Why write a book with your students?
In the last years I have been fortunate to attend many different conferences and listen to many great speakers talk about what needs to change in the classroom. They often talk about how important it is to find a project that is relevant to the students and has value outside the school. (authentic learning) After teaching without a textbook for several years, using social media to connect with teachers and experts in different countries, it occurred to me; why not write a book for teachers describing how we work in our class? Why not have the students write about how they like to learn, as a nice change to all the books written by teachers and educational experts? I think way too many conferences have the voice of the experts, and I often wonder, where are the students?
An idea materialises
After pitching the idea to one student who (luckily) really liked it, we quickly had half the students onboard and more followed suit. In January 2014 we started the project and we published our book with two different online publishers in April.(PLP Press and Amazon) 27 students participated and wrote on the different chapters. When working with 27 co-authors you need a plan on how to organize the project. We quickly decided on 4 students as project leaders and 1,2 or 3 chapter editors for each chapter in the book. Students would volenteer for these jobs and the rest of the students were writers. The chapter editors would ask students to contribute when writing was needed and the students could choose to write on topics they found interesting. This resulted in one student writing the whole chapter about gaming, and many wanting to write about “what motives me in school”. Using projects leaders also turned out great, and in my experience you can trust the students to excel when they are given authentic responsibility. All deadlines were met and all the content was covered.
The book – and website
The book is dived into 10 chapters, each with a video presentation by the chapter editors, explaining the content of that particular chapter. At the start of the book you find a “How to – a quick guide to practical applications“, as an easy way to look up topics like: How to start a Twitter account, set up an RSS feed, smart search engines and so on. In addition we also have discussion topics like; shared vision, authentic learning, digital literacy and assessment and evaluation in school. We link the videos in our book with our website connectedlearners.com. We thought that would be a cool website to use, but found that Steve Hargadon already owned the domain. Two of the students wrote him and he graciously let us use the domain for our project. The chapters in the book are listed below and even if it is a year since we wrote this book , we still believe many teachers would benefit from reading it. Too few students are experiencing this way of learning in their classroom.
The change we are hoping for is yet to come!
- 21st century skills
- Preparing your classroom
- Seven steps to connect
- Gaming to learn
- Digital literacy
- Tools and websites
- Advice from our PLN
- Last words and lesson plans
Publicity equals success?
The book has resulted in a lot of attention and this last year we have been busy speaking at conferences, the university, the Norwegian directory of education and we did a workshop for teachers arranged by the Norwegian teachers’ union. We love sharing our ideas about reinventing school. The idea behind this project is equal student participation and most times I am accompanied by students. Here are some examples of where we have been mentioned/speaking: Mindshift, Edutiopa, Microsoft, NRK radio, Norwegian school leaders magazine, BETT London, BBC News Technology, Aftenposten, BBC click, NKUL- Trondheim.