This is my 100th post and I dedicate it to my friend in India. If not for his encouragement and support, I would never have started blogging! Here’s our story…
A year ago, I was exploring online cartoon programs to use with my class and discovered ToonDoo. It’s a wonderful tool for enhancing learning and encouraging creativity. (Also great for illustrating ideas in my blog posts!) There are endless possible ways teachers can use it to engage their students and learners can use it for expressing their learning. I was pleased to discover that ToonDoo supports Hebrew, but wondered how to get around the possibility of inappropriate content as it’s a public site. Sure enough, ToonDoo offered a private secure option for schools called ToonDoospaces, which was just getting going at the time and we decided to participate in the beta trial.
The support was excellent as we figured out how best to make it work for us and we got exceptional personal attention from Raj, officially Product Manager but his business card calls him Chief Juggler! As we engaged in conversation on ToonDoo issues, he and I discovered several common interests. We are both interested in religions and languages and were interested to learn more about each other’s. My son and daughter in law were planning a year of volunteer work in India and I was interested to find out as much about this fascinating country as I could. We struck up a friendship and began to chat online about religions, about India, about languages and cultures and education.
Soon after that, Year 6 students at my school were learning about our Asian neighbors and Raj agreed to interact with them on Skype. He answered their questions about India in a most engaging way, responding personally to each child and involving them in a conversation. Teachers present were ready to have him on staff right away, due to his natural manner with the kids and his ability to make the information so accessible and easy to understand. Read more about that here. Next week he’ll be answering questions from our Year 4’s as part of their unit on understanding other cultures.
In December, my husband and I visited India to see our kids and gain a better understanding of the work they were doing there. To our surprise, Raj decided to come to Delhi for a day and meet up with us. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with him and marveled at how well we got along, despite difference in age, religion, background, culture and language. (Not really. His English is excellent). Read more about that here and here.
We have since met again, in Singapore when I went with 2 colleagues to the IBAP conference and Raj was there exhibiting ToonDoospaces. As my colleague Layla said, having Raj with us added a further dimension to our time in Singapore, as we saw things through his eyes and gained a new perspective. Raj has a son in primary school and he was interested to learn from us about the PYP and the way teaching and learning works in Australia.
Somewhere in between all this, it was Raj who encouraged me to blog. I didn’t think I had anything to say and I had no idea how or where to begin. He helped me get started and was my first, somewhat critical reader. And along the way he has offered, not just a different perspective on a range of subjects and experiences, but also encouragement and online technical support whenever I needed it for this blog.
And here I am now, part of the exceptional blogging conversation that exists between educators wordwide. I never expected to have any readers outside of my own school! I could never have imagined how much I would learn from blogging or how it would connect me with other educators. I am an addict…
Update 17th October 2011: Since I am linking to this post today, I’ll add that I have since met Raj again in India and that he has further connected with students at my school for a range of inquiries in the past couple of years. He recently answered questions from a group of students about child labour in India. Earlier in the year he created a wonderful photo album of the Hindu thread ceremony to accompany his Skype sessions with Year 6 classes for their inquiry into coming of age ceremonies in other cultures. Soon he’ll be participating (hopefully with kids this time) in the Year 6 inquiry into our neighbours in the Asia Pacific…. again.