Tag Archives: Skype

New Goals for a New School Year!

The start of school has been extremely busy this year! Before we get too far into September, I wanted to record some of my goals for the 2013-2014 school year.

After finally finishing my room setup, I realized that I actually have visual representations of all six of my goals displayed around my room. The first, on-going goal I have is to continue creating and facilitating global learning opportunities for my students.

global ed

Last year, I was able to set up a few different Skype exchanges with New Zealand, Alaska, and Minnesota as well as some collaborations through projects around social studies and science explorations. I hope to expand those projects this year and introduce more tools to students that they can use for global collaboration. I really want to help establish the idea that technology can be used as a tool for meaningful learning and exchange across the globe.

Related to that goal, I hope to use my Google Glass (won via the #IfIHadGlass competition) to connect my students with other students around the world. I recently launched The Global Google Glass Project, inviting teachers to sign their classes up to participate in a variety of projects that would take advantage of the first-person perspective of Glass. Additionally, I want to push myself to use Glass consistently throughout the year as a tool for documentation to capture moments of student learning and discovery each day. You can check out more of my exploration with Glass on my Tumblr.

google glass bulletin board

Of course, if I’m asking my students to use the Internet to connect and collaborate with others around the world, I need to be talking with them about digital citizenship. I used parts of the Commonsense Media curriculum last year but this year I want to spend a lot more time discussing topics like: staying safe online, how to search the web effectively, and understanding the Creative Commons. To help with this, I’ll be using the Commonsense Media elementary school digital citizenship poster, who we have named Danielle the Digital Citizen, to personify the qualities of a good digital citizen and make these ideas more relatable for my young students.

digital citizenship bulletin board

In addition to being digital citizens, I’m hoping my students will become Makers, who Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager define as “confident, competent, curious citizens in a new world of possibility.” I’m starting an afterschool Maker Club for my Kindergarten – 2nd Grade students to provide them with more opportunities to be exposed to tools, projects, and ideas that encourage creating, tinkering, and making. I’m excited to have this time to introduce materials like Makedo and Little Bits and also let students guide me in designing new projects and researching new tools. Outside of the club, when possible, I hope to also integrate making into the classroom when it connects to the curriculum or the technology projects we’re engaged in this year.

Maker Bulletin Board

I’m also striving to increase my knowledge of iPad deployment, integration, management, and training this year, as we introduce twelve iPads in our Pre-K class and one in each of our kindergarten classes. I had a few iPads to share last year across all of the classes I work with but I think having them in these classes full-time will create a different experience. I want to continue exploring quality app review sites and rubrics and learning more about how to adapt the SAMR model as a framework for iPad integration in early childhood. My goal is to help the iPads become a seamless addition to each classroom as a tool for creation, collaboration, and communicating new ideas or reflecting on things that were just learned.

Maker Bulletin Board

Finally, although this is probably a guaranteed outcome if I work towards the five goals above, I want to make professional growth an ongoing goal this year. Last year I participated in a few MOOCs for the first time and attended or presented at some new conferences. I want to make sure that in all of the busyness of the school year and my new projects, that I still carve out time to develop professionally and stay current with new tools and approaches to tech integration.

I think one of the most valuable things you can do as an educator is participate in groups or activities that inspire and push you to grow and continue learning and doing/making. With that in mind, I hope to attend at least one new conference this year, submit some presentation proposals, read at least one new book in my field, and participate in some online communities and/or MOOCs around my goals.

I think that’s enough for one school year! Now, it’s time to get busy with the actual implementation piece.

inspiration to grow

What are your goals for this school year?

Do you have any tips or resources to help me meet mine?

Misadventures in Connected Learning … But That’s Not All!

Before the second week of #etmooc “Connected Learning” slips away, I wanted to write a post reflecting a bit on the prompt: “Is it possible for our classrooms to support this kind of (connected) learning? If so, how?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by dennisar

I definitely think that our classrooms can support connected learning and that technology can make the “how” much easier and more feasible to facilitate that learning. To me, connected learning involves engaging students in real-world applications of skills and knowledge. One way to do this is by asking students to try and solve problems that people face everyday, such as concerns with the environment (Inspiration from GOOD.is) or building prototypes to help the elderly more easily navigate outdoors (see the FIRST Jr. Robotics Challenge).

I also view connected learning as a motivation to teach my students tools that can empower and enable them to be change agents. With these tools, students can build meaningful connections across different mediums, connections that not only facilitate learning but establish relationships. This means introducing ideas of digital citizenship and cyber safety at very young ages so students can begin using tools that they will likely continue to use as they grow older instead of tools that they will quickly grow out of (e.g., teaching 2nd graders how to conduct safe and effective Google searches versus restricting them to KidRex and allowing kindergarten students to tweet with other kindergarten students in class).

But most importantly, in my opinion, connected learning translates into global connections and collaborations for all students and teachers.

With modern technologies like Skype, Voicethread, Google Translate, Twitter and other (a)synchronous tools, it can be simple and free to connect students, even if their time zones never overlap or they speak different languages. There is no longer a need for expensive web conferencing technologies and with web 2.0 tools, students don’t have to wait weeks for a reply from students in another country. Therefore, it seems to me that we should be scaffolding and encouraging global connections in every classroom, starting with our youngest students. These connections can blossom into meaningful relationships where students can share experiences and learn together about the cultures, perspectives, and knowledge of each community. That feels like true connected learning.

The Global Classroom Project Logo

So what does that look like in the classroom? At my school, I have slowly been working to build some of these local and global connections so students can engage in more connected learning. While we have had some success, we have definitely had a few misadventures as well.

We tried signing up for an Elementary Mystery Skype project created by some  educators who had seen it done with older grades. Three of my teachers signed up, willing to take the risk and do something they had never done before, but although all three were paired with another teacher, none of them heard a response back about setting a date to actually Skype. After following many inspiring #kinderchat teachers, I talked with a kindergarten teacher at my school about having her class join Twitter. We sat down and discussed how it could work, we wrote up a detailed letter to parents, we planned how to introduce it to the students but since their initial Twitter “launch” the class hasn’t been able to get other classes to tweet back. I think the kids are beginning to feel like tweeting means sending a message on the computer and never hearing back. Whether it’s been via Skype, Twitter, or even email, we have found that making that connection with another teacher and class can be much harder than getting the technology or other preparations in order.

1st Graders Excited to Skype with a class in Canada

1st Graders Excited to Skype with a class in Canada

Luckily, we also have some success stories to share. Thanks to the Global Classroom Project database, I was able to connect our Spanish teacher with a class in Spain so her students could Skype in English and Spanish. While moderating a #globalclassroom chat, I connected with another educator who wanted her students to be able to share their experiences of a Quaker meeting. This led to two of our fourth grade classes Skyping with their fourth grade and discussing their religious practices, as well as the similarities and differences in their schools. Comparing lunches and “specials” was a big highlight. Through Twitter, I was also able to set up a Skype session between a Canadian class and one of our first grade classes – our students were shocked to see all of their snow! And in a few weeks, we have a session scheduled with NASA for our youngest students, who are studying space, to hear about “Humans in Space,” one of the offerings in their Digital Learning Network.

So, while the actual “how” of connected learning can certainly be a challenge, I think it is doable. My students have been able to use a range of web 2.0 tools that have enabled them to develop deeper relationships within their individual classes, between their class and other classes at the school, and between our school and other schools. They are becoming more comfortable with the idea of leaving messages through various platforms and receiving comments and messages back from parents or other students after a pause (which can be tough to understand when you’re only 5 or 6). Teachers are beginning to consider ways we can connect with other students and classes in other parts of the world to enrich their units of study and make different topics and concepts more concrete while also more making them more complex. I hope that with time, patience, and perseverance  our connections will continue to grow and with it, the connected learning that we are all able to share.