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Tonight I received the following email from one of my brightest and most tech-geeky freshman honors students:

This is my document for Strategy 2. I thought that it would be cool to try out a new method for annotating and I thought it wouldn’t be as useful to me if I did it on that sheet.

This comes from my OneNote notebook where I’ve nested all of my research notes in English. The notebook is synced across OneNote on my home computer and OneNote on my iPod and school computers.

This should be viewable with the XPS viewer in Windows and it contains what I annotated.

These are the emails that make me feel successful because this student was not only willing to take a risk, but he was willing to advocate for his own learning.

Ok, some background on the assignment: I’ve been taking my students through our first research unit of the year. At this stage, they have learned how to narrow a topic, create research questions, use search strategies to find resources, and complete a website evaluation.  Now they are being asked to closely (actively) read their found resources and evaluate them on a variety of factors–credibility, relevancy (to their research questions), perspectives, strengths, and limitations.To break the process down, I created a table to chunk their complex task into manageable sections, each with its own guiding questions (download here = ActiveReadingAnnotatedBib) But as you can see from this email, the worksheet wasn’t the best tool for my student. Instead, he wanted to use a tool HE was excited about. I love that! I love that he took a risk, communicated his reasons for doing it, and then confidently used a tool that worked for him.

Isn’t this what our end goal should be? Our students taking our tasks and making them better? Or taking our tasks and personalizing them to fit their learning style, interests or skills? Shouldn’t we be striving to mold students who are confident advocates for their own learning? I think yes to every question. I hope I am able to become that teacher to every student some day…and until then I’ll keep emails like this to encourage me that it is possible.