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.
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!
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!