I had one of those revelatory moments today in my history class. The girls were working really hard on some research. They had created Google Docs in pairs and were each adding new facts when they found them. They were using a fabulous PBS site: “Slavery and the Making of America.” One student created the Google Doc and sent an invitation to her partner and to me. Each pair had two topics on the slave experience to cover. The Google Doc was divided into the two topics. Their task was to each research one of the topics for 20 minutes and post facts to the document. Then they switched, read what their partner had written and add to it. I resisted the urge to go to my desk and start doing something else, since there was total silence in the room. I spent the time walking around and making comments, asking questions, doing some trouble-shooting. For the most part, though, they had no active need of me.
Then when the 20 minutes was almost over, I went to my computer and accepted the invitation to each document. I went to each and wrote a message, “Excellent research. Remember to write in short phrases. It is now time to switch to the other topic.” Then I highlighted it in red to make it stand out. I quickly then got up and wandered the room.
Suddenly one girl’s head popped up. “Did you do that?” she asked. When I nodded, she got a great smile on her face. “That is so cool!”
I often stumble on the fact that while they are comfortable on the Web, my students do not have a lot of experience beyond Facebook. They need to be exposed and explore along with us. Where they will take that new knowledge and what they will do with it will be fascinating to watch.