The Student Scribe

In this series we are investigating activities that offer students opportunities to use technology when there is not much classroom technology to go around.  We’re exploring some student roles that author, Alan November, mentions in his book, Who Owns the Learning: Preparing Students for success in the Digital Age (November, 2012).  

The first role, student scribe, is responsible for taking notes on the lesson and class discussion.  Perhaps this would have been a punishment two or three decades ago.  Now, by linking this activity to an opportunity to use technology, this role becomes a coveted responsibility. And by posting the notes in a class repository for future viewing, we provide opportunity for deeper reflection and learning for each student after the initial lesson.

Employing a student scribe has these benefits:
1.  One student takes notes which allows the rest of the class to focus on participating in active discussion.
2.  The student note taker is practicing listening for meaning, summarizing, and writing.
3.  The collaborative effort between those discussing and the scribe creates a memorable context for recalling information about new concepts.
4.  The final result creates an active and ongoing source of reference material that can be captured and accessed later on a classroom website, blog, or discussion board.

There are numerous web tools that facilitate a classroom note-taking effort.  My favorites are Padlet, a blog, Google Docs, and Edmodo.  We will touch on all of these in future posts, so I’ll narrow it down to two: Padlet and a blog, both of which are free and accommodate multiple platforms i.e. Android, iOS, etc.  The best way to learn these tools is to sign up and start playing!  Here is a brief overview and then an example of how the student product looks on each.  In the example below, the fourth grade class captures each student’s contribution.  You will, no doubt, find the best workflow for your class.

A web wall or “canvas” to write
upon, share images, and share other websites.

Very easy to learn, just click and type.

Permissions and Public viewing:
Can adjust permissions to private/public
and view only/write.

Flexibility and access:
Can be emailed, embedded, exported to PDF or excel, and printed.
One of several free blogging platforms.


No student email required, easy to start
and setup the class blog.

Permissions and Public Viewing:
Blog can be set to private so that viewers
and contributors have to sign in to view
posts and student work.

Flexibility and access: 
Provides many features similar to a class
website such as the ability to share links to
other web resources (e.g. padlet); great for
displaying/cataloging student work to demonstrate growth over time.
 Click for Padlet Example Click for Kidblog Example

Other notes and suggestions. 

1.  In the Padlet example above, the setting called “free form” is turned
on which allows the notes to be placed wherever the user clicks.  The
“stream” feature can be selected instead which presents a logical and
vertically aligned system of notes.
2.  Rotate students as the scribe multiple times in the period or day in order to cycle through students faster.
3.  A  lack of typing skills has not been a problem in most cases, but for younger students, try using the same discussion process and recording thoughts on the class white board, and then having the scribe enter the notes.  It’s not as integrated and authentic from a technological point of view, but digitizing the notes is still a valuable resource for future use.

Next we’ll look at some tools for the role of student researcher.


November, A. (2012). Who owns the learning: preparing students for success in the digital age. Bloominton, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Vargas, H. (online discussion board, 2013). Retrieved from

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Small Technology, Big Learning

small-tech-big-learningFor the inaugural blog series, let’s look at some ways to use technology in the classroom when there isn’t much of it.  Many schools are light years away from having enough devices for every student which is why I like to identify creative ways to use technology in lessons.  Let’s focus on those scenarios where there is one, and only one computer in the classroom…the teacher workstation.

What can be done using the teacher workstation that gives each student an opportunity to use technology?  And not impede the flow of the lesson.  And not require major lesson tweaking?  Author, speaker, and teacher, Alan November, talks about the roles that we can have students assume in class, those of:  The Scribe, Researcher, Global Communicator and Collaborator, and Tutorial Designer (November, 2012).

Here is a brief explanation of the roles.  In subsequent posts, we will look at the apps and Web 2.0 tools that transform these roles into technology infused learning experiences.

The student scribe is responsible for taking notes on the lesson and class discussion.  Daily notes can be printed and distributed for easy filing by students in their journals or posted on the class blog or website.

The student researcher is on call during class discussion to gather information regarding questions that arise during the lesson (e.g.  Where is that place located? What does that look like?  What does that word mean?)  The researcher conducts internet searches to collect, organize, and present information that supports and clarifies class discussion.

The student global communicator and collaborator is the class blogger.  The students take turns documenting class projects, writing reflective articles about current events, and posting discoveries or conclusions made by the class.  Using class websites and blogs makes it possible to engage with a global audience and receive feedback from peer audiences (more on this in future posts).

The student tutorial designer creates and records a mini lesson on a course concept.  This, more than any of the previous roles provides students with a unique opportunity to contribute their own voice to a lesson.  A library of student created tutorials is both a meaningful resource to student peers and serves as a fantastic active assessment of student understanding.

Next we will dive into technology that students love and is easy to incorporate into these roles.  Stay tuned!


November, A. (2012). Who owns the learning: preparing students for success in the digital age. Bloominton, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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