Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Brooke Molnar

Brooke Molnar teaches second grade in Montgomery County Maryland and is currently working on her Master Degree in Educational Technology at Pepperdine University. She writes about her Reading/Language Arts class of nineteen students. Her class ranges from early fluent to fluent readers.

Brooke used Tapped In with her students in order to build a community of learners. Her school system did not support the chat function of Tapped In but her students engaged using the discussion board, the white board, and the featured links.

Brooke's Story: Second Grade Students Build a Community of Learners Using Tapped In

A second grade teacher asks her students to draw a picture of a classroom that they would like to create. The pictures are filled with letters, students, teachers, books, and "nolog", knowledge. Students begin to tell the teacher that the most important thing in a classroom is the knowledge. The teacher tells the students that she has given them their very own place in cyber space. She explains to them that their new classroom is a place where they can create knowledge together. With the use of Tapped In this second grade class will begin to build and extend their knowledge on a variety of topics throughout the school year.

Tapped In is a web based virtual educational community. With its different campuses educators can create their own virtual communities for students. Tapped In has the features of a threaded discussion board where it models the building of knowledge by showing all the previous posts in the thread. Teachers are also able to upload photos and add captions and text to the pictures. Tapped In's rooms can be locked or open for other educators to visit. All participants must be members and is not open to the general public.

The students began to create the look of their learning space. They became invested in their own classroom because they were building it together. Discussion began among the second graders on how to build their new classroom. They designed it like a tree house "because trees grow and so will they." They built rules and a mission for their "tree house" and even named it! They were impressed that the teacher even displayed some of their drawings up in their new "tree house."

When the construction of the "tree house" the children were off on their first learning adventure. The students were learning about spiders. The "tree house" became decorated with photos and links of spiders. The teacher separated the students into small groups and had each child respond on a different thread. This caused pandemonium. What the teacher did not realize is that seven year olds still need some computer navigating skills and strong foundational reading and writing skills. She printed out the discussion board pages and sent them home for the kids to review with the parents. There was lots of positive feedback which made her not give up on the tree house.

After a couple of months of learning how to navigate the internet, use a computer, strengthened reading and writing skills, and word processing skills the children found themselves back in the tree house for their next learning adventure. This time the teacher's goals was to have the students write to persuade an audience about helping an endangered animal. The spider photos were put away and out came lists and lists of endangered animals.

The teacher changed her approach. This time her students partnered up for their work. They were told that the team had to find the answers to the problem if they were stuck. This quickly solved a lot of the problems that happened with the spider unit. As each child's confidence grew they began logging in on their own.

The next learning adventure was to research an endangered animal and write to persuade to help that animal. The students first had to research different endangered animals. They used the featured links that the teacher posted and began to bring in books and magazine articles about different animals. One student even showed the class a streamed video about pandas. The teacher was impressed with their motivation for the project. They wrote in the discussion board about their animals and why they would want to protect them. The teacher uploaded a link of a survey for them to vote on a class animal. When a panda was selected, the teacher put up its picture in their learning tree.

The teacher found that the students were very engaged with their project. They liked that fact the room constantly changed each time they visited. The teacher liked how easy it was to change the room. The teacher found adding pictures with captions or to enhance her daily writing prompt kept the children motivated and focused.

The accessibility of the tree house quickly grew to outside the classroom. While all the students do not have internet access outside of school the teacher let the children access it from home. Children who were home sick logged on and still were able to complete their work. The children who were in school thought it was fun to see that their classmates were still doing their work. Children who did not have internet access at home were encouraged to work in the media center or in the classroom before school, during recess, or if they completed their work early and they did!

Parents began commenting on how much they liked the classroom. They were amazed at how their children could navigate it. Children were on it before and after school to see what the teacher had changed and to visit some of the featured links. It even was accessed during a Friday night slumber party. The children loved it!

Tapped In created a virtual community of learners. The teacher never expected her children to be able to utilize the web based technology or be so motivated about a topic. The children helped build each other's knowledge and supported each other along the way with their writing and technology knowledge. Tapped In gave elementary students the tools and the foundation to create a community of learners.