“It made everything easier!”
“They have helped me with Summarize This! with summarizing extreme articles.”
– Grade 6 and 7 students at Wolfe Elementary
Students in Shannon Soper’s Vancouver Grade 6 and 7 class are adding tools to their learning tool belts. The class has been implementing a SET-BC Tier 2 Classroom Based Solution (CBS) this year with the support of our SET-BC consultant, Debbie Klassen. Working with 7 laptops loaned by SET-BC and supplemented by the school’s set of laptops, the class has been using Google Chrome Extensions and Apps for a research project focused on refugees.
Shannon’s enthusiasm for this CBS has been contagious, and has led not only to another teacher in the school participating in the technology-based activities as well, but also to increased engagement in research on the part of her students. Shannon’s goals for the CBS have been clear from the beginning – to equip her students with the skills to research independently using technology, to become well-versed in extensions and apps that support student research, and to support the diverse learners in her class following the principles of Universal Design for Learning. Shannon’s belief in student-led learning is evident just walking into her classroom.
This past term, the students began an inquiry project focused on the topic of refugees. They have been reading “The Breadwinner,” by Deborah Ellis, aloud, in which the 11-year-old Parvana must become the breadwinner for her family in war-torn Afghanistan. The students’ inquiry questions naturally arose from listening to this story. They are asking questions such as “How are rights of women under the Taliban different from rights of women in Canada?” and “What are the recruiting tactics of the Taliban?” They want to know how the Taliban began and how Syria has changed because of all that has happened there. They are asking what Islam is all about and learning that there is a big difference between Islam and the Taliban.
Research into these sensitive and emotion-filled topics has been careful and informed. Shannon says that she would not have been able to pursue this line of inquiry were it not for Chrome Extensions and Apps. Her students have a keen awareness of what is happening in their world and a desire to learn more. Age-appropriate books are available, but dated. Information found online is abundant, but not child-friendly. Google Chrome Extensions and Apps such as Summarize This! and Readability have allowed the students access to information that would otherwise have been too mature for them.
As Shannon supported her students in their inquiry, she could be heard explaining writer bias and describing the emotion involved in writing about such topics. The students are active and enthusiastic during their research time. Having learned to add Chrome Extensions, they have begun to explore these on their own, and to decide which are helpful to them. There is always some excitement as a fun extension is discovered and shared through the class, but they are quick to settle into their research task. A calm quiet settles over the room as each delves deeply into topics of their own interest. One student, interested in women’s rights, wondered aloud how the Taliban’s view of women will affect her own rights as a woman in the future.
Shannon has given her students the ability to find, choose, and use tools that will support their learning, and to engage in topics that have meaning to them. We can’t wait to see what their research reveals!