Thanks to James Watson for pointing me last week to the new Honeycomb Blog a space where Softease will be sharing news and views around the tool as it emerges.
I have also enjoyed tweeting and chatting with colleague John Sutton, about his views on the tool and how he has been implementing and using the space. His recent post outlining introductory work with his Year 5 and 6 groups is a really good read. I like particularly his idea of using lists to create autobiographies, something he has posted on previously in using blogs with students. Keeping these lists short and around themes seems a great way of allowing children to affirm who they are while providing oppportunities to consolidate and discuss further esafety and netiquette issues.
I was thinking how useful they might be to support student response to web based and book based research. Perhaps as John has done initially encouraging students to read together from a range of material, before using a list or series to record, highlight and share the ideas they think are important and comparing these across texts.
A recent post from Angela Maiers, on "Determining Importance" in texts by listening to the author's voice and responding, highlighted again the importance of bringing multimodality to the texts we share, but has come to the fore here through John's post and his reminder of the need to consider bias when working with students in an online world.
Helping students to understand the nature of fact and opinion, and the higher order skills required to sift infromation from disinformation. Deciding what is valuable and what is not,
what is important or trivial are key and critical skills for students using the web, but it is also important to remember, that what is important to us may not have the same value for others, and to consider why this may be.
Angela's post and the video that accompanies it shows how she likes to use the author's name when thinking about and formulating questions and responses. Simple enough you might think, but do we place as much importance on the author and their voice as we do on the way the text is written, and its content? How often do we bring personality and voice into the work we share? Do we do this at all with Non Fiction? Angela's approach here gives a personality to the writer, the text representing the author's voice in the learning space where she and the students are working, and enabling a role for the author in the conversation to be had. With my class we have worked to develop a sense that what we write reflects what we have to say. Angela's video moves this on bringing the author as a person into the space, as she encourages her students to ask and direct questions toward them through the text as an interface, seeking to find what it is they are trying to say, before asking the students if they feel the important points have been made from their perspective. Since the author is not actually there, the students are required to infer what the response might be, and to challenge whether the text provides the outcomes and information they may be looking for.
Looking at John's work using All about Explorers I was wondering what my students might make of the "spoof website," when guided through a process of responding to the texts as a starting point, for critical web literacy work. For those of us unsure or still uncomfortable with linking ICT tools directly to units of work as writing outcomes, this would be an ideal way to use critical reading as a starting point in the process perhaps through notetaking and discussion to begin, using comparison charts and lists to plan and create simple non fiction texts that could be shared online for comment and discussion. The frame provided by Angela, could be adapted to support peer review and commenting work, since it consolidates the presence of the person behind the voice/text and key to what we are looking for in supporting students in understanding the relationships between reading and writing, their purpose and function.
Online collaborative learning tools, (eg Honeycomb, Think.com, VLEs) are not single applications but rather composite toolsets. Honeycomb specifically is intended as an open and flexible environment, that can be used on its own, but which I can see working well and progressively in tandem with others, either "plugged in" or used as a standalone to meet a range of "pedagogical outcomes." Most of the ideas I have been using with my students this term for example have been adapted from previous work carried out in other places, or as in this post built around those borrowed from colleagues. Many of these ideas were initially developed while using Think.com with students, and in turn were adapted from table top tasks used with students as community builders and collaborative/cooperative activities pre web. These links to previous posts present some of these tasks, and are posts that hopefully readers may find useful.