify KWL students can
work together to share what they know (K “frame”) and want to learn (W “frame”).
Then, to conclude a lesson, the students can go into the L “frame” and identify
what they have learned.
Chart: Collaboratively build a
The cells in the spreadsheet
can contain text, numbers, or even images. Chart supports the automatic
creation of bar graphs and line graphs from numeric data.
All the Collabrify apps support, of course, in-class,
face-to-face collaboration. But the apps can be used when a student is at
home, confounded with a homework assignment: call a friend, share the text
document/concept map/drawing, and bingo-bongo, that confused student isn’t
working alone anymore. Students can converse and work together inside a
document even when they are not co-located. Students never have to learn alone
Learning is, indeed, in the conversation. We purposely made
that argument first in order to provide a rationale for why and how technology
could be useful in education. First the educational need — support dialog —
and then the technology — the Collabrify Suite of Apps — that supports that
Piqued your interest? Please go to: imlc.io/ or contact ES at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at www.imlc.io.
Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at www.imlc.io.
Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Reinventing Curriculum blog at thejournal.com/rc.