Last week it was our 3rd grade and 6th grade who took a turn at experimenting with cross-grade collaboration.
At the beginning of the school year we rolled out Google Apps for Education for all of our teachers and students. For our older students, already familiar with Microsoft Office, email, and many social networking sites, learning to navigate Google Apps was not much of a challenge. In a matter of days we had teachers launching Google Sites, students collaborating on Google Docs, and flurries of Gmail criss-crossing our high schools and Jr. High.
For our third graders, however, it was all very new. With the help of Mrs. Laura Malbogat, our C21 consultant, our 3rd grade teacher, Mrs.Lisa Lukien, and our 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Cindy Massey, devised a plan to provide each 3rd grader with a personalized tutorial on navigating the new technology: the 6th graders would teach them.
So, on Tuesday of last week, our 3rd graders paired up with their across-the-hall neighbors, the 6th graders, to complete an assignment designed to orient the 3rd graders to Google Apps and to help hone the 6th graders internet navigation skills. The lesson began with the 6th grader helping his or her 3rd grade buddy to log on to Google Apps and access their Gmail. Once they were in, they found an email waiting there from Mrs. Lukien, with instructions for an "internet scavenger hunt." Together, the 3rd graders and 6th graders searched the internet for the information needed to complete their "hunt," and the 6th graders then showed their younger buddies how to enter their findings into a Google Doc and share it with others.
Once again it was exhilarating to watch how much student learning was happening, on how many different levels, all without any frontal presentation from any of the teachers involved. They were there at all times and the learning could not have happened without them, but their role was markedly different than that traditionally assumed by teachers in a 20th century classroom. They were there to structure the learning experience and to facilitate it, but it was the world wide web and their 12 year-old school mates who supplied the information.