Dr. Elizabeth Petroelje Stolle, a reading professor in the College of Education at Grand Valley State University, is collaborating with Ms. Jenny Yonkman’s sixth grade students at Creative Technologies Academy and Ms. Lisa Campbell’s students of Cross Creek Charter Academy on an exciting opportunity. Ms. Yonkman, Ms. Campbell, and Dr. Stolle have been working on this collaborative project for three years now, connecting adolescent readers around texts through online discussions. The project will continue in January and February of 2012 as the students read and discuss the novel, Phantom Tollbooth.
It was important to the three educators that they establish a project that is beneficial to all involved. In that way, Ms. Yonkman, Ms. Campbell, and Dr. Stolle have established clear goals for the students within the project and have collaborated extensively to insure that their goals will be met. The hope is that the sixth grade students will: (1) experience honest talk about texts, that is, that students can share their ideas and opinions about the novel; (2) understand the various aspects of communication, that is, students come to experience how audience and purpose play important roles in the ways by which we write and communicate; and (3) make a true connection to their reading and writing as they engage in an authentic reading and writing experience.
With these established goals, the sixth graders will be placed into groups and asked to communicate online for four weeks discussing the chosen novel. In the discussions, all individuals will be responsible for framing discussion questions, sharing insights and ideas, and exploring the text in terms of language use, theme, etc. During this time, the sixth grade students will access an educational website, nicenet.org, in order to post responses, questions, and reactions to the text. Nicenet.org is a secure site where only our students will have access to the discussions by using usernames and passwords. Therefore, each student will be issued a username and password to this project’s discussion board only. With that, all posts will be monitored by Ms. Yonkman, Ms. Campbell, and Dr. Stolle. Usernames and passwords will be made available to the parents of students, as well so they can see the exciting discussions unfold. Data will be collected through both the online discussions and classroom observations.
Participation in this study is voluntary and will not influence student grades or their standing at school. If a student chooses not to participate or to withdraw from the study at any time, there will be no penalty. All collected data will be coded and name and identity will be removed. The results of the research study may be published, but student names will not be used to protect confidentiality. There are no direct benefits from participating in this study other than the benefits of adding to the knowledge base regarding online discussions and 21st century literacy skills.
All data collected through the online discussions will only be accessible to the researcher with a password. All online discussion interactions and threads will be saved to an external harddrive at the end of the four weeks. Dr. Stolle will code all names on the online discussion transcripts and the written observations. After three years all data will be deleted, keeping student confidentiality.
CTA is pleased to work with Dr. Stolle once more in research to improve middle school language arts instruction and enhance student reading experiences. Plans are underway to expand collaboration with Dr. Stolle to the high school language arts in the near future.