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Keeping Tabs

Written by Jack Zangerle
January 20, 2012

I always get really excited about the little glimpses into the learning processes of students that we are sometimes lucky enough to find. Today, I had one of those experiences during writing conferences. As each student brought their laptop to our conferencing table in the back of the room I noticed the various tabs they had open. I’m always intrigued by the tabs that the students have open in their Chrome Browsers. These configurations are, after all, evidence of their thought process and how they identify tools and resources to help them succeed. Of course, I noticed a lot of similarities. Most students had a tab for their Google Docs homepage and a doc page for the Google doc containing their writing. But, it was the other tabs that really interested me.

The assignment they were working on asked students to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper in a town in 1906 America supporting or opposing one of the “Captains of Industry” (also known as robber barons) expanding their business to the fictional city in which they lived. It was interesting to look at the resources students choose to help their writing process. As you can see in the images, I noticed a lot of students using to gain some background information about the person. Since this was the day Wikipedia shut down to protest SOPA and PIPA, I wonder if I would have seen more Wikipedia on a normal day. Other students used to clarify words they found difficult. I was really impressed when I found a few students rereading a .pdf of The Gospel of Wealth to find more evidence for their arguments.


While these observations are far from summative evaluations, I think they provide a valuable insight into the thought process of students as they work to make meaning and create text. I wonder what interesting tabs teachers see over the course of a day in a connected classroom. What do you learn from these snippets of thinking?

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