Seeking Insight on Conversational Competence from 6th Grade Podcasters

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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By: Allison Zmuda with Beth Campbell with Her 6th Grade Students from Hopewell Elementary School, Iowa

What if we could better understand how to grow conversational competence from students?

Quick back story. About a year ago, I ran a workshop for educators in Iowa on personalized learning and met Beth Campbell — an instructional technology coach for Pleasant Valley School District. She passionately described how the Books ‘R Us program provided opportunities for students to use voice, co-creation, social construction and self-discovery in their podcast creation.

This conversation led to her doing a blog post for us. Fast forward to this year when I paired Hopewell’s 6th grade student team of seasoned podcasters with another group of middle school students in Connecticut that were designing their first podcasts to offer lessons they have learned along the way.

But that got me thinking:

what if we could capture students’ reflections about growth as communicators paired with an examination of authentic student work? How might that help all of us be more explicit about what skills, behaviors, and dispositions we are seeking as well as embracing growth over time?

The following video conversation began with students’ explanation of what conversational competence is, how their year-long efforts grew that capacity, and what advice they have for future podcasters.

After listening to the conversation, check out the podcasts (iTunes) that they described with pride as well as replay (using the video below again) the conditions that they believed led to a successful result.

How might you use this to inspire your own students?

For more information, you can spend time with Beth Campbell on Twitter @HopewellLibrary and access the full collection of student podcasts here.

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