by Terry S. Atkinson
What began as a grassroots collaboration at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, MI between a 9th grade English Language Arts Lead Teacher (Kristal Jaaskelainen), an Instructional Technologist (Peter Pasque), and a Library Media Specialist (Dr. Sara Duvall) has become a school-wide movement involving students and curriculum sharing among teachers from all content areas. Comprehensive details about this work (including related links, resources, and “how-to” guides) are featured at https://sites.google.com/site/skylinecpi/. Recognized for their Google Docs/Sites online writing portfolio project with the 2011 Gale/Library Media Connection TEAMS Award (High School Winner), Jaaskelainen, Pasque, Duvall, and members of Skyline’s community discuss the project’s impact on their school in the following YouTube video (4:05).
Since its inception, Skyline’s original Google Docs/Sites online portfolio project has morphed into a Student Learning Network (SLN) Project involving teachers across the school. Instructional Technologist, Peter Pasque described its integration in a recent e-mail interview:
The 21st Century skills acquired in this 9th grade class are leveraged by many teachers across the building in different curriculum areas where the skills necessary to create and share online resources do not need to be re-taught, they at most need to be reviewed.
Our administration is very pleased and supportive of the project as they see transferrable knowledge put into action across the school. They see students creating final projects in various classes, and students creating shared resources for the Student Action Senate, student groups, and clubs.
Pasque describes SLNs and their potential for engaging students “such that learning becomes a byproduct of discovery and innovation” in this featured TEDx talk (15:02):
When asked about the SLN project-related changes that have taken place in Skyline’s students as readers, writers, communicators, and creators of both text-based and multimodal texts, Pasque elaborated:
This project is student-centered where the students retain ownership of each online document and resource. Every student creates a Google Website and uses it as an annotated table of contents of their mastery assessments. At the beginning of the term they share the site with the teacher and link to each new document as they are creating it. Typical online course management tools require the students to submit their assignments to the teacher by uploading it to a website. A downfall of traditional systems such as this is students are not required to organize and keep track of their digital projects and papers. If they are savvy enough to do this on their own then that’s great, but with our online writing portfolios and Student Learning Networks (SLNs) we are focused on teaching the students a methodology for organizing and sharing their digital work in a responsible sustainable way.
Future direction for Skyline’s SLN projects focuses on development of a “Sources Rejected” component in the research process. Students will embed a page similar to the following in their SLNs: https://sites.google.com/a/aaps.k12.mi.us/sln-research-resources/.
Jaaskelainen, Pasque, and Duvall believe that integration of this component will support more critical reading among their students, an area they deem in need of improvement. While considering an increasing number of online and digital sources in upcoming projects, this additional component will help students move forward as 21st Century learners by more systematically choosing or rejecting their sources based on analysis of their credibility.
Terry S. Atkinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.