Digital Sandbox

This Blog is designed to provide the reader with information on how to adopt technology into the classroom by relooking at traditional classroom tools and transitioning into new ways of teaching and learning. The Digital Sandbox explores the future of learning through the recreation of 21st Century learning environments.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Creating and Sharing Digital Books, A Facilitated Learning Approach

In today's digital world where multiple tasks are required in student learning, we must begin to teach students how to function in a dynamic organizational system. These skills involve invariable adjustments to setting priorities, performing multidimensional tasks, evening out workloads, adjusting time-frames, prioritizing tasks and navigating networks. All of these skills in the near future will become less teacher-directed and more student-directed.

In the past, teachers have taught organizational skills in a static system within a structured format. This delivery format took on the model of breaking down tasks and asking students to explicitly complete much defined units of information, such as "do as I do" and "you will learn." A typical classroom instructional practice for developing organizational skills would include: record my notes from the board, write your name on your paper directive, or complete your assignment on time.

Andrea Santilli, a teacher at Woodlawn Beach Middle School in Gulf Breeze Florida, is taking a new approach in helping her students to be organizers and creators of content. Her seventh grade science class has just recently published a digital book using iAuthor. The digital iBook has taken the number one spot for nature downloads. The ibook published on iTunes is entitled, "Creatures, Plants and More! A Kid's Guide to Northwest Florida."
I recently contacted Andrea Santilli and asked her to share with me some of her instructional strategies that she used when helping students organize their digital learning environments.  Andrea responded by stating that, "I originally started the school year with the intent of having my advance life science students to publish information that they learned in class. This was my way to challenge and give them the opportunity to experience publishing. They would use their  work as part of their academic resume. 
When Apple announced the release of iBook Author I was excited that I could change the format from the traditional old school format to an interactive digital format. So at the end of January, students received their grading rubric and we started the project. 
Each student had to choose an organism that they wanted to write about. Pictures had to be pre-approved to validate that they took them, then they could begin the writing portion of their project. Parents signed release forms and the students had a grading rubric with expectations and guidelines that they had to follow. They had a month to complete the project.  
At the end of the first month, the editing team (student based) was available to help students who chose to improve their article for the 2nd round of submissions. I also helped these students as well. Students submitted work on thumb drives in any format because not all of my students have Macs. I entered all their work in iBook Author to make it a completely digital interactive book. "
Andrea Santilli's science classroom is a point of reference that breaks away from traditional learning options. Her classroom has become connected through the creation of digital content.  Santilli's classroom is an example of how a team of students were asked to learn on their own as they applied new knowledge to expand a deeper understanding of selected content. Her classroom became a connected classroom where students were at the center of knowledge obtainment and shared their work with others. They were strategically linked to the process of engaged activities as they were asked to perform authentic tasks. These facilitated instructional strategies used by Andrea Santilli, were masterfully exercised to elaborate the learning process without influencing student choices. The students were also given support throughout the project to guide them in finding the exactness of knowledge and skill obtainment.

To better facilitate the learning process, associations must be made between knowledge and application.  The facilitator of content must provide a true form of elaborative rehearsal within the learning environment. Elaborative rehearsal encompasses a variety of strategies that provides the learner an opportunity to intricate their learning. Through elaboration the learner can express ideas more openly using multiple skill sets to compare new concepts with known concepts that hook the unfamiliar with something familiar.

Classrooms of the future, especially when moving over to the Common Core, will require a more diverse approach to the development of organizational skills by the expansion of "Personal Learning Environments," especially when working in a digital setting.  These are: the learning environments of the fluid classroom of elaboration learning; the co-creative environments that has given birth to the millennial learner ; a generation equipped with the mobile tools structured in the provision to create, and  share information across multiple platforms designed for a world of co-creating.

Mrs. Santilli encourages educators to download the iBook, which is available only on the Apple iPad. She would like others to see her students work and encourages teachers to start a classroom iBook project of their own.

See related story: "Middle schoolers create interactive eBook"

Creatures, Plants and More is an interactive field guide of Northwest Florida.  The stories and photos are a collection of what students  from Woodlawn Beach Middle School have compiled for everyone to enjoy.  If you are interested in visiting Florida's Best Kept Secret, look no further, the answer lies within the pages of this book!  Enjoy fascinating interactive photo galleries and videos that will AMAZE you! Click here  to visit the iTunes store to download the book.