Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Shallows Library Collaboration

A few years ago, one of our English teachers (Mrs. Jennifer Garner) approached me about having her students lead a learning activity based on The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. This was one of the first student-led collaborations that we attempted in the library. I was delighted when Mrs. Garner approached me about having the program again this school year. In this article, she joins me in describing how her students held this program in the library.

Description of the Program (Mrs. Jennifer Garner, English Teacher, Lakeside High School)

Students present a video about the history of the Internet

Students in my senior-level English 12 Transitions class read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, as a part of the curriculum designed by the Southern Regional Education Board’s College Ready course. Working with this text prepares students for college-level work as they gain skills in reading and writing claims and evidence. Students in my junior-level AP Language and Composition course also study this text as they study sources and evidence in preparation for writing the synthesis essay. The English 12 students read the text early in the year. The AP students read it at the beginning of the second semester. As a capstone for the unit, my English 12 students design, plan, and execute a collaborative event designed to introduce the AP students to the text. This event is planned with the assistance of our school media specialist, Stony Evans, and takes place in the Media Center. Based on their understanding of the text and what students need to know in order to have some background schema, the English 12 students created four stations based on major claims and information presented in The Shallows: multitasking, e-texts vs. print texts, the history and development of the Internet, and Internet use. The students determined which concepts were important and created the stations based on those concepts. They consulted with Mr. Evans and shared with him their needs for media and supplies. The multitasking station required participants to perform multiple cognitive tasks, such as drawing, watching a video, listening to music, and listening to a presentation, all at the same time. Students conducting the station then asked a series of questions about how well they completed each task. The etexts vs. print text station required students to read an e-text with hyperlinks and then answer a series of questions that assessed their comprehension of what they read. The history station traced the development of the Internet via a video; student leaders then lead a discussion with the students about the content of the video. Finally, at the Internet Use station, students completed a Google survey about their Internet use and habits, the results of which were immediately shared and discussed with the student leaders. Students spent approximately 10 minutes at each station and rotated through all four stations during the 50-minute class period.

YouTube video from our Facebook Live broadcast of the event.

Teacher Reflection

Having taught students on all levels of learning, I realize the importance of building background knowledge and creating some level of enthusiasm before reading difficult texts. I also believe students learn best when they take some ownership in their learning. This collaborative project enabled my on-level seniors to take ownership as they developed and implemented this project. It also gave students who are often unmotivated and sometimes feel “less than” – because they are in an on-level course – to make an important contribution to the learning of other students. The project gave my AP students valuable information about the content of the text, which they have frequently referenced in class discussions. As a result of the collaboration, my senior English students experienced confidence and satisfaction in having contributed to an important project while reinforcing their understanding of the text. I witnessed growth in several of my seniors and realized many of them have skills and abilities that aren’t revealed in the classroom setting. For example, one student really stood out as she led discussions about multitasking. Her enthusiasm was evident as my AP students listened intently and engaged in discussion with her. She is a student who never would have had an opportunity to interact with advanced students in a class because she has always taken on-level classes. In fact, she has struggled with and even failed English classes in the past. She now has an A in English.

As teachers, we often feel we must control and implement every aspect of students’ learning. We undervalue students’ gifts and abilities when our classrooms are teacher-centered rather than student-centered. There are times when we must be the focus for learning, but giving students an opportunity to learn from one another in projects such as this not only brings out their skills and confidence, but strengthens them as learners and valuable members of a classroom and school community.

Students discuss the impact of multitasking
Student Reflection

The Shallows has influenced me alot. It has put alot of thoughts in my head. I think of all the pros and cons of the Internet. It makes me think "is it worth it?" There are some serious cons to using the Internet all th time. But there are great pros to using it also. The Shallows collaborative event really showed some light on the effects of using the Internet. I sat with groups of kids, and some it didn't really get in to their brain of what I was trying to say. But a couple of groups really got into it and I think expressing some of my experiences that I've gone through. The Internet can be a blessing and a curse. (This program) has made them think and change their perspective on using the Internet. - Lissie

Teacher Librarian Reflection/ Conclusion

This program is an excellent example of how the school library can support a student led collaborative learning event. We have so many resources in our library spaces just waiting to be utilized by visionary students. I believe this is an important mission for the Future Ready Librarian. It is so crucial that we assist teachers in giving their students a voice in the classroom. The library is a perfect staging area for such events since we have resources on every subject in addition to vibrant technology. I will be using Mrs. Garner's students as an example for other teachers (and students) in our learning community. I can't wait to see how this program inspires others to step out of their comfort zones!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Close the year with student voices!

Connect your library with Skype.

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