Twitter in the classroom…

A group of Jina’s Year 4 students sit on the floor and I show them Twitter. She is fairly new to Twitter herself, so I love that she has set up a class account and is keen to get them started, especially as this is the first class Twitter account in our school.

For now, the account can only be accessed if the teacher logs in. She plans to keep it logged in in the classroom, so that students can share their learning and gather data via their questions. Several articles in the past few weeks have covered dozens of ways to use Twitter for learning and we need to start somewhere to see where this takes us.

I start with a brief explanation of how it works and its purpose, then show them some Twitter streams from classes at other schools to give them a better idea. I had planned to have them practice expressing their thoughts in 140 characters first, but it turns out to be unnecessary. I model a couple of tweets with their input and, within a few minutes, we have a volunteer up at the board, typing a tweet about their Skype experience the day before.

To my surprise, the rest of the group spontaneously supports the Tweeter, with spelling and punctuation corrections as well as suggestions for content. There is some discussion about what aspects of the Skype experience to include and a few questions, most of which they answer themselves simply by watching. They quickly head to their seats to compile some tweets of their own about other learning experiences in the past few days.

Frankly, I’m amazed at how many skills are being applied here! These 9 year-olds are quite spontaneously…

  • Writing for an authentic audience.
  • Communicating with purpose.
  • Reflecting on their learning.
  • Making choices about what to share.
  • Distilling the essence of each learning experience.
  • Expressing themselves concisely.
  • Applying their knowledge of spelling and punctuation.

I tweet from my own account for people to say hi from other countries and they receive responses from all over the world.

It’s the end of the day and they miss most of them as they rush off to pack up and go home. We have a few days off school, but I’m sure next week Jina will follow up and have them respond to the global tweets. It would be great if they spent some time looking up the places on the map.

It’s just the beginning…

10 ways school has changed…

It’s less than a year since I wrote lamenting the empty space in our new building, while teachers kept their doors shut and the learning inside their own rooms. Walking through ‘the space’ these days, as we approach the end of the school year, I’m struck by how much has changed.

There are groups of kids everywhere, sprawled on the floor, huddled on the steps, sitting around tables, even standing on chairs so that they can film from above! They are collaborating on inquiries, creating presentations, making movies and expressing their learning in all kinds of creative ways. It’s active and social, noisy and messy… as learning should be. 

School has changed…

1. We used to imprison the learning inside the classrooms… Now the whole school is our learning environment.

2. We used to find information in books and on the internet… Now we also interact globally via Skype with primary sources.

3. We used to control everything… Now students take ownership of their learning.

4We used to think ‘computer’ was a lesson in the lab… Now technology is an integral part of learning across the curriculum.

5. We used to collect students’ work, to read and mark it… Now they create content for an authentic global audience.

6. We used to strive for quiet in the classroom… Now the school is filled with vibrant and noisy engagement in learning.

7. We used to teach everything we wanted students to know… Now we know learning can take place through student centred inquiry.

8. We used to set tests to check mastery of a topic… Now learning is often assessed through what students create.

9. We used to plan differentiated tasks, depending on ability… Now digital tools provide opportunities for natural differentiation.

10. We used to have an award ceremony for the graduating Year 6 students… Now every child will be acknowledged at graduation.

Not every point is uniformly evident across the school irrespective of teacher, class and time (yet), but most are well on the way. Learning in our school has changed enormously… and is constantly changing. Is yours?

Moving learning into the 21st century…

We had a great time in our collaborative planning session this week, moving one of our Year 5 inquiry units into the 21st century. It’s an exploration of plants and how they grow, in conjunction with hands-on work in our school kitchen-garden, and an inquiry into the environmental conditions that affect plant growth.

What’s changed?

21st century

They used to… do leaf rubbings with paper and pencil to see what leaves look like.

Now they will use an iPad magnifier app to look at leaves up close.

They used to… draw diagrams and label the parts of a plant.

Now they will choose their own species, research it themselves and create an animated slideshow of its parts.

They used to…. grow bean plants and watch them grow.

Now they will take a photo of their beans every day and create a stop motion video showing the growth process.

They used to… do experiments related to plant growth and write scientific reports for the teacher.

Now they will film their experiments and upload them to their class blogs with their reports, to enable comments from the wider community.

They used to… read about different kinds of plants that grow in other places and how they adapt to their environment.

Now they will message people around the world to send a photo of a plant that grows where they live, so that they can discuss and analyse their findings.

In each case, it is the learning that drives the technology. In each case, the students will be more engaged. In each case, the learning will be richer and deeper.

Let me know if you are willing to send a photo next month, especially if you live in an environment different from ours here in Melbourne!

10 ways for teachers to collaborate…

People talk a great deal about the ’21st century skills’ of collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Do we model them ourselves, as teachers?

10 ways to collaborate for teaching and learning…

1. Open the door.

Let go of the idea that you have to teach in ‘your way’ in ‘your space’. Team teach. Invite people in. Share spaces. Learn together.

2. Talk.

Collaborative planning is a constant conversation. (ThanksFiona Zinn). Share what worked and what didn’t. Build on each others’ ideas. Talk about how you’ll use shared spaces.

3. Be open-minded.

There is more than one way of doing things. Be open to new ways of thinking and new ways of learning. Learning can look different from the way it did when you went to school.

4. Include your students.

Ensure you are part of their learning community rather than boss of the learning. Ask for feedback. Talk about the process of learning. Listen to their voices. It’s their learning.

5. Make learning trans-disciplinary.

Learning takes place when we connect new knowledge or ideas with what we already knew. The more connections, the stronger the learning. Create opportunities for connections across disciplines.

6. Share.

Share your time, your ideas and your expertise. Share tasks and resources between team members. Share responsibility with your students.

7. Focus on the arts.

Work with the art teacher and the music teacher. Use the arts to enrich learning in any subject area.

8.Establish an in-school PLN.

Learn from and with your personal learning network. It might be your grade level team, teachers of the same subject or, best of all, a mixed group. Share practice. Build on each others’ ideas.

9. Establish an online PLN.

Use social media to connect and collaborate with educators anywhere, any time. Get the most out of Twitter. Ask someone to help you get started on building an online network. (I will)

10. Create a global collaboration.

Use Skype or Voicethread to collaborate with a class in another country. Exchange ideas and beliefs. Learn from each other.

Do you collaborate to make teaching and learning richer? How?

More ’10 ways’ posts.