Today's post is by @klirenman, a grade one teacher in Surrey, BC, Canada.
In July 2011, on the suggestion of a friend, I joined twitter for professional purposes. Within ten days I was enrolled in an on-line conference and I was blown away by what I was hearing. One session in particular, led by Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca), made me realize how much more I could be doing with my young learners.
I started following Aviva, and other early primary educators. Soon I was following close to 100 people and some of them were following me back! My brain was constantly spinning with the new ideas being shared by these incredible educators. But it was more than that. I was getting to know these people as real friends. Our discussions were real and genuine connections were forming. I was becoming a connected educator and my Personal Learning Network (PLN) was forming.
Fast forward almost 18 month and my PLN has exploded, and continues to grow daily. I am constantly in awe of those I learn with and the “real” connections that I have with many of the people I know from twitter. I have never been so inspired to learn, grow, and share because of the people that I was interacting with.
But what does any of this have to do with my young learners?
Twitter made me realize how important being connected really is. How there is so much benefit in learning from others both near and far. Yet no matter how near or far you live from someone you often have more in common than not. I wanted my students to understand that too.
As soon as I was able I introduced my students to blogging as a way to connect with the world. Our class blog and their individual blogs were places to invite the world in. They were places to have conversations, like stepping stones to learning beyond our classroom. I modeled commenting as a way to create and extend conversations, and over time my students did all the composing of the comments. We “blogged around the world” and visited classrooms through their class blogs. We left them comments: often curiosity questions we had. It was the least expensive field trip we could take, and yet it taught us so much. My students learned about how small the world really is, and as much as we are all very different we are all very similar. My students learned a lot about and from others.
I took it a step further by inviting other classes and teachers into our classroom through video conferencing (Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout). This allowed my students to ask their curiosity questions and have them answered by adults or kids their own age. Other students also asked them questions and so my students had to use their brains and their voices to answer them. The video conferencing helped support dialogue, curiosity, and reflection amongst my students.
We also utilized twitter to connect with others. The cool thing about twitter is that if you direct a tweet directly to a class they will see it and in more cases than not they will respond to it too. Using hashtags to have conversations on a specific topic, or to share learning about a specific topic helped us get connected too.
I can’t imagine my class not being connected to other classes both within our school, and our school district, but way beyond. So if you haven’t had your class connect with another class it might be something to try. Connections are powerful in so many different ways. Happy learning!
Karen says: "I am a grade one teacher in a public school in Surrey, BC, Canada. This is my 21st year of teaching and in the past I have taught ESL K-7,K, K/1, 1, and 1/2. I’m a total learning geek but I love sharing what I discover with the intention of helping others along the way. While Vancouver is my home, I have lived and worked in London England, and Melbourne Australia. I love to travel and learn about different cultures and traditions. I share some of the spinning in my brain on my professional blog at www.learningandsharingwithmsL.blogspot.ca . I maintain a class blog at www.mslirenmansroom.blogspot.com. My grade one students blog individually at www.kidblog.org/mslirenmansclass2012. You can always find me and my class on twitter - me at @klirenman and my class at @MsLsClass."
Come back tomorrow for a post from @scrappymummy!