Wednesday, May 30, 2012


A few weeks ago, I published a collaborative blog post on “Annotexting,” which involved the close reading of text, annotations of text, and evidence based reading practices but involving 21st Century technologies and web tools.

This week, I’d like to offer an update, or perhaps a companion, that I’m calling “AnnoTango!”

Annotexting still relies on a balance between what is teacher-led and what is student-driven. A teacher would still be “directing traffic” in a specific way as they utilize web tools and focus students on deep reading, finding evidence for claims, and drawing conclusions.

Once the Annotexting becomes part of the habitual way in which students read text closely, it’s time to shake it up, and let the dance begin!

This involves shifting more responsibility to the students and thinking of the learning process as a ballroom dance. Read. Annotate. Learn. Switch. Read. Annotate. Learn. Switch. The teacher is still the in-room coach, but the students take on the responsibility of collaborative and communicative learning in a web-enhanced but still Socrative way.

This is the “AnnoTango.”

The students read and annotate (with web tools!) and they begin processing what they are learning with a partner or small group. When the students switch, they “annotate their annotations,” deconstructing and reconstructing their thinking as they switch groups. All of the collective information is curated in the web tools that they are using as a demonstration of understanding. (In fact, you could use the web tools to collect the entire conversation rather than just the annotations or singular thoughts.)

The assessment of their work could be around the thoughtful analysis of a new work, the defense of their thinking around what they curated alone and in groups, or even a collaborative creation that demonstrates how this level of access to information and its analysis by the group leads to critical thinking and strong conclusions drawn about a claim or thesis statement. (based on collected and discussed evidence.)

I’d also like to add that a natural extension to this would be taking it global. (Common Core College and Career Capacity #7!) If the students are already using web tools, then inviting in another classroom or students anywhere in the world would be pretty easy, as long as you know where to connect to these students. Around the World with 80 Schools and Skype In The Classroom would be a good place to find those connections.

Also of note: Skype In the Classroom, just this morning, shared the “collections” area of their website that represented exceptional “Skype In The Classroom” projects worldwide:

So that’s the “AnnoTango” in a nutshell. It can be an extension of “AnnoTexting” or a stand-alone way to let the close reading of text be more student-driven. The next step? I think David Bowie says it best in his late 80’s hit:

“Let’s Dance!”

Mike on Twitter


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Strategic and Capable


Kids need access to choices in instruction so that when the moment arises they can make discerning decisions about what they will do.

I just watched that happen. At a conference with adults where kids were invited.

I just watched magic happen.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs keynoted at edJEWcon in Jacksonville, Florida this week to a national group of participants from Jewish Day Schools. The keynote was attended by over 200 people and included several dozen middle school students.

Heidi engaged the backchannel, the background conversation, during her keynote so that the information wasn’t just being delivered, it was being nuanced and discussed and explored to greater depths. This is the 21st Century dialogue symphony. Everyone is an instrumental piece of the orchestra and collectively creates an interactive performance.

Heidi used a web tool, Today’s Meet, to collect the backchannel as an “in the room” conversation. Additionally, the #edJEWcon hashtag was used on Twitter to capture the “out to the world” conversation.

Heidi hit a snag though, when she went to create the Today’s Meet room in the moment, during the keynote. The “EdJEWcon” room had already been taken.

By the students in the room.

On their own, they created their own backchannel so that they could capture the conversation and interact around the message they were receiving. This tool was already in their toolbox, and they made a decision in the moment to do their thing. Isn’t that cool?

This is precisely what it means for students to use the Internet and digital media strategically and capably. They had choices and they made a decision. They used it the right way and it was the exact right tool for the task. (Because the task is key, remember the Drill Slide!)

Here is a link to a transcript of the student room and their interactions.

Note the progression of cognition in the conversation. It started with the collection of soundbites and descriptions of the presentation. Then it segued to questions and then interaction and metacognition around Heidi’s message. So, so awesome.

Heidi had to create a separate room so that the entire audience could participate. What a great problem to have!

You can read the transcript of the whole group here.

Note that the adults jumped right into the interaction, sharing salutations and then responding to Heidi, each other, and the students who were dually participating in the whole group room.

I was so impressed by the way this worked. It invited everyone to be strategic and capable with the use of technology, specifically engaging strategies that help these students be college and career ready, and give educators examples of what this looks like in practice.

Big, big kudos to the middle school students at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School. You didn’t know it, but this was an assessment, one that happened in the moment but allowed you to prove your skills. You gave a performance, a recital of your capabilities...and you SHINED!