Room 208 Comes Home (part 1)

10/25/2012 12:00:00 AM
This is a difficult post to write, because there is so much history involved. I almost don't know where to start, so I've decided the best way for you to learn about "The Room 208 Story" (if you're unfamiliar with it) is to direct you to my main site: http://bobsprankle.com.

There, you'll find links that archive the work that happened over 6 years ago in a classroom that became world famous due to what 3rd and 4th grade students put forth early in the "Web 2.0 Revolution." I invite you to specifically look at the section called "Room 208 Site" and read some of the posts and listen to the podcasts that the students created. You can easily find all of their podcasts in the "Podcast" section on the site (you'll find Room 208 podcast down at the bottom of the page).

Next, you may want to check back to early posts on this very blog ("Bit by Bit Blog---http://bobsprankle.com/bitbybit)") when I wrote many entries about the work being done in Room 208, as well as recorded many "Bit by Bit Podcasts" describing the journey. (Again, the podcasts are easy to find in the "Podcast" section on the main bobsprankle.com site).

The "Interview/Mentions" section on the bobsprankle.com site might also help fill in the holes, and certainly check out the NY Times article that was written about the class back in 2005 by Ethan Todras-Whitehill, called, "New Tools: Blogs, Podcasts, and Virtual Classrooms" that focuses on the students' story. There are also some very good news shows at the bottom of this page, from WCSH6 (Channel 6 news) when the students were recognized on the local Maine television station.

Most recently, Room 208 has been featured in Alan November's latest book, Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age under a section called "How the Students of Room 208 Conquered the World." For the record, November does a great job capturing the story, but the entire book is amazing and a must read for parents, teachers, administrators, etc.

So --- for those of you who want the story in a nutshell--- in short, a group of students became world-famous due to a Podcast show they created when they were in 3rd and 4th grade with me. Six years later, people are still writing about them. It was a transformative experience for all of us as the podcast featured some of the best writing I've ever seen from students in 3rd and 4th grade. I also witnessed one of the most dramatic increases in fluency skills as we "wrapped" our curriculum around a "magazine format" audio show that highlighted and featured learning and topics that particularly inspired the students; topics they deemed worthy and important enough to share with a larger audience.

Our classroom was enriched dramatically because learning had become:
  • AUTHENTIC
  • PURPOSEFUL
  • MEANINGFUL
  • and SUSTAINABLE
To my knowledge, Room 208 was one of two classes of elementary school age students in the early days of the "Web 2.0" transformation that was blogging and podcasting. More importantly, these students helped me learn how to transform the classroom into a place that became like a productive workplace, producing work that met all the criteria mentioned above. Everything changed: the students worked harder than ever before, they produced some of the best writing I've ever seen in my teaching career, and their reading fluency dramatically improved. All this, in my opinion, was because of what I constantly heard them say to each other: "We've got to get this right. The whole world is listening." Students never stopped at one draft of writing; they worked on pieces for weeks, and even kept revising during "recording time." Students didn't simply accept their first takes on reading their pieces when recording. They constantly said, "I want to take that again." I believe repeatedly re-reading their work helped with the growth I saw in their fluency scores.

These students worked harder than ever before, and yet they felt like they were "getting away with something." Time and again they would tell me that "it didn't feel like school anymore;" that they couldn't wait to get to school to work on their pieces.

Without a doubt, the classroom was transformed. It changed me as a teacher, and I hoped it changed them as students... Now I know it has...

Here it is 6 years later, and I happened to mention how awesome it would be if we could have a "Room 208 Reunion" show. That's all I had to say... the students have taken over. I woke this past Sunday to an invite to a Facebook page called, "Room 208 Reunion." The students are planning the entire reunion, getting in touch with all the students that were involved, and are "running the show."

They've become exactly what we wanted them to become: leaders who aren't afraid to get things done. They've chosen the medium they work/live in (Facebook) to network ---and have done so in a safe way by having the page "Invite Only." They are working together as a team to make this happen, with no help from adults. (I've insisted that they let their parents know about it so we are completely transparent in our communication, and I myself have called the parents. Most of the parents had no clue that their students were creating the Reunion, and were so pleased when they found out).

I have been given permission (from the students) to invite people to the Facebook page, so I am bringing in some of the educators that worked with us early on (either by writing about us, communicating with us, or presenting about us: David Warlick, Wes Fryer, Scott Lockman, and Alan November are just to name a few. We're hoping that these educators will join the Facebook page and start brainstorming questions that they'd like the students to answer during the Reunion Podcast.

You too are invited to send questions into the Room 208'ers by using the following form: http://bit.ly/PN2Aay. I don't yet know when the Reunion will take place (it's up to the students), but I do believe this is an important moment in what many teachers, schools, and students have been trying to achieve over the past _________ (fill in the blank) years.

Here's how I see it: These 3rd and 4th Graders were possibly the youngest students to start using "disruptive technologies," and through that process were encouraged to take charge and take responsibility for their own learning (not just by me, but by plenty of their other teachers, parents, and adult mentors from around the world).

I see them as "Cybernauts" landing their Space Shuttle as young adults who are going to report back to us about the impact the Room 208 experience had on them. Did it have an effect? Are we heading in the right direction with all of this? Have they gained in confidence because of the experience? What are their ideas of what schools should be? Has the experience (the feeling that they couldn't wait to get to school) been able to persevere? What excited them most about their Room 208 experience?

I can't wait to hear from them.

We will be podcasting and filming the experience.

We will be reporting back.

Stay tuned.
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