In my last post, I began to talk about the five stages of Service Learning and how technology can be used to redefine this teaching practice. In this post I will continue with the final four stages of the process, with a focus on the reflection stage.
Now that the initial step has taken place and a community need has been identified, students and teachers now take time to learn more about the topic and come up with a specific plan for action.
Preparation and Planning
This is a time to explore while also coming up with ideas for what type of action to take. Books, newspapers, magazines and other media play an important role in this process. These offer not only inspiration but also perspective, so students can begin to understand the issues at hand. Technology can be used to examine primary source materials, or can be used for simulations. Technology allows for students to step into the shoes of others and through these experiences, students become more familiar with the underlying problem which helps lead to plans for action.
During this stage, we also begin to identify and practice the skills needed to be successful. One skill that is reinforced in this stage is interviewing, which encompasses so many fundamental skills. Other skills that are developed through service learning are creativity, active listening, collaboration, critical and inventive thinking and communication, which are all 21st century skills that are intrinsically related to technology.
Finally, the ultimate product of this stage is the action plan. Having a clearly articulated action plan, with a timeline, assignment of roles and responsibilities of all individuals involved, is key to moving forward. It is also important to keep in mind the students interests and talents, when coming up with a plan as this ensures continued motivation, engagement and ownership.
With thorough preparation and planning, students develop a solid plan for action. In choosing how to take action, it is important to ensure that the action has value, purpose and meaning, with plenty of room for student voice and choice. There are four kinds of action: direct, indirect, advocacy and research.
A key part of the service learning experience is ongoing, guided reflection. Reflection is where students make the connection with the action they are taking and their own learning, so that it becomes more than just an experience. More often than not, reflection happens by putting pen to paper, however there are many powerful ways to reflect. Technology is a great way to differentiate this reflection, while also fostering reflective thinking. Check out the links below for examples of this type of reflection:
Blogs – A web log or “blog” is a place for journaling reflective thinking, kind of like a digital diary. The key feature of a blog, is that it can also be collaborative. Students can receive feedback or ideas in the comments section. Keeping everything in one place, can help students begin to see patterns emerge, facilitates building of future plans and emphasis impact that the action is having. Here are some examples: Tam, Amy, Kim Sa, Maidson
Podcast – There are a variety of multimedia tools that can be used to create audio or video reflections. These can be from simple narrations to digital stories, that weave in music, videos and photos. Simple tools such as Voicethread and Explain Everything can be used with younger students, while older students may find that imovie and garageband can be used to make these reflective pieces. Here are some examples: Linus, Khan
Social Media – Micro-blogging is quickly becoming the reflective tool of choice for students with the use of web sites such as Twitter, Facebook or google+ to share brief thoughts and other media with a chosen group. The advantage of this type of reflection is that it can be sent or updated by a variety of devices, from a variety of locations. This really facilitates capturing feelings as they unfold, helping to capture those raw emotions as they are felt in the moment. This is juxtaposed by blogs which are usually a summary of an experience, written after the fact with time and thoughtfulness. Here are some examples: Joe
Wikis – A wiki is a collaborative space where groups of students can contribute their reflections. It is much like a blog, however it is more collaborative in nature.
For more information on reflection, check out Javier Laung’s presentation “Using Technology in Reflective Activities.”
This is the final step in the service learning process. It is a time for students to share what they have learned, how they learned and what they have accomplished. It is a form of intrinsic gratification in accomplishment while also being a way to solidify what they have learned. This demonstration can take many forms, it can be a skit or a play, art display, digital scrapbooks, podcasts, a website or wiki, TED style presentations, letters to the press, and more. The key is that this final demonstration encompasses work accomplished throughout the process.
There are many ways that technology can be used in this stage. For example, students could demonstrate the results from their investigation and their action by posting videos, blogs, or content to a wiki or website, then they could encourage local organizations and others to link to the postings as a way to share learning about the community and to gather a wide audience.
Final Thoughts on Service Learning
In his video Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom, Alan November challenges us to think about the emerging role of “student as contributor.” In this video he encourages teachers to allow students to choose their own assignments and to connect them to authentic audiences. Service Learning does just that, allowing room for student voice and choice while also drawing upon their own interests, skills and talents. At the heart of Service Learning is purpose, ensuring intrinsic motivation as well.
For more information on the topic of literacy and service learning and for a list of books, you may want to read Cathy Berger Kaye’s article, Transforming Words into Action: Service Learning as a Teaching Strategy.