Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is how to continuously engage my students in their learning. Ok, let's face it, that is something I'm constantly thinking about. I bet we all are! We want our students to be invested and interested in what they are doing, and when they are engaged with the material they are working on, great things happen.
Motivated learners are the ultimate and I'm finding that on Big Universe, my students are naturally motivated and engaged. Recently, I posed a writing challenge to some of my students. They are currently working in groups on writing and publishing an ebook on a math concept of their choice. With very little assistance from me, all the students (10 of them) are collaboratively working every moment they can during the day.
Still some of my students have really found a hook into reading through the variety of books on the site. One girl has built a bookshelf of history books to peruse. Another has great fictional books about adolescence - chapter books that she keeps returning to at various times in the day. One boy has built a heafty bookshelf on all sorts of topics and loves sharing it with others by sending messages to his classmates.
It's a new type of engagement with literacy, a 21st century engagement where students interact with technology and social media in a safe environment and share in the enjoyment and excitement that literacy can bring.
At least once a week, our class takes a trip to our Computer Clubhouse to use the computers and Big Universe freely. My students covet this time and are very disappointed if the time is cut short. Many read a new text, some work on writing an ebook and of course they all want to send messages to each other both personally and virtually. During that time, we are working on balancing out what we do. In our 30 minutes, I ask that students don't just take advantage of the social media features, but find something that will engage them for 10-20 minutes. It takes some stamina building, but the kids love the practice because of the pure motivational and engaging value of working online.