They said it was boring and it broke my heart. How could something I felt so passionate about be boring to my students? Creating citations is where it’s at! But still, my students labored through the inquiry process, looking forward to getting it over with.

I struggled with how to engage students in extremely important skills like finding, evaluating, and citing scholarly sources; weeding through J.U.N.K. to find gems; becoming global citizens; making informed actions; and exploring digital tools. Then in 2015, my teaching partner and I decided to go one step further with our learning management system. Instead of simply delivering content, we would front load the entire year’s work and allow students to choose what they wanted to work on and when. We also created a rubric for students to evaluate their own work and decide for themselves if they have mastered specific skills. Finally, we created paper and digital badges for students to earn to record their achievements.

We have had success over the last three years empowering our students to choose what they work on and decide if the work they did meets the standards agreed upon with the class. Students are motivated to ask questions, find answers, and share their learning with classmates, teachers, and the Colchester (CT) community.

Some of the exciting benefits we have seen come out of this system are:

How we use #digitalbadges to teach information literacy skills in the elementary library

Colchester Digital Learning Day: A community-wide event at which students become the teachers and host an “edCamp”-style evening for families from the entire district. In just three years we have grown from 125 participants to more than 600 this year.

JJIS Day of Service: A day-long celebration of giving. Students identify a global problem, find out where it is going on, research organizations that exist to help stop it, and create a service project and media campaign to support that organization. This year we have 30 student-facilitated activities that address hunger, poverty, racism, women’s rights, animal rights, cancer research, homelessness, positive school climate, bullying, and deforestation.

About the Author:

Barbara Johnson is an elementary librarian teaching grades 3-5 in Colchester, CT. She is the vice president of CASL (CT Association of School Librarians), a member of the AASL Affiliate Assembly, founder of the @MakerMeetup2018, and a social media junkie! Follow her at @technojohnson


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