Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Power of Connecting

My students have been making some amazing connections lately. I have connected with quite a few teachers through Twitter. These connections have allowed my students to explore and learn through the power of connecting. I thought I shared these experiences so that others can see the amazing connections my class has made. We've made some smaller ones, like classes Tweeting with us or commenting on our blogs, but we have done some bigger connections, like our interactive literature circle blogs and our connecting with 4GH at Millgrove school on Skype and with Google Documents plant research collaboration.

The first major connection my class did was interactive literature circles with Dana Ariss' 3/4 Bears in Fort Assinboine. This project came to be when I was planning for literature circles the "old school way" in my classroom where students are in groups and meet to discuss their book. I wanted to try something that I had done a few years ago. I had my students do literature circles on a kidblog page with a class at another school in my city. The students all did the same bookmark reflection as the class members in their group, and then blogged. The students then commented on the bookmarks of the rest of their group. We had one group that was composed of members from my class and the class at the other school. They commented on the blogs that they wrote regardless of being in different schools. I wanted to try this again, but with all students in both classes not one group from each class. Dana was more than keen to start this adventure together. I set up some Google Docs of the bookmarks I had used for chapter reflections (predictions, connections etc) to share with her. We Skyped during Spring Break to plan things out and then, near the beginning of April, we started our interactive literature circle project. We had four groups comprised of students from both of our classes. The students in each group read the same sections and did the same bookmark and then blogged it. They would comment on each other’s blog through our connected kidblogs. The students on both ends were always excited when they got comments from their group mates in the other class. It was a hit and I can't wait to do it again next year. Perhaps, we will have more classes involved.

Our second connection is still on-going. We are working with Kelli Holden and Lindsay Graham's class of 4GH in Spruce Grove, Alberta. I had Tweeted out a request looking to connect with a class studying plants. Kelli responded saying her team teacher was doing plants with their students and they'd love to connect. We decided we'd Tweet and Skype our plant progress as well as do a collaborative research project with our students researching a topic together. Over the May long weekend Lindsay and I had a Google Hangout session to plan our outline of the project. We created a Google Doc topic planning sheet and decided we'd put two of their students with one of mine (as they have 48 compared to my 19). We assigned them topics and Lindsay created a list that had websites that corresponded to each topic. Her groups started the Google Documents and shared them with us. The groups are still doing the research, but when they are done they will start a Google Presentation to share what they've learned. We also decided to play a game on Skype with our classes as well as their two guests, called "You Know You're In ____ When..." They created slides for us to answer on Alberta (what they'd learned about in Social Studies) on Skype, as well as one on Canada, to do with their guest Michelle Baldwin, who was a teacher visiting from the United States. My class had studied Australia and their other guest, George Couros had just returned from Australia, so we created questions on a Google Presentation for him to answer. George is the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for the division Kelli and Lindsay teach in, as well as an amazing technology workshop presenter. We played all of this game live through Skype. George was an amazing contestant in this surprise game show (he had no clue we had planned this) and my students immediately took to his enthusiasm. The students from both schools had great fun, as did I. For me, it was extra special as I have been following George on Twitter since I joined this winter and I am in awe of all that he does technology wise. It was neat to "meet" him. But back to the student connections. My class will continue to connect with 4GH as our plants grow and we explore different topics through connecting. We'll Tweet pictures of our plants and look at pictures of theirs as well as Skype about what we are learning.

We are living in a world where we can expand our classrooms beyond our school, or our community, even our province or country, so why not connect and learn with other students learning the same things.