A good book encourages thought. A great book will change the way you think.
When Lani Ritter Hall, co-author of The Connected Educator, asked me to review Kathy Cassidy’s new e-Book Connected from the Start, I got a little nervous. Who am I to pass judgment on the work of a highly connected educator like Kathy? Even worse, what if I didn’t like it?
Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. This book is a necessary read for all elementary educators. The only thing she got wrong was which grade levels this book was most appropriate. I can imagine any K-5 teacher could implement the ideas Kathy shares to help their students become more connected online.
Instead of giving you a persuasive essay about why you should buy this book (and you should), I will share two ways Kathy’s work has impacted what I do as an elementary principal and literacy leader.
1. Digital Portfolios
In the beginning of the school year, Dropbox was the tool selected for my teachers to curate student writing. The plan was to share these web-based folders with parents as the year progressed, so everyone could see student growth over time.
One problem was (and still is) that the teachers are doing the work. Although Dropbox is a great tool for online storage of many types of media, we have found it a bit time-consuming for documenting student writing. The teacher has to take a picture, upload it to the student’s file, and organize it chronologically.
After reading Kathy’s book, I realized that a great digital portfolio tool was right in front of me: a blog. She has her students, as young as six years, regularly post online. The students’ content is not only given a broader audience, it solicits comments from other teachers, peers and family members.
This practical application in a primary classroom is powerful. It comes from someone who has been there and done that, and not from an administrator (like myself) or from a technologist that lacks that meaningful and authentic experience.
2. Collaborative Writing
I had been thinking for a while how I might show 4th grade students how to share their writing with an audience beyond our school walls. After reading Kathy’s book, it sparked the idea of using Google apps to make this happen.
We plan to have the students write a narrative based on one of the fourteen scenes from Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Students can use Google Drive to create these stories, and post them on one Google Site. It would be maintained by educators from both schools, even though we are hundreds of miles apart. Teachers would show students how to comment effectively on another student’s writing. The benefits of these practices are a broader audience and a more authentic purpose to their work.
Lani Ritter Hall stated that “there is not another e-book out there like this”. I couldn’t agree more.