How often have you felt that you were “alone” in your classroom? You plan for your students – nobody else’s class is quite like yours. You plan for your content – nobody else is at quite the same place as you. It’s easy to build up walls and confine yourself to them. But think for a second… Is that what’s best for you? Is that what’s best for the kids in your class?
If the answer you find yourself coming to is no, then it’s time to think about how to connect beyond the walls of you classroom. I think we all know that there is a wealth of information out there on the internet. Can you imagine what teaching was like before Google? (I’m sure some of you are saying “Yes! I lived it!”). I think we all know that we can find great resources with a simple web search, but sometimes we find a lot of junk too! Taking the time to sift through it all can be time consuming! What if there was a way to connect with others who did have students similar to ours, or who were sharing something that was just right for your class to do as well.
In addition to websites, there are also other educators out there waiting and eager to help you! Or they might be looking for the help that you can provide them. The community of educators on Twitter grows every week. According to one report from Twitter, about 1 in every 100 tweets are related to education, and there are about a half-billion tweets a day! You can tweet at someone, or just to a hashtag, and get a response in moments. For an overwhelmingly long list of education hashtags, check out this link: http://cybraryman.com/edhashtags.html. Some of those hashtags are related to education twitter chats – you can see a calendar of what’s out there here: Education Chat Calendar.
You can also connect with other schools and teachers for your students benefit. Earlier this year, my daughter’s first grade class did a Skype session with a class in New Hampshire to learn about geography and discuss a book from the Global Read Aloud. This was the third Skype session (that I’m aware of). Their online connections included chatting with the author of a book they read, and talking with another class in Colorado.
Last week Barbara tried out a Mystery Skype with her class (she can tell you more about how it went), and once the technology was working correctly, it was a cool experience for the kids in her class. All over HSE, there are elementary classrooms participating in mystery Skype’s to learn about new places and things. Want to know more about the idea behind a Mystery Skype, click here!
It’s also important to point out that here at RSI, we have several staff members who already use Twitter from their classroom. If you want to know more about it, just ask Jenna, Mary Lynn, Barbara, Christian, Samantha, Mary, or Krista and Jennifer (you can also click on their name to go to their Twitter page) about how they use Twitter to connect with the world beyond our walls. As a parent I also feel that Twitter enriches my understanding of what is happening in my daughter’s class. I have followed and subscribed to Lainey’s teacher, Courtney Gibson, and I get alerts whenever she posts a tweet (typically just once or twice a week). Sometimes she shares what they are doing, sometimes there is a picture, but always it tells me something about what the class has been doing which in turn allows me to have a conversation with Lainey about her learning. If you want to see how it’s used by her teacher, click here.
Online educator communities provide you with 24/7 access to people, ideas, resources, philosophies, and opportunities that can expand your world (and the world of our students). In next week’s post, I’ll talk a little more about some of the benefits of an online presence.
How have you used digital connections to improve learning opportunities for your students? What new things have you learned or tried? Share with us below!