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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Learnist: A Helpful Tool on the Road to Inquiry

Hauna Zaich

8th and 10th Grade IB MYP English Teacher and Rookie Forensics Coach
A couple of Hauna Zaich's boards on Learnist.

The meaningful and careful use of technology is one of the most significant conversations in education today. When educators offer students greater access to knowledge through technology, and encourage them to use that knowledge to inquire about the world around them and beyond, they are providing students a chance to succeed in even the toughest conditions.

I teach eighth- and tenth-grade English and sixth-grade Speech/Drama for Stockton Collegiate International Schools. Our mission is to "offer the rigorous, relevant and practical International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula and methodology to urban students grades K-12 in order to prepare them for post-secondary education and global citizenship in the 21st century" and to "enable students to become literate, self-motivated, competent, lifelong learners by providing a multi-cultural, student- centered environment."

Although our school is only in its third year, we are already making a mark on the community. Last year, we were listed as one of Newsweek's Top 25 Transformative High Schools and placed on its America's Best High Schools 2012 list. Many of my students see a high quality education as their sole key to success. Driven to help them achieve, I scoured the Internet for resources that would make my lessons more academically rigorous and relevant.

A Pinterest-Like Tool for Educators

This summer I discovered the website Learnist. It's like a Pinterest for education, as it allows users to collect web resources and add them to "Learnboards" to educate an audience about a particular subject. (Here’s an in-depth summary from Grockit, the company behind Learnist.) Once I created my account, I was hooked. Learnist became a great way for me to organize my collection of websites and online resources, and I found that the Learnist bookmarklet -- which allows users to add a URL without traveling back to the site -- made developing my Learnboards effortless.

I gathered infographics for my mass media unit, study guides for documentaries, articles to demonstrate themes from 1984, and TED Talks to model speaking skills to sixth graders. By using the re-add function, I even drew from the robust educational resources shared by other professionals who use Learnist.

Now, I hope to start uploading my own curriculum in order to inspire and support others in the teaching community and fully represent the depth of my units. Learnist lets me share resources technologically, freely and easily. And it enables me to represent myself as a lifelong learner to my peers and to my students.

Applying Learnist in the Classroom

This year, I wanted to incorporate elements of a flipped classroom into my teaching, and I found that Learnist was a great tool for that. In the classroom, I’ve used Learnist as a practical option for my lessons, and students were receptive to the Learnboards I created to teach grammar. (Here are two that I used to help teach tenth graders about passive and active voice and verb tense and verb agreement.) I think my students found the mix of reading, examples, videos and online practice activities to be helpful.

During writer's workshop, I watched students correctly identify their own style issues and even heard an, "OMG, I have so many sentences in passive voice." We spent class time applying the knowledge, and I circulated around the classroom assisting students in their review. Creating lessons on Learnist helped me make good use of my class time and facilitate one of my most successful writer's workshops. In the spring, I hope to have students make their own Learnboards as a summative assessment for our critical mass media unit. They will create and examine a credible claim about consumerism and media, perform analysis and develop their own positive media.

Learnist has also been a great way to continue sharing my passion for poetry with my after-school poetry collective. I've already created two Learnboards to teach them about thought-provoking movements in poetry, and these boards consist of the poetry, music and art of the movement to inspire their own work. I see so many possibilities for Learnist in my classroom and am excited to apply this innovation to my teaching practice.

According to the International Baccalaureate, "The learner profile . . . is a set of ideals that can inspire, motivate and focus the work of schools and teachers, uniting them in a common purpose."

Working at an IB World School, I am consistently fixated on one particular learner profile attribute: "Inquirer." With advancements in technology, my students' lives will soon be consumed by inquiry (if they aren't already). These young people face seemingly insurmountable odds and stigmas because of where they come from. Stockton is a dangerous place where opportunities are hard to come by. Opportunities to learn through inquiry and the use of technology provide students with meaningful ways to interact with peers and discover all that the world has to offer them. In a sense, Learnist may seem like a simple tool, but for my students and their future, it is simply revolutionary.

Hauna Zaich

8th and 10th Grade IB MYP English Teacher and Rookie Forensics Coach
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