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BTW was created by Patrick & Julie Johnson, two Canadian educators with an interest in eduction & technology. This site showcases our interactive IBOOKS for students, but we also explore educational issues in our INQUIRY segments and share lessons/teaching ideas in our TEACHING TOOLS sections. Use the Labels section in the sidebar to navigate by topic or simply browse.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

INQUIRY: A Reflection on our Digital Collaboration with Maker Cycles

In previous posts I outlined an idea I had for learning hubs and maker cycles that could occur across classrooms.

This idea is a good one and has a lot of benefits! Check out the details here.

It was a bit tricky putting it into practice, however, and I wanted to outline our experiences and share them.

In this blog post, I am speaking on behalf of myself and also basing it the comments that have been shared with of fellow teacher participants: Sheri Edwards and Tania Bumstead.


Having students in a learning hub, where they got to create content on a blog site and also view content on a blog site, was a great way to explore the concept of digital citizenship.

Students would view each others work and then leave a comment.

Overall, students LOVED viewing each others work and engaging with it.

Sometimes, however,  the comments they left came across in an abrupt or hurtful way and needed to be addressed. Often times, the student didn't realize their words could be interpreted that way. They were simply writing as they talked, but so much gets lost in writing in terms of tone, context and body language.

So, yes, that make for a great hands on learning experience!

But it also took a lot of vigilance and time and effort on our part to ensure communications ran smoothly.

Also, some students broke guidelines and were no longer allowed to post publicly their work, or parents preferred that their work not be public, which made it difficulty for them to participate in the project.

We created a time line in this project of one digital make per month.

By the time March rolled around, this was harder and harder to keep. Also, the teacher participants had various curriculum requirements that didn't fit either the time line or the proposed topic for the month.

'Running out of time' to either have students create or view the projects was one of the most difficult aspects of this project.

Hubs were made up of 5-6 students, so that meant viewing and responding to 5-6 projects, which was perhaps a bit much for the time required to do it.

We made our hubs quite broad in scope and we had lots of students participating.

Perhaps there are ways to adapt this, to learn from our experience, such as:

Smaller hubs, less classes participating?
Maybe just join up with one other class? A smaller hub would mean easier to maintain, and also less of a stretch for the teacher to keep an eye of comments and content.

Focus of makes more aligned to curriculum?
Tania is a science teacher and is continuing the project as a science hub. That will allow her to better meet curriculum needs while still connecting with other classes digitally.

It was so so fabulous to connect with other teachers in other areas and to collaborate not just as educators but as whole classroom communities!

When it worked, it really worked.

We had full learning hubs, students in Washington State, Alberta and Waterloo Ontario communicating and deciding on group names and supporting one another's efforts.

The idea behind the project is a sound one! It just needs a bit of tweaking so it can be administered easier!


  1. Excellent analysis, Julie. The most important learning is that it wasn't "school work;" it was an authentic connection with others in public view. That made the student generation of content more careful and accurate, and students learned as you said, "Often times, the student didn't realize their words could be interpreted that way. They were simply writing as they talked, but so much gets lost in writing in terms of tone, context and body language." Our guideline of being "overly positive" so choose your words carefully became obvious and real to students. Thank you for the opportunity and your leadership. Sheri

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