Global Connections ~ What do you do?

Prior to beginning our post this week, I would like to congratulate Jeannie McGregor from NVSS for winning the October challenge on Sportsmanship. Thank you Jeannie for posting and you now have the difficult choice of choosing either a pizza lunch for students in your room or applying the dollars towards any NVSS field trip.

Sadly we had very few (well that would be 1) entries for our October Challenge and so I am hoping that we see at least 10 (dare to dream) for the November / December challenge. I know that report cards are just over for most of you and that from now to Christmas it is busy, busy, busy. However take a few minutes to read all or just portions of this post and then do a fledgling blogger a favour by posting your ‘Global Connection’ experiences as a classroom teacher.

The November / December Challenge is focussed on Global Connections:

Please share what you have done in your classroom to connect your students to global experts residing outside of the Nechako Lakes School District. Please be specific about whom you connected your students with, why you connected, how you connected and the response of your students to the experience. Please also talk about your own experience doing this as a teacher.

I have had the pleasure of visiting many, many classrooms in our district that regularly connect students with “experts” from various locations around the world. I’ve had a chance to sit in on an Elluminate session with Eoin Colfer , the author of the renowned Artemis Fowl series (he joined us from the comfort of his home in Ireland.) I’ve listened to kids from our district join kids from around the world ask questions of BCIT world explorer Daniel Catt of the famous Catt-Trax journeys from the Arctic to the Amazon. Last year I was asked to join Mrs. Gammon’s grade 3-4 class and tell a Kindergarten story from my early school experiences in India. I was in another community at the time and joined the class by Skype. Marilyn used the opportunity to open up Google Earth and show the students not only where India was but where the town of Simla was and how the altitude of that mountainous area compared to their home town of Fort St James. She had numerous visitors drop into her room either in person or by Skype to tell their Kindergarten stories which in turn were used as teachable moments for her students.

Although this is a bit of a hilarious exaggeration, the classrooms of my youth and certainly the classrooms of my parents’ youth were more like this:

Although this clip from the 1986 movie Ferris Buehler’s Day Off continues to make me chuckle, there are also some salient points within the clip. Salient point # 1…..when you notice glazed eyes and drool, the liklihood that any meaningful learning is going on have diminished exponentially! Salient point 2: if you believe that just reading loudly from a text book is the best way to connect students to subject content, then you may be headed for Salient point # 1!

Ask yourself this question regularly….WHO IS WORKING HARDER….ME OR THE KIDS? If you are regularly working harder than the students in your classroom, then perhaps you are not using the tools that are now available to you to connect students to experts who can help them make connections between their learning and the world. Isn’t this what being an educated citizen is about?

Many of you will have heard of TED talks, the short, engaging talks by deep thinkers who are passionate about their specific topics. It is hard not to get inspired to learn something new when listening to one of these talks. If you have not yet experienced a TED talk….don’t waste another minute and click HERE to visit the Ted site. However if you are a regular viewer of TED talks, then you will want to check out TED – Ed where expert teachers from around the globe have posted lessons on topics that they are passionate about. I would venture to guess that we all have a particular lesson that we are not only fond of teaching, but would venture to brag that we are likely the best in our school (I may be more cocky than most) at teaching. Imagine being able to find a resource where all you find is a repository of those “This is my BEST” lessons that you can adapt to share with your students. Watch the video below to learn a little more about TED – Ed.

These experiences continue to remind me that the world has become a much smaller place than the one that I grew up in. We were lucky to have the occasional visit from the parent of a student in our classroom if anyone other than our teacher. Think of the pressure that is on a teacher that has to provide ALL of the content and learning that the world has to offer. If we choose as professionals to accept the sole responsability of providing an education to students, we have missed the concept that learning has existed for thousands of years in the informal interactions that occur daily within our social networks. Expertise that is widely distributed allows our students to understand that by connecting to local, provincial, national or global networks provides them with the skills to to plan and navigate their own learning. Is this not an essential skill that every one of our graduates should leave our schools with?

There is little doubt that our youngest learners require structured and engaging experiences that will help them acquire the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy that are the essential tools of a knowledge economy. Do we need to ensure that 100% or our learners are reading at grade level by grade 4 – ABSOLUTELY! However, there is also little doubt that if we are continuing to create 15 – 18 year olds that are entirely dependent on their teachers and schools as the only way to acquire their learning, then we have not adequately prepared them for the world they are about to face.

Connecting our students also means that we must dare to become connected with other educators, locally, provincially, nationally and globally. I have written in this blog about the power of twitter to collaborate and connect and continue to encourage educators to get connected into this powerful learning network. As in previous posts, let me share some recent tweets from SD 91 tweeters:

NVSS was spending Friday looking at various educational technology tools and although I was no where near the school that day, it was easy for me to know that Heather was participating in a session on the power of blogging.

As mentioned in last weeks post, Fort ST James Secondary hosted an ED Camp Professional Development Day in which teachers learned from each others areas of expertise / passion.  As quoted by David Wees last week, this is helping move the concept of professional development from “the expert is IN the room, to the expert IS the room!”

This week I am going to leave you with two videos. The first video is one that should be watched if you are at all hesitant about connecting to the exponential learning that exists within a collaborative community. Creating a twitter account can be an anxiety invoking experience but I am urging you to do it as the rewards to both yourself and your students will be immense. Taking the time to watch a TED talk on a subject that you care about and then take that knowledge into a classroom is a new way of teaching, but is it worth it…..you won’t know unless you try. Using SD 91’s version of Skype (SMART Bridgit Software) – ask your principal as they will get an introduction to it this coming Wednesday – to connect to an expert anywhere in the world will be the start of a journey that will introduce your students to connected learning. Here is a video of a grade 4 student about to attempt something that most of us (not sure about you Pat D) would balk at:

Ok…if a grade 4 student can overcome her anxiety and do that, then posting about your classroom’s experiences with ‘Global Connections’ should be a piece of cake. Take the first step in connecting with colleagues around SD 91 by posting your thoughts to this blog post. The final 8 min video below is a summary of thinking about ‘Connected Learning’ from the ;Vimeo;.;”>;;Digital Media and Learning Research Hub on the essence of the changing nature of learning. Do I think that it is worth watching….YES. If you don’t have time today, watch bits and pieces over the coming week.

6 Comments »

  1. My Grade 3-4 class had the wonderful experience in November of joining a live webinar with Taylor Swift on reading. She shared her love of books, her experience with bullys and believing in yourself and your dreams. They were able to see that someone on the other side of the continent could be online and talking at the same time as us and that even superstars had diffiuclties when they were growing up.

    • Thanks for sharing this Tina. I knew that a few classes were participating in this Taylor Swift session. Is you class now excited to try more of these types of external connections? (although Taylor Swift has now set a pretty high bar of expectation)

  2. Not exactly on the global level – more local really, but NVSS has started a Facebook group that includes our students, parents and teachers. It’s still a relatively small group but it is proving to be a fun way to include and connect with everyone who is a part of the great things happening daily at our school. 🙂

  3. Sent from Kelly Inden @ FSJSS:

    Four of my Grade 8 Humanities students and I participated in a world-wide writing challenge called NaNoWriMo- National Novel Writing Month. The students did the Young Writer’s Program and I did the regular one. One of the students didn’t meet his goal, but is pumped for next year. The rest of us did it. I ordered T-Shirts for us, so I can send a picture when they come in.

    http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

    http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/dashboard

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