Transforming Curriculum

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 is not teaching

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 official record.

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 grades 1–8.

<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 Web page.

And, just like the previous, native versions, the new Collabrify Apps are free. (Thank you George Lucas Educational Foundation for providing support for the development of the Collabrify Suite!)

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!).

There are currently five apps in the Collabrify Suite:

  • Collabrify Flipbook: Collaboratively construct drawings and “flipbook” style animations.

    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. 

  • Collabrify 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.

  • Collabrify 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.

  • Collabrify 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. 

  • Collabrify Chart: Collaboratively build a spreadsheet.

    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 again!

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 need.

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