Extending the learning community

Publication of student work on the website extends the learning community beyond the classroom to the entire school community. Key to this effort is a school website that includes a community publishing platform. Students and teachers choose whether to make the work viewable to the school community only (students, staff, parents, alumni) or the public, depending on the pedagogical goal of the work. Learning becomes a community endeavor rather than only a classroom pursuit, increasing authenticity and mutual understanding of the work that happens at school.

Click on each title to view the content at Catlin Gabel.

Urban Studies blog

Students tackle topics of sustainable development in Portland, “The City That Works.” During the school year, we offer a semester elective. The summer brings an intensive program with students from different schools.

Science Projects blog

Students report on their independent research plans, progress, and results. The teacher provides feedback in the form of comments. Only one of the students has made her blog public, so you won’t see the work of the others on this page.

The Catlin Coverslip

The science department invites all Catlin Gabel community members to contribute items of interest to this blog.

Nepal 2010 blog

Blogging about global trips increases the sense of community experience. The 15 lucky students who go on the trip become ambassadors for the rest of the school, no longer the sole beneficiaries of the experience.

Spanish V Honors blog

Students get out into the community to research the hispanic presence in Oregon. Through the blog, they report their findings back to the community and help educate us all. This project includes a lot of primary audio and video footage from Portland.

Honors Arts Projects portfolios

Students attach photo galleries to their blog posts to create a portfolio, in this case to support theirĀ  college applications.

Fifth grade Fractured Fairytales

Students create “alternate” versions of classic fairytales, then we publish them so that parents and others students may read them as well.

Sixth grade Language Arts Poetry Box

Students write poetry, but then the teacher publishes both the text and an audio version for parents and the rest of the community to enjoy.

Senior Project blogs

We have now collected two years’ worth of blog posts from seniors reporting and reflecting on their spring projects. Up until now, all of the posts have been for the Catlin Gabel community only. This year, students will make the public/community-only decision for each post. Watch this page in May 2010 to follow their progress.


  1. Richard,

    Great topic – and very much a part of what I’ve been working on/thinking about lately. It’s great to see an example of this kind of community succeeding. It’s interesting to see schools striking out ahead where many higher education institutions are still holding back. One can only hope that it percolates up over time – more schools embracing this leading to more colleges/universities doing so, leading to it becoming the norm in corporations. Social/community publishing and learning could benefit that entire strata, and starts (logically I think) with the children who grow up with these kinds of tools being their norm.



    (working with Mark B. on the newschoolyard platform and projects with a couple of local universities)

  2. Beth says:

    I’m interesting in knowing if the blogs, portfolios and other class and student projects posted on Catlin’s web site are “vetted,” and if so, by whom? Is someone editing copy, photos and other projects for grammar, quality and/or appropriateness? (As a recent follower, I greatly appreciate your articles. Keep them coming!)

  3. admin says:

    Jason, I don’t know as much about higher ed, but it does surprise me to hear that they are lagging behind in this area. On the plus side, I am impressed with the independent, authentic initiatives that students organize wholly on their own.

  4. Richard,

    I think it actually relate’s to Beth’s comment – which relates back to editorial role vs. publishing role. The hesitation in higher ed (I think) is caused as much by worrying that the content will make them look bad in some way (without vetting, cleanup, etc) – which undercuts the very nature of the process. The biggest hurdle I saw with a major student portal project at a university nearby was that the pr office wouldn’t let go of editorial control of all the content even on an internal-facing student portal where student groups made the bulk of the audience. It’s a tough line to walk for schools that are increasingly competitive and constantly concerned with marketing themselves – possibly to the detriment of the educational experience itself.

    Interesting times – and I go back to hoping that if it becomes more successful earlier on in the eduactional process that it will eventually flow through as the new ‘normal’ in later stages.



  5. admin says:

    Beth, thank you for posting your comment. Let me answer your question with an example. Yesterday, I introduced the senior project blog to the seniors. The teachers and I framed the question of grammar and appropriateness within a lesson about audience. We explained to students that, if they choose to make their posts public, they will take upon themselves the challenge to write honestly and critically without being offensive, and that the quality of their writing will be apparent. Each student chooses a faculty advisor, who follows their blog and provides feedback and visits their site. So, I believe that we have natural checks on the quality and appropriateness of the comments that are well-integrated within the overall design of the project. The authenticity of the experience is most important. Do you think that’s enough?

  6. admin says:

    I respect the ability of each school’s P.R. department to know its audience. We have that pressure here to a degree, but we also have a strong belief in enrolling “mission-consistent” families. We are a progressive school, and I believe that most of our parents recognize in the published works the demonstration of a whole range of knowledge and skills, including and extending beyond spelling and grammar. To what extent do the published works demonstrate critical thinking, imagination, ability to work in a group, and subject matter mastery? Spelling and grammar is just one aspect of excellence, and yes, the fifth grade teachers did work with these kids extensively before publishing their Fractured Fairytales. In the Spanish project, the teacher just discussed the importance of refining grammar and spelling before posting. They may even set up a peer review process. Teacher review before publication would, I agree, unnaturally inhibit the students’ work.

    That said, these items aren’t exactly published directly to our home page! We do place them appropriately in the site for interested people to find and will highlight them from time to time.