Chapter 3: Digital Reading and Writing to Connect with Others

3.5 Sharing Individual Voices

Wolrd map with notes and pins showing connections students have made around the world

Twitter was now a part of our everyday learning. As we came together in the morning or as we reflected on our learning at the end of a lesson, we checked our Twitter feed for new followers, responses to our tweets, and ideas to enhance our learning. Twitter to this point had been under my control. I wanted the students to be free to share their individual thoughts and celebrations on Twitter, not just the thoughts of the class.  To reach this goal I added a Twitter board. (Another idea inspired by my mentor.)

Each globe at the bottom of the map is designed to look like a tweet complete with a student avatar and a Twitter handle (@Grace). Each globe is laminated so kids can tweet as many times as they like. I check the Twitter board a few times a day and tweet out their messages!

As you can see from @Grace’s tweet the students had choice over learning design, tools and audience. They knew their place and they knew their voices mattered.

Tweets sent by students


Students Take the Reins

WIth this solid understanding of the reach of our voices, and a platform to share their thoughts and reflections with parent, authors, teachers, other classes, my students began to dream up projects inviting the world to learn with us. One such project was What in the World’s For Lunch? In this quest to learn more about lunch tables world wide the the class created a VoiceThread and invited others via Twitter to share their lunches.

This VoiceThread reached all the way across the world! The students received replies from as far as Hong Kong, China, Ireland, London, Bulgaria, Kentucky, Georgia and Michigan. This inquiry really helped the kids internalize the similarities behind the differences they see and hear in these connections. Students quickly heard accents and commented on the differences in the way they pronounce words, but they also noticed the many similarities between our lunch tables.


New Discoveries

I set out to show the kids the similarities lurking behind differences, but instead I discovered an unexpected power in adding digital tools to our classroom. I witnessed  students making connections in lifestyles and practices near and far. I witnessed learners discover their interest, learning style and voice as they problem solved the tools best suited for their work. I watched in utter delight as students helped peers and in collaboration discovered the strength in combining tools creating even more powerful voices.  I witnessed the drive student ownership gives students as they took the reins and began a learning journey predetermined by no one but themselves.

Screenshot of a student's voice thread (link in caption)
Lydia asks others to join her in saving the dolphins.

We have grown as a community through the use of digital tools. We have learned to share our voices and how sharing our voices connects us to the world. I have watched our community strengthen as we extended our voices out into the world. Here, we learned the benefits of expanding our community to include others who share our interest.

Screenshot of student's voice thread (link in caption)
Avery shares the story of her birthday.

I have watched the learners in our community become learners out of a desire to learn and share with others. This is  learning that will follow them out of our classroom and stick with them in all they do and become.  I have witnessed the joy and excitement of students when they received comments on their blogs and replies to their tweets. I have witnessed each and every writer share their stories because they matter. Writers want to tell their stories, not because I asked them, and not for school requirements, but for themselves.

Screenshot of student's blog post (link in caption)
Brady reflects on his growth and shares with all by combining tools.


Launching Digital Writing in the Elementary Classroom Copyright © by Edited by Julie Johnson and Johnson, Julie. All Rights Reserved.

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