Lately in my classes, I’ve been more consciously trying to promote the openness of the internet. Partly in response to the challenges posed by Berners-Lee and others on threats to net neutrality and partly because I’m a huge believer in student-centredness, enquiry- and problem-based learning, I think the internet is the ultimate metaphor for learning: open, accessible but without straight-jackets of specificity.
As a classroom teacher, I can’t overstate how important it is for kids to have time to ‘surf the net’ in the context of the topics they are studying. Webquests, social bookmarks, online courseware, learning management quizzes and so on all serve valuable purposes in giving kids structure and direction whilst online. However, sometimes it’s easy to forget how infinite the possibilities can be. Maybe we need to spend less time constructing quizzes and more time helping kids find pathways and signposts through the content on the internet? Thinking on this, I thought I’d cook up a couple of weekly strategies for my junior and senior English classes.
1. Share the Love Day
With so much out there, maybe we need to spend more time sharing our love; love of literature, music, great thinkers, big ideas, life-changing stories! I’ve decided to use five minutes of my Wednesday classes for all students – one each week for the rest of the year – to share their love of something they discovered on the internet. Inspiration can be infectious, and sharing something that you found inspiring is a great way of reminding others just how we all benefit from the openness of the internet, the generosity of others and the wealth of content out there.
2. One Inspiring Story
My junior class has recently been unpacking the concept of human spirit. As an opening activity, I asked everyone to “find an inspiring story that shows the beauty of the human spirit.” After only 25 minutes, I was amazed at what the kids found: stories of profound selflessness, humans coping with all kinds of adversities and living examples of real heroes.
While it’s great to find stuff, it’s even better to share it. I asked the kids to buddy up in pairs and, without using the original story, share the inspiring moments with their buddies. I then asked buddies to present the stories to the class and had the whole class complete a running concept map of key ideas.
Activities like these remind us that as teachers, we aren’t always the ones to find “the material.” They also remind us that we have a lot to learn about the world around us and we can gain a lot from the interpretations and passion of the kids we teach. I love to be reminded as often as possible that I’m ultimately a learner first and a teacher second – perhaps that’s the ultimate inspiration?