Connected Classrooms: What’s your WHY?

Two blog posts in 2 days…I’m on a roll! And maybe I have a request too 😇

From the time I can remember (really only middle school for my brain), I wanted to learn another language (French) and use it. It might have had something to do with my aunt & mom both studying abroad in France. Maybe the fact that that same aunt was my HS French teacher also had an impact 😉 The strong connection I felt with France after living there for almost a year stayed with me when I started teaching French in South Carolina. Except my students didn’t share my connection. So why the heck would they want to learn French?! Many of them had no plans to leave the city, state or country. Why should they care?

That is how I realized that it was essential to my students’ learning that I create a connected classroom. Being able to connect with French speakers around the world allowed my students to be able to authentically use the French they were learning. Since my time in the French classroom, my passion for supporting connected classrooms has only increased. Living in Kuwait can feel isolating, however, opening up the world to students makes me feel invigorated.

connected teacher.png

So, in addition to my new COETAIL role, next month I will also start as the Academy mentor for the Eduro Learning Connected Teacher Micro-Credential. I wasn’t sure it was something I could take on. But my passion for supporting educators in creating a more connected world for their students won out. I can’t think of many things that I love more! In addition to being a mentor, I’m also contributing to one of the courses.

local to global

That’s where you come in!

Sneak peak: One week of the course will be all about why educators invest in globally connected classrooms. It will include a series of short videos from educators around the world sharing their why. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Share your availability below and I’ll be in touch! Thank you in advance 🙏

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Why are you connected?

Tomorrow (afternoon of February 2) I’ll be facilitating a workshop for #AISQ8 (elementary) staff on using social media in teaching and learning. From my experience educators need to buy-in before spending (precious!) time learning and developing their social media presence. And that presence is essential if you want to genuinely use social media in teaching and learning. How can you help your students become connected if you aren’t?

I would love your (my wonderful PLN) thoughts on some questions to (hopefully) help garner some buy-in from teachers. Feel free to discuss here, on Twitter, on my COETAIL blog or if submit here if you prefer to remain anonymous. Merci bien!

  • Why have you chosen to use social media to create an open network and be professionally connected? What sparked your commitment?
  • How did you become connected? What, specifically, did you do to cultivate your PLN?
  • Why do you stay connected? What keeps you coming back to your PLN?
  • How do you stay connected? How do you balance what you put in (time) with what you get out (benefits)?
  • How do you balance creating your social media brand with staying authentically you (in a space where many people don’t actually know you personally)?
  • How has being connected impacted your learning? Your teaching?
  • Why have you chosen to use social media to create an open network for your classroom/students? What sparked your commitment?
  • Why do you keep your classroom connected/open? What impact has this had on your students?
  • What advice do you have for teachers who are looking to start using social media for teaching and learning?
  • What ‘connected’ experiences have impacted you/your classroom the most? These personal stories can have a huge influence on other educators thinking about becoming connected.
  • Any other thoughts are also welcome and appreciated! 🙂

#NESASEC 2015

NESA SEC Certificate of Presentation

This spring I had the honor of being selected by our leadership and the NESA Center to present two teacher workshops at the Spring Educators Conference. This conference is near to my heart as it was where I met Scott McLeod & Jayson Richardson in 2013 and decided to pursue my MEd with UKSTL. This year was special because I got to spend professional and personal time with a great group of educators from my school. The time we spent connecting with each other and other attendees was valuable (I got to finally meet Jeremy and Stacy!).

I enjoy the mix of PD experiences at this conference – keynotes, teacher workshops, 4-hour specialist workshops. Plus the location is always a bonus. This year the theme seemed to be all the ‘other’ skills that students need, not content. I was pushed to think about why we do things in the classroom, how research informs instruction and teacher attitudes. It was the first time I had seen Heidi Hayes Jacob, Bena Kallick, Debbie Silver (absolutely hilarious) and Dylan Wiliam…and I learned a lot from them. They’ve made most of their material available on the NESA Center website. One of my favorite sessions was Dylan’s Formative Assessment 4-hour workshop. I appreciated his research-based approach. Because my colleagues couldn’t attend, I took notes for them. Enjoy!

One thing I would like to see going forward at the NESA SEC is facilitated time for connections. I ‘met’ a lot of people virtually while tweeting but didn’t have the opportunity to meet F2F. During morning coffee or lunch, it would be great to have tables set aside for people who would like to meet up with other educators. I found myself sticking to my comfort zone (my colleagues) which was great for this time but would like to have the organized opportunity to meet other people.

Two of my PEAK 2014 sessions were chosen: Harnessing the Power of Google for Collaboration and Creating a Globally Connected Classroom. Teacher workshops have lost of of their importance at the SEC (understandably) so I was excited to have the number of attendees that I did (not zero!). My resources are available on the NESA page.

Abby (who co-presented with me at PEAK) couldn’t make it to Istanbul for our Creating a Globally Connected Classroom presentation. So she joined virtually. It was the second successful virtual presentation of the weekend! It was a wonderful learning experience and just another reason I’m grateful for the power of technology. My mom even got to watch from Michigan 😉 I’m excited to present with Abby again at the CISD Camp Inspire in Michigan in July!

Virtually presenting at #MACUL15 from #NESASEC – success!

Our #MACUL15 session just ended and I wanted to blog about it while I was still giddy from the experience. Minutes after the session had ended several attendees had already started reaching out to other educators around the world to connect their classrooms. That’s powerful. When we can inspire educators to think outside their norm, realize the power of globally connecting their classroom and take immediate action…I get butterflies inside just thinking about it!

John and Mary were in room 140D at MACUL in Detroit, MI. Jeff was in our apartment in Kuwait. I was in my hotel room at NESA Spring Educators Conference in Istanbul. We used a Google Hangout to connect 3 continents to present to educators about globally connecting their classroom. To be expected, we had some technical difficulties at first. But as we got rolling, the technology cooperated nicely. This was a first for all of us but John did a great job coordinating the 4 of us. Thanks to all that came and watched 🙂

Our main points:

  • Connecting your classroom has a positive effect on student learning.
  • It’s simple – you don’t need a lot of advanced techy gadgets.
  • Plan with the other teacher in advance. Prepare your students for different cultural norms & to ask quality questions.
  • There are lots of places to start connecting.

Below is our slide deck. We provide links to help educators start immediately (where to start). Check out the Google Form and responses from educators around the world – we’re trying to make it as easy as possible to help classrooms around the world become connected.

PLEASE contact us with any questions or if you’d like us to help you and your classroom get connected. Eager to hear from you and positively impact student learning together 🙂

#MACUL15 – Live from Kuwait (& Istanbul)!

John, Mary, Jeff and I will be presenting at the 2015 MACUL conference in Detroit on Friday. Jeff will be in Kuwait. I’ll be in Istanbul (at the NESA SEC). John & Mary will be in Detroit. We will be in 3 different countries, on 3 different continents, teaching educators how to globally connect their classrooms. None of us have ever done a session like this and we’re excited for a unique approach to presenting!

What we’d love from our PLNs:

  • testimonials from educators & students around the world – Why connect? What is the power of connecting globally? How have global connections transformed your classroom/learning? Feel free to share these with us in any format!
  • join us live! Watch the broadcast or let us know if you’d like to join the Hangout and talk to attendees for 1-2 minutes about the power of global connections.
  • complete this short survey. We’ll give the results to the attendees of the session (and you if you’d like them) so that global connections can begin immediately!

THANK YOU!

Ancient civilizations coming to life

Have I mentioned that I one of my biggest passions is connecting classrooms around the world? Hopefully that’s old news because I’ve let it ooze into most of the posts I write. The grade 2 blog about Sharing the Planet w/ a focus on water is up and running – and they’re eager to read posts & comments from classrooms & experts around the world.

Next up – grade 3! Andria and Anna have been going through the COETAIL journey together and are gearing up to start their course 5 final project. They have chosen the IB PYP unit of Where We Are in Place and Time in which the students will be learning about ancient civilizations. Read more specifics here and here.


via Stux on Pixabay

Andria and Anna are hoping to connect their students to other classrooms that live in the ancient civilizations they will be studying – China, Egypt, Rome/Italy, Greece, Maya (southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) and Mesopotamia (Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria). Although Mesopotamia is the closest to Kuwait, it might also be the most difficult to connect to.

Their unit starts at the beginning of March. If you or anyone you know is interested in connecting to a grade 3 class in Kuwait, please let one of us know! They are open to Mystery Skypes, video chats, asynchronous communication and any other ideas you have 🙂

The sweet sound of student excitement

Today I participated in my first Mystery Skype. Awhile ago Alex was searching on Twitter for a class to Skype with. I contacted our 2nd & 3rd grade teachers and Andria was interested (love our COETAILers at AIS!). It took some logistical planning, but we made it work today!

It was awesome. You had to be there to feel & hear the energy of the students. I loved being a part of it. As I’ve mentioned before, this kind of thing is what makes me love teaching & education. Both groups of students were excited before they even started. They eagerly created Yes/No questions that would help them figure out where the other class was. As their questions were answered and they gathered information they had to quickly adjust their questions based on their knowledge. They were excited about inquiry without even really knowing it.

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Our students had Atlas books. They started with the world page (no countries labeled). Once they found out that the other class was in Africa they turned to the world page with countries labeled. As they asked questions about where in Africa, Andria & I helped them use their hands to cover up where we knew they weren’t (North, South, West). When they narrowed it down to the Horn, we showed them the page with only those countries. I wish I would have been taking video when one of our students asked if they were in Ethiopia and the response was yes – the entire class cheered. The only cheer bigger may have been when the other class figured out that we are in Kuwait!

What Andria thought about the experience: “My class and I enjoyed the mystery Skype session immensely! I cannot believe the amount of learning that went on in such short period of time. I definitely want to do it again.”

Both classes figured it out a lot faster than I thought they would which gave us time at the end to ask open-ended questions about the countries. I think our students’ favorite question was about the type of animals in Ethiopia. They were shocked that there are SO many exotic animals in the wild. I’ll have to share my pictures from Learning 2 with our students so they can see the ICS campus. Our principal visited the room right after we ended and was bummed to miss it. But the excitement of the students was still evident and they were able to relive their experience by telling him. Hopefully we can have more opportunities like this for our students in the near future. Our principal would like to share these kind of things with parents so that they are excited for global connections and technology in the classroom. I’d also like to experiment with giving the students access to Maps on their iPads while they are Skyping.

This was extra cool because Andria is from South Africa. The perfect first Mystery Skype – connecting to ‘home’! I learned that Kuwait is a really difficult location to find which makes us the perfect Mystery Skype partners 😉

Next week our elementary is doing an EdCamp during their division meeting. I’ve decided to facilitate a session on Mystery Skype. But what better way to help teachers understand it than to actually do it?! If anyone (teachers or classes) is interested in talking to us Tuesday, December 2 between 3 and 4pm GMT+3, PLEASE let me know! [It wouldn’t take the entire hour, probably just 3:25 to 3:45pm with the teachers.]