Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

Primary Preoccupation - A grade one teacher inviting the world into  her classroom

Three Options for Independent Reading on the iPad

Primary teachers (and in fact all teachers) are always on the look out for quality reading options for their students.  This is true for digital format books as well as more traditional book forms. When my six and seven-year old students read independently on their iPads, I want to offer them good options as well. Fortunately, I have found three worthwhile options for my six and seven year olds.

Epic! Books

After seeing a post by Joyce Valenza about Epic Books, I knew that I had to see if it was really as good as it looked. Was it? Actually, it’s even better.

Epic! is an app  that has thousands of books for all age levels, but I can tell you first hand that it has hundreds of excellent books for primary teachers. If you register online as an educator before you sign into the app, your account is free and you are able to view all of their books.

There are several categories of books, including some excellent non-fiction books under topics such as sports and living things. There is even a large selection of  “Read to Me” books that are read aloud in video format.

I knew that I wanted Epic! for my students as well, but could see no plan for classrooms on their website, so I emailed to ask about their policy.  Suren Markosian replied for the company that teachers are free to log into multiple student iPads with their teacher account as long as the iPads belong to the school and they stay at the school.

My students and I tried out the app with twenty of us logged in at once to see if there would be any issues, but there were none, even when we all read the same book at the same time. (It was definitely my idea to try that. I wanted to see what would happen, but the students were much more interested in reading the books that interested them.)

This app has tremendous potential for classrooms and I highly recommend it.

Unite for Literacy

My next choice is not actually an app, but a website that I’ve mentioned on this blog before.  Unite for Literacy features over one hundred beginning level books for emergent readers. Each page of each book gives the option of hearing the text on that page read aloud if students become stuck on a word.

I use the Add to Home Screen option on the iPad to create a direct link to Unite for Literacy on each student iPad. Then, I add that icon to the Read to Self folder. Another option for my budding readers.

Kindle

I wrote a blog post a while ago explaining how I use the Kindle app with the multiple iPads in my classroom. The short version of that post is that I have several Amazon accounts—one account for each five iPads. I watch for good books to go free on One Hundred Free Books and then buy copies for each account. Not all books that go free are of good quality, so I generally read the books first on my own account to check their suitability.

Three great options to allow my primary students to have lots of choice for their digital reading.

Connected Teachers, Connected Students

As you may already be aware, this month is Connected Educator Month. A plethora of webinars, discussions, Twitter chats and events have been planned (scroll down to see upcoming events) to help educators to recognize the power of connecting, to help them to build their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to give teachers opportunities to learn together.

This event is a tremendous chance for educators to take control of their own learning. I hope that you’ll take advantage of some of the opportunities it provides.

But what about our students? Do they, too, deserve to have a learning network that is outside of their classroom? To have opportunities to connect and learn from people who live in other locations? To see the power of having a Student Learning Network (SLN*)?

I think they do. This month, as part of Connected Educator month, I’m going to be leading a virtual book club centering around my book, Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.  Some of our book club will be asynchronous such as online discussions and activities to get you started on your connecting journey. We’ll also get together for a webinar twice this month for virtual face-to-face time.

Have you wanted to start connecting your classroom but never quite got started? Now is the time to do it. We’ll all be in the virtual room learning together. You’ll have support for the questions you have and others who are learning alongside you.

How to get started? Buy a copy of my eBook and then hop over to the Connected Educator Ning and register to get started. I’ve joined lots of Nings in the past and have always found them to be a great tool. They are available when the timing works for me. Once you have joined, have a look around, but be sure to click on my book in the list on the left hand side and then click on Join at the top of the page.  Once you’re there, introduce yourself in the discussion area and get started learning!

Although I teach primary grades, teachers in any elementary grade can take the principles we talk about and apply them to their own classroom.

I can’t wait to see you there!

(*Kudos to @kristenziemke for coining the term “SLN”)

The Changing Face of Early Literacy – Digital is Different

 I’ve spent a lot of time lately reflecting on the way I teach literacy in my classroom and about the ways that the digital text I often use to teach now is inherently different from the text I used to teach reading ten years ago. In an earlier post, I talked about some of the ways that I think using digital text in shared reading, such as when reading projected blog comments or tweets, is actually superior to the traditional text we have long used.

Even if you are not convinced that digital text can work better than traditional text, it is difficult to argue that digital text is not here to stay or that it is not becoming increasingly important. It is and will be a significant part of our students’ lives both now and in the future. If this will be true, it only makes sense to begin to teach children strategies for reading this new form of text.

How Is Digital Different?

There are a multitude of ways that digital text is different than traditional text, but the following are what I see as the most important differences for beginning readers.

1. Digital text is hyperlinked. This is the obvious one. Digital text is often linked to other digital text that can help to explain or enrich what is being read. We can demonstrate this for young students using sites such as Wonderopolis that does this well in their wonder of the day entries.

2. Digital text can contain recordings including a voice reading the text. Many apps and more and more websites are adding this feature. It is a tremendous asset for emergent readers who need a bit of extra support. For example, Unite for Literacy is a website I like with 100 plus free books for early readers. Every page has the option of the text being read by the student or read to the student.

3. Digital text changes over time. A book that was published in 2003 looks the same today as it did the day I purchased it, but if I look back at the history of a website for early years literacy that has been around for awhile, I can see that the webpage has had several different versions in that time.  Young children are fascinated to see the changes in a webpage over time. To show them this, just put a url into the search box in the Wayback Machine and share the way a website has evolved.

4. Digital pages are usually more complex. This is possibly the most important factor of all when an early years teacher chooses to use digital text. When students look at traditional text, they see words and an image such as this example from the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr.  All of the text is meant to be read.photo (16)

Beginning non-fiction text is similar in that all of the text on the page is meant to be read. (This example is from The Tree by Jenny Feely.)

photo (17)

When I ask my students to read an unpublished comment or a tweet aloud together, I am asking them to read something much more complicated.

The actual comments that I want the students to read are underlined below, but  as you can see, these messages are surrounded by email addresses (blanked out), names, times and dates of comments, links to the original post and lots of other information that competes for their attention.

If we move the mouse over the comment, other links appear that give us options, including approving, deleting and responding to the comment. The same is true of our tweets. This increases the complexity of the text even more. Clearly there is a lot of filtering that needs to be done by the students to get to the important text.

What Does This Mean For My Teaching?

If digital text is different than traditional text, and clearly it is, then I need to also teach it differently. I need to teach students how to use digital text to its full advantage.  To use links, recordings and video to provide a richer reading experience. To understand that digital text is not static, but that it changes over time. And to find the significant text on a page of competing images and text.

Digital text is here to stay. We need to start thinking about how to teach it right, even when students are beginning readers. To assume that traditional reading strategies will suffice for digital writing ignores the complexity and possibilities of this new form of text. Does this mean new reading strategies? Yes. Does it mean changing the way we teach? Yes. But beyond that, I’m still searching. I don’t have all the answers. Just a lot of questions as I muddle through this with my students.

What about you. How do you teach digital text?

Listening To Reading in a One iPad Classroom

When I speak about using iPads in a primary school classroom, I am often asked about how it would work if I only had one iPad as is the case in many classrooms. This post is the first of what I hope will be several with suggestions as to how to make that work effectively.

Sharing the iPad

Although my classroom is one to one with iPads, I have many high quality book apps on my own iPad that I did not choose to put on the thirty iPads I have in the Volume Purchase Plan account for the student iPads. Sharing these apps with my students puts me in a similar situation to a one iPad classroom.

Sometimes, I use Apple TV to project my iPad so that all of the students can see it at once on a large screen. The other option is to use a Belkin Rockstar to make it possible for up to five students to plug in their headphones or earbuds to the same iPad. (Note: I have found it is VERY important to establish ahead of time whose turn it is to be the person to turn the pages or do the touching on the iPad. You have been warned.)

Listening to Reading

This can work for Internet sites as well as apps. One of my new favourite sites is Unite for Literacy, a webpage with over one hundred eBooks for beginning readers. Each page has the option of having the text read aloud and it works on iPads as well as computers. This would also be an appropriate option for a small group of early readers.

When I use my iPad for my students to listen, I put the iPad onto our DEWEY document camera stand. The iPad could also be on the floor (which is what I used to do), but the students prefer to have the it raised since we have that option.

One iPad, five students listening to high quality reading.

Hello, New Students! Welcome to Our Class

Everyone Loves to get Letters!

For many years, I have sent a letter to my soon to be students near the end of the summer. I do this to ease any anxiety some of them may have, to help them feel part of the class before they arrive and because…well…it’s a letter. Children do not receive letters very often, so print written just to them is significant. It’s a literacy thing.

I’ve shared my letter before, but this year’s letter is a bit different. I decided that if connecting and learning with others around the world is an important part of our classroom learning, then I should let the students (and their parents, who will undoubtedly be the ones reading the letter aloud to the children) know about that right from the start.

I wish I had been able to find a border that truly reflected the tools we are using in my classroom, but a traditional border had to suffice. As I thought about this letter, I decided that I wanted my classroom door, which announces what we are all about, to reflect our connections as well.

Here is this year’s letter to welcome my new students

Dear Kaedence,

I’m so glad I get to be your teacher this year. I can’t wait to meet you!

I’ve been busy in our classroom getting things ready for us to learn together. We are going to have an exciting year.  You will get your own iPad to use in our classroom and we’ll find out how to use it to share your learning with your parents and other people who can help you to learn.

We will get to learn with other classrooms from all over the world and find out how the children in those classrooms are the same as us and how they are different than we are.

The best thing about grade one, though, is that you will learn to read! We’ll read LOTS of books.

I wonder what special things are interesting to you? What do you like to do in your free time?  What do you like to read books about? What would you like to learn more about? I hope you will ask your mom or dad to email me with the answer to those questions. 

On the first day of school, I will meet you in our classroom (Room 69) at 8:50.  Look for the door with some maps on it.

I’ll see you soon.

Your Grade 1 Teacher,

Mrs. Cassidy

Now, I’ve shared my letter. What do you include in yours?

Changing Face of Early Literacy – Why Digital?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear“Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me,” chanted all of the children in my classroom as they participated in a shared reading time in my classroom. Shared reading, in which all of the children regardless of their reading level read aloud from shared text, has long been considered to be an important part of a balanced early literacy program.

In the good old days, not so long ago, all of the shared reading in my classroom was from books (including ‘big’ books whenever possible) and from poems and chants that I had purchased or carefully printed on chart paper so that the entire class could see.  While I still use these resources when appropriate, much of our shared reading is now digital. We read a variety of digital texts, but most frequently we read tweets written by classes or others we follow on our class Twitter account or we read comments written on our classroom blog or on the blogs of one of the students. We also read blog posts written by classes or students far away.

What Does This Look Like in the Classroom?

Shared Reading of Twitter

During our shared reading, I project either our class Twitter account or our blog comments onto a board and together, we read these tweets or comments aloud.  At the beginning of the school year my students are still pre-readers, so I point to the words as we read, but I turn this job over to my students as soon as it is possible. After reading each tweet, we talk about what we just read. What did we find out? How is that similar to or different from what we have done/studied/know? Do we want to reply to this tweet or comment? What do we want to say?  Since my students are slow typists, at the beginning of the year, this task usually falls to me as they tell me what to say, how to spell words (we stretch out the sounds together) and remind me that we should always re-read a tweet before we press “Tweet”. At this point, the shared reading has turned into a shared writing lesson.

When we read a comment together, we follow a similar pattern. Is this a good comment, something we want posted on our blog? If yes, we click “Approve” and then discuss whether the comment needs to have a response.  If it does, we follow a similar procedure to the one just mentioned.

Why Read Digital?

Why have I made the switch from only traditional text to including digital in my classroom?

1. Much of the reading the students will do outside of my classroom and as they grow up will be digital.  It seems appropriate to begin to acknowledge this right from the start of their reading education.

2.  High interest Students are excited to read text that has been written by other children and classrooms. They like to “get to know” other classrooms by reading what they are up to on Twitter or reading a comment by someone they have never met. They wonder aloud about these people and if appropriate, we respond. We often get responses in return. Never in all of my teaching have I had that kind of authentic engagement with any of my chart paper poems.

3. Personalization Much of the digital text we read is written directly to my class or to one of the students in my class. It is hard to argue against the efficacy of personalization in any kind in learning.

4. The students are able to respond to the text. As I mentioned above, the digital text we read allows for an immediate means to respond. While written response to traditional text is certainly possible, the ability to ask questions and to have them quickly answered by the text’s author (whoever that author might be) is certainly not.

Can you see why I love using Twitter and our blog comments as part of my literacy program? I’m not quite ready to throw out all my charts with poems, songs and chants just yet. They still have value. But it is hard to beat the benefits offered by digital text when doing shared reading.

Introducing Young Children To Digital Citizenship

I sometimes learn more about my own practice in the classroom from the questions I am asked than I do from my own reflection. There is something about the lenses through which others see our work that helps us to see ourselves more clearly.  That was the case earlier this month at the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston.

At the end of the first day of a two-day session I was leading on Building Learning Communities in elementary classrooms, I asked the participants what they specifically wanted to talk about on the second day. One of the attendees asked me to address the way I introduce the idea of digital citizenship in my classroom. What a great question! Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great answer. I did though, have the evening to think about my response.

I have posted before about how and why I teach digital citizenship in my classroom. We often have discussions about the issues involved in this concept. As I thought about it, though, I realized that I had never explicitly taught the idea of digital citizenship. Every year, we talk about being safe online, about each student posting their best work on their individual blog, about building a positive image of our classroom through the tweets on our classroom Twitter account, about letting the world see what we do, about how to comment well and about the ways we learn from others outside of our classroom. Every year, I refer over and over to these ideas (although I have never specifically called it digital citizenship—that term is a bit too nebulous for six-year-olds) and the students are soon able to articulate the hows and whys of what we do in our social media spaces.  But I had never taken the time to specifically introduce them to the whole concept of posting online in a way that would lay the groundwork for what we talk about throughout the year.

Clearly, this needed to be changed.

This year, I will purposefully teach that first lesson about being safe and responsible online.  My goal for this lesson would not be a finished product or a specific curriculum outcome, but a foundational awareness of what it means to post online.

Showing Examples and Asking Questions

I will choose two blogs belonging to past students from my classroom—a girl and a boy who have since left our school or are old enough that none of my new children will know who they are, what they look like, etc. I will choose anonymous students because I don’t want my new class to have any ideas about these students beyond what each of them has posted online. I’ll project these blogs for my class to see and together, we will explore them.

After looking at each blog’s tagline, “About Me” section and some of the individual posts on each blog, we’ll talk about the following questions.

What things do you know about Aaliyah and Haydn?

What things don’t you know about Aaliyah and Haydn?

What do you notice about the things they have posted on their blogs?

Why do you think there is no picture of Haydn or Aaliyah’s face on their blog?

Would you like to be friends with Haydn or Aaliyah?  Why?

Would you have felt differently if Haydn and Aaliyah had posted things that were unkind? Mean?

 

These questions will inevitably generate other questions from the students who are new to the whole idea of posting online and will give us a good starting point to discuss why we post online and how we can do this in not only a safe manner, but in a way that helps us to learn and others to learn from us.

Hopefully with this specific introduction as a basis for what we do, our frequent “just in time” discussions about safety, kindness and appropriate posting online will be even more meaningful as the students will all have the necessary background right from the start to understand what it means to post online. Kids do learn best from other kids (or in this case, other kids’ blogs)!

If something is important, it deserves to be taught well, including a good introduction. I think that teaching digital citizenship is important. So, from now on, I’m going to do a much better job of introducing this to my students. Thanks for the great question, Caitlin!

If you have never specifically taught this concept in your classroom either, feel free to use the student blogs I linked to above.  Maybe you’re way ahead of me and have done this many times. If so, I’d love to hear how you have done this.

Even Our Youngest Students Need Digital Citizenship Skills

This  article was originally published on the Voices From the Learning Revolution blog of Powerful Learning Practice.

This recent tweet from Darren Kuropatwa has had me thinking about digital citizenship.

kuropatwa-tweet-560

As the Internet becomes an increasingly important part of all of our lives, children are spending more time online as well. And they are doing this largely without any guidance about what is responsible or appropriate online.

While my six- and seven-year old students don’t yet even understand the words “digital” or “citizenship,” they also need direction and support as they explore online spaces. In fact, they need this instruction even more than their older counterparts.

My students will live in a digital world. Computers and Internet-enabled devices have always been a part of their life experience. They are growing up with the expectation that they, too, will have uninterrupted access to digital devices. It only makes sense to prepare them for this.

They are already online. By the time children arrive in my first grade classroom, they have usually had unrestricted access to the Internet, at least at some point. By Grade 1, many have watched umpteen YouTube videos and can easily navigate to their favorite sites using whatever technology they have at home. As their teacher, I want to give them some direction in these uncharted waters.

Parents want help “drawing the line.” Since this proliferation of access and devices happened after my students’ parents grew up, they have no parental model of their own to follow. As they try to decide how much time to allow their children online, what sites to allow access to and what their privacy settings on Facebook should be, I find parents eager to know what limits I think are appropriate. They also appreciate that their children are getting some guidance at school about being responsible online.

Reading Blog Comments

Reading Blog Comments

What should instruction look like?

If teaching digital citizenship to primary students is important, what should it look like? Clearly talks about privacy settings and the dangers of posting too many selfies with alcoholic beverages in hand are not called for at this point in their lives.

These are three main ideas that I try to instill in my young students.

Be Safe – Since students in my classroom all have their own blog and also post fairly regularly on Twitter, safety does need to be a primary concern. In a nutshell, my policy is this:

  1. Get signed permission from the parents.
  2. Make sure the parents understand what we are doing.
  3. Involve parents in our online activities.
  4. Nothing gets posted online unless I see it first.
  5. Never match a student’s name with their picture.
  6. Never post a student’s last name.

If you are interested in further specifics about this, I’ve posted about it before.

There have been times when parents have inadvertently used their last name in a blog comment. We always read and celebrate these comments, but I do not post them because they could help to identify the child.

I have also had instances in which a child wanted to refer to something in a blog post that would clearly identify which one of the children pictured on my classroom blog he was – such as referring to something he’s doing, his ethnicity or another obvious physical characteristic. In all of these cases, I have talked to the child, and later to the class with that child’s permission, about why we don’t want to identify the child by their picture.

Be Respectful – With six- and seven-year olds, the talk in our classroom is often about being kind. We have always talked about this in relation to things that are happening on the playground and in the classroom, but in the last decade that kindness has also extended to what we post online.

Children easily understand how to leave a comment that they would like to receive themselves – how to focus on the good rather than the bad and how to be sure that their “best work” is what goes online. Numerous teachable moments about this topic come up every year and I try to take advantage of these moments.

In past years I have had students who, after an argument, write a blog post denouncing the other child. Because I see everything before it is posted, I have been able to talk to the children involved and later the entire class about whether they still feel the same way about their friend (they have usually forgotten the offense) and about the permanence of posting something online. These moments have been learning opportunities for the entire class.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my students was angry and as an outlet, began posting tweets full of nonsense letters and the word “poop” on our classroom Twitter account. Someone who follows our account immediately alerted me to this.

Kendell-tweet-475

What a wonderful discussion starter this tweet was! And a lesson to all of the children that when we post online, someone really is watching.

Be a Learner – In all of our discussions and posting online, I try to instill in the children the notion that the Internet is a place to learn. Many of them already know that there is other “stuff” online, but we focus on places where we can learn, such as other classrooms whose blog posts we read or the people and classrooms we follow on Twitter.

Instances come up every year where a student clicks on an advertisement and is taken to somewhere he did not expect, or someone decides to do a search for a new word she has learned (why is it that children who cannot remember how to spell their sight words seem to know how to spell “poop” and “boob”?).

In all of these instances, we talk again about why we shouldn’t click on any unknown links and about how we can use the Internet as a place to learn as long as we know how to navigate it properly.

Reading over Skype

Reading over Skype

A firm foundation opens up the world

With these basic beliefs firmly in place, my students have been free to explore, share and to learn online, developing digital citizenship skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

In the past year we have played Guess My Number with a class in Italy via Twitter, commented on the blogs of other classes and received comments in return, made a video to answer questions from a class in Dublin and participated in many other curriculum-related events online.

All these activities have helped them to learn not only the curriculum outcomes but valuable cross-cultural skills such as curiosity, empathy and understanding of similarities and differences between themselves and others who live far away.

They know how to be safe, to be respectful, and above all, to be online learners. That’s what digital citizenship is all about.

Five Ways to Start Connecting Your Classroom

In my teaching career as an educator, no change in curriculum, program or teaching philosophy (and believe me, there have been a lot) has had the impact on my teaching that connecting my classroom has.  Using social media tools to connect my students with people and classrooms from across North America and far beyond has helped my children to achieve curriculum outcomes, to learn how to act safely and appropriately online and to learn an appreciation for the similarities and differences between people. Not only do we learn from and with these other people, the students have a chance to become teachers themselves.

Would you like to start connecting your own classroom with classrooms in other places?  Begin to meet curricular demands through those connections? Help to teach your students what digital citizenship looks like?  Discover together how life in those places is the same as and different from your own?

If you answered “yes”, here are five suggestions to get you started on your own journey with connecting.

Join a Project 

There are some special teachers like Jennifer Wagner who make getting connected easier for the rest of us. Every year, through her Projects By Jen webpage, thousands of teachers connect with other classrooms from around the world. Jen already has the projects set up for next year. If you see one that interests you, just register for it and she will send you information, including (depending on the project) the email address and/or Skype name of other teachers involved in the project. Take the initiative and reach out to a teacher whose location intrigues you. If that teacher isn’t interested in further connecting possibilities, try someone else from the list.

My class has participated in many of Jen’s projects over the years, including stacking Oreos in the O.R.E.O. project, the Holiday Card Exchange and sorting marshmallows from a box of Lucky Charms.

Get a Classroom Twitter Account 

My recommendation is that you have a separate account for your class than the one you use yourself. Make it clear in the name and in the description that it is a class account (you can see my class Twitter account here).  If you are looking for classes to connect with through Twitter, you can check out this list organized by grade level. (and then add your name to the list!) Consider following other Twitter accounts based on what your class is currently studying. For example, my class is currently doing an animal inquiry unit, so we are following the San Diego Zoo and Animal Life.  Last spring, when he was tweeting pictures of the earth from space and video of exciting things such as how to cut your toenails in a weightless environment, we followed Chris Hadfield.

My classroom has used Twitter to learn and to help others to learn. As beginning readers and writers, we first read and compose tweets together until we are able to do this independently.  We have played Guess My Number on Twitter, tweeted secrets about Santa and shared riddles that my six and seven year olds had composed on their own. Learning on Twitter is really only limited by the imagination of the teacher making it a great place to start to connect.

Start a Classroom Blog

To show the world what is happening in your classroom and to reach out to others, nothing beats the possibilities of a classroom blog. I use our classroom blog to share what is happening in our classroom with parents, relatives and friends and with the rest of the world.  Each of my students has his own classroom blog, linked to mine, which is a digital portfolio of his learning through the entire school year.

Since we have a blog, we like to check the blogs of other classes as well. As we read the comments others leave for us and comment on the blogs of others, we are working on traditional and digital literacy skills as we learn about the lives and learning of others.

Skype With a Classroom in Another Province or Country

For students of any age, actually seeing and talking via a video conference to students who live far away or to an “expert” on a current topic teaches not just new information, but empathy, diversity and tolerance. This is what Skype (or any form of video conferencing) can offer.

Who will you chat with on Skype? How about an author? An expert on sharks? Or register for Skype in the Classroom and check out their list of guest speakers. Skype in the Classroom also has thousands of registered classrooms from around the world with students of every age who are looking to connect using this format. My class uses Skype frequently including using it to practice measurement skills, getting extra reading practice and asking questions about healthy bodies.

Start a Project of Your Own 

If none of these ideas appeals to you, you can always invent your own project—perhaps with people you already know. You can also sign up for ePals and submit your project there. ePals has lots of projects for you to browse—perhaps someone else has the same idea as you do!

If you’re going to the ISTE Conference, and you’re interested in connecting, join Karen Lirenman and myself to chat about how you can get started. You can find us at our poster session:

Primary Kids Can! Let’s Tweet, Blog or Skype to Connect 

Saturday, June 28, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm                                                             GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 21

Whether you can make it to the conference or not, try connecting your classroom with others through one of the ways I mentioned. Let the learning begin!

Keeping the Curriculum Context in Connected Classrooms

Most of this  article was originally published on the Voices From the Learning Revolution blog of Powerful Learning Practice.

To say I’m pretty jazzed about the possibilities of my classroom learning by connecting with other classrooms and people would be a bit of an understatement. My class regularly learns from and with students and others from across North America and in fact from around the world using social media tools such as Skype, Twitter and blogging.

I frequently see teachers on Twitter asking if other classrooms would like to connect with theirs or I receive emails from teachers asking me how to get started with connecting.

I started the list below because, when I see these queries, my first reaction is usually “which curriculum outcomes or standards are you looking to teach?” followed closely by “what tool would you like to use to connect?”

Connecting just for the sake of connecting is a valuable activity as it exposes children to other places and cultures, helps to teach online safety and etiquette and helps to prepare them for the hyper-connected world they will eventually be living and working in.

But if you really want bang for your buck, try connecting around a curricular theme or outcome. Kids really do learn best from other kids.

Kathy-Cassidy-05

Keeping my students (meaningfully) connected

Kathy-Cassidy-03Recently, I went back through the posts on my classroom blog and on this blog to make a list of all the ways we had connected over the past twelve months.  I  hope the list below can help teachers  who are just beginning their connected classroom journey. I have seen other teachers also connecting in wonderful,meaningful ways, but here is what my classroom has been up to. Have you connected you classroom in a meaningful way? Please share it in the comments!

A couple more notes before I get on with it. First, there are lots of great tools out there to help classrooms connect. The ones below are the ones I have found to be most effective in my classroom. Second, these suggestions are all primary-grades specific (my students are almost all six years old), but it takes very little imagination to think of a way to make them work with older students too.

And now, finally, my list of suggestions to get you started connecting your classroom…

Using Skype or Google Hangout

Using Twitter

Using Blogs

Video

So there you have it. All of the above ideas have helped me to meet an English Language Arts or Mathematics outcome in my classroom. I hope they help you as well.

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