Taking learning forward…

What do our students know about the countries around us?  Not that much, apparently.

Our Year 6 classes have kicked off their new unit of inquiry by thinking about what it means to be a good neighbour and then discussing which of the requirements apply to being good global citizens too. They know we need to work towards understanding our geographical neighbours, engaging with and learning from them, but it seems that many aren’t quite sure who our neighbours are!

By the end of the unit they will know a great deal more. They will inquire into Australia’s interconnectedness with countries in the Asia Pacific, explore the region through Google Maps and a range of other resources and, best of all, they will interact with real people to find out about the countries in which they live.

“Learning  from someone is much more real than learning about them.”  (Year 6 student)

In my very first post on this blog, I stated that my goal was to flatten the walls, take the learning beyond the classroom out into the world, and bring the world inside. Not long after that, the first time Year 6 explored this topic, I persuaded the teachers to have the kids interview a friend in India via Skype. It was an experience that opened new doors and highlighted what was possible.

A year later, for the same unit of inquiry, student’s created a Voicethread with their questions and were able to pursue their personal inquiries via Skype too. They interacted with people in Japan, India, Singapore, Thailand, Bali and Sri Lanka.

This year, we would like to find even more primary sources in every country that our learners choose to investigate. Rather than a formal class structure, it would be great to see them in small groups talking via Skype to as many people as possible. We’d love to have them engaging with students in other countries and continuing to connect with them after the initial interviews.  It would be great to see them work collaboratively on Google Maps to which they add photos, information, questions and new learning. Hopefully they will use their class blogs to reflect on what they learn and to record their wonderings, so that people ‘out there’ can respond.

Do you want to help us learn?

Do you live in the Asia Pacific Region? You don’t need to be an expert. We’d be happy to send you some questions in advance, if that helps. We don’t mind using Skype, Voicethread, email or any other collaborative tool we know or have yet to learn (if it’s not blocked in our school…). We’d love you to include some students, preferably Year 6 or older, as we sometimes ask tough questions, but we’re just as happy to talk to adults. We’re willing to tell you a bit about Australia, in return.

If you’d like to join our learning community and can spare us a little time in the coming weeks, please let us know.

social media

Update: My PLN has delivered willing people or classes in India, China, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Phillipines, NZ and Indonesia! Still looking for Thailand, PNG, East Timor, Malaysia, Burma and Laos…

Final update: We got Malysia, Laos, Thailand.. and a few came too late, as our school year is just about over, but we’ll save them for future collaborations. Thank you!

10 ways Twitter has added value…

Dear Teacher who is still not on Twitter,

Maybe you didn’t receive my previous mail. Just in case it didn’t convince you, here are a few more examples of the benefits of Twitter… 

1. Continuous learning with and from a global community of educators, via countless links to interesting posts and articles, tools and websites, conferences and workshops. thoughts and ideas.

2. Year 5 students at my school are learning about Aboriginal culture. Twitter led me to @jessica_dubois, as a result of which classes at our schools were able to interact via Skype last week. It was an incredible learning experience for both sides!

3. Ongoing connections with PYP educators like @jessievaz in Chile, @maggiswitz in Switzerland, @sherratsam in Thailand and @garethjacobson  in Bangladesh (among others!), to whom I can turn for advice and ideas relating to learning in the PYP.

4. #Elemchat is a weekly Twitter chat for primary school teachers to discuss issues and share practice. It’s great to get different perspectives from all over the world and the connection with talented organisers @tcash in Morocco and @gret in Argentina is an added bonus.

5. Year 1 teachers at my school have recently started blogging and are keen to make global connections for their students. Via Twitter, I’ve found them a number of interested teachers and classes in Colombia, Switzerland, Canada, Indonesia, Chile and the US and inspired them further with the work of @grade1 to see what is possible.

6. Inquire Within, a collaborative blog about inquiry learning, has a range of contributors from twelve countries across six continents… all via Twitter. (Join us!)

7. Upper Primary teachers at my school were inspired by a Skype session on literacy and class blogging with @kathleen_morris and @kellyjordan82 a few months ago and the dynamic duo has agreed to do another session next term to inspire teachers in the lower grades too.

8. @toughLoveforX is a retired printer and design teacher in NY, who comments with interest on my blog and our school class blogs, giving valuable insights and asking tough questions about education that make me think (and act). 

9.  It was great to have @henriettaMi, who I know through blogs and Twitter, visit our school when she was recently in Melbourne to present at a conference. She graciously agreed to present an after-school session to further inspire teachers at my school with their class blogs.

10. Endless advice, assistance, support, collaboration, encouragement, inspiration, motivation … and friendship.

Why wouldn’t you want to be part of it? 

Let me know if you want help getting started.

Edna

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New ways of learning…

People pay more attention to new ways of learning.  (Hayden, 12)

A hundred learners gathered at the start of the day to listen to a keynote presentation about KOTO, a not-for-profit restaurant and vocational training program that is changing the lives of disadvantaged youth in Vietnam.

It was the start of an excellent day of learning at an innovative Social Justice Conference, which included fifteen presentations spread over three sessions, providing a broad selection for participants to choose from. Between sessions there were small breakout groups for sharing and processing.

If this sounds like other conferences you have been to, the difference is that the participants were mostly 11 and 12 years old! The conference was organised to expose students to a range of speakers and workshops to raise awareness of social inequities and the kinds of action taken by individuals and organisations to try to make a difference. The  presenters included  high school students and staff, but mainly members of the local and global and communities. (with long distance presentations via Skype).

Teachers and students alike were excited by the learning opportunities and inspired by the stories they heard. We learned about youth homelessness from Bianca, at the Salvation Army, who was herself on the streets a few years ago. Suneeta from SOLES provoked the students to think about how they would get information if they had no computers, no books and their parents weren’t able to help them. Gabe and his daughter Mary-Margaret from Kids are Heroes inspired the students with stories of action that kids have taken to contribute to improving their world. Among other things, students learned about organisations which ensure fair treatment of workers, about working with indigenous Australians and about the plight of refugees. Click here to see the full program of speakers.

It was rewarding to see our young learners so engaged, taking notes, grappling with issues, asking thoughtful questions and reflecting on their learning.

Student reflections on the conference as a way to learn:

It was interactive and gave us many different views of things. (Elijah)

It was a good way to learn because we listened to inspirational people and stories and didn’t have to do stressing work. (Zac)

We could choose where we wanted to go and pursue what we wanted to learn. (Victoria)

It was a fun and interesting way to learn and you had a choice of what you listened to so you would not be bored. (Alex)

I got a chance to hear other people’s thoughts and deepen my understanding about social inequities. (Bella)

I was inspired and I have deepened my understanding by hearing what inspired others. (Tahni)

It was a good way of learning because we got to meet people we may never have got to meet and to learn in a different way. (Jasmine)

People pay more attention to new ways of learning. (Hayden)

You can read about how the idea was conceived and developed here. 

Click here for further reflections on one of the class blogs. They would love your comments.

Are you in Africa?

MY PLN

I was born in South Africa, although I haven’t been back for more than 30 years. Blogging about teaching and learning, I find myself recalling my school days, enjoying the view of Table Mountain through the window, instead of paying attention in class. My first job as an enthusiastic, young teacher was in Cape Town, a lifetime ago. I sometimes wonder how my old school is progressing. I wonder what teaching and learning are like in South Africa today. And I wonder a great deal about access to education in all of Africa…

My global PLN (personal learning network) has expanded in the past year and I have established meaningful connections with educators in so many countries, on every continent, except for Africa. Yet, looking at the clustrmap which records visitors to my blog, I am aware that people not just in South Africa, but in Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Tunisia and Egypt have visited!

I would love to hear from you and about you. It would be great to connect with you. Leave me a comment, if you will…

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Dear Teacher who wasn’t on Twitter…

Partially inspired by Scott McLeod’s post  If You Were on Twitter.

Dear Teacher,

I know you don’t see the point of Twitter. I know you think people should have a balanced life and not be online too much. I know you think a great deal of time is required to find resources and create connections.

Last Sunday was a lovely, sunny day. Among other things, I went for a walk in the city, spent time with family, went out for breakfast with friends, cooked a pot of lentil soup, finished Seth Godin’s Poke the Box and read several chapters of A Man of Parts by David Lodge.

I also spent 30 minutes on Twitter participating in #elemchat, where primary school teachers around the world exchange ideas and share their challenges. Here’s some of what I got out of that half hour:

  • A variety of new web 2.0 story book creators to explore and share with my colleagues.
  • Inspiration and ideas from @dogtrax, like his environment project.
  • The idea of using Edmodo for reading discussions.
  • A promising collaboration with Tania Ash  in Morocco to start a world reading group for primary school students!
  • The start of a connection with @plnaugle who shares my interest in inquiry learning.
  • Discovery of another PYP educator @ctrlaltdeliver to add to my contact list.
  • Potential collaborators for our unit about cultural beliefs.
  • A comforting sense that educators worldwide encounter the same challenges that we do at our school.
  • New contacts in several countries for future global collaborations.
  • A reminder that there is no professional learning quite like half an hour on Twitter!
You should give it a try. I’ll help you get started if you like.
Edna
PS. There was a great #edchat session today on the role of blogging in 21st century learning, it’s value and the challenges, both for students and teachers. But that’s another story…

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Inter-cultural understanding…

What could be more engaging than kids talking to kids across the world? What better way to learn about other people? What better way to encourage inter-cultural understanding and global awareness?

Our Year 4 students are currently exploring other cultures. They are using the iceberg model to investigate how cultural beliefs and values influence people’s customs and perspectives. Part of their inquiry will include interacting with children (and adults) from a variety of cultures via Skype and Voicethread. By constantly referring to the iceberg, they will gradually develop their understanding that the things we see  (food, festivals, customs) reflect the deeper beliefs and values of a culture.

Time and again, I have found the best way to make connections for this kind of learning is through my existing online PLN. Tweeting for interested collaborators in this unit has, so far, brought us willing collaborators in Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and other parts of Australia. Friends in India have agreed to connect with the Year 4 children too. It’s not the best time of year for this inquiry, as schools in other countries are finishing for the year, but it’s still worth asking… If you’d like your students of any age to collaborate with us, either via Skype or by responding to our coming Voicethread, please let me know!

GLOBAL LEARNING
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Talking to people… globally

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m always talking about the power of global connections. In my ideal school, kids would be connecting at any time of day with people anywhere in the world to further their inquiries. They’d be independently Skyping with kids in other place to share learning and exchange ideas. But for now, interactions initiated by teachers are at least a starting point.

On Friday I’ll have another opportunity to talk online about the experiences we’ve had so far at my school. It’s for InnovatEd Conference in Memphis, USA, and I love the idea of presenting via Skype about kids connecting globally in just this way. We haven’t been able to do much of this in the past couple of months, due to tech difficulties resulting from our move to a new building. However we’re almost back in business, so if there’s anyone out there who’d like to connect in May for a Year 4 unit on understanding other cultures or a Year 2 unit about how schools are organised in different countries, please let me know.(The age of the students doesn’t need to match.) Skype is great, and Voicethread works well if we need to connect asynchronously due to inconvenient time differences. If you have never done this sort of thing, here’s a good place to start!

Meanwhile here’s an example of where one of my own online connections has led…

It was wonderful to meet face to face and exchange ideas today with @megangraff , who I met on Twitter. She’s a teacher librarian at a PYP school in Singapore, visiting Melbourne to see friends.  Showing her around our school, discussing similarities and differences, having her input in one of our meetings about report cards, it felt as if we had known each other for ages. She’s moving to Tanzania later this year to volunteer as teacher librarian at the School of St Jude. She has promised to stay in touch so that we can try to find a way to connect our students to provide an opportunity for some great learning on both sides.

As one of my students reflected last year, ‘Talking to people is much better than learning about them’!

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Global collaboration… an invitation

Blogging is relatively easy. You sit in your own quiet space and record your thoughts in writing. You might have readers or you might not and, if you’re like me, you’ll never be able to predict which posts will be popular. Sometimes the ones that are most important to you will attract the fewest readers and the most unexpected posts will draw streams of comments and debate. But that’s ok… I write for myself as much as for anyone else. It’s a great place to process my thinking and share examples of great learning.

Presenting is another story. You can see the responses of the audience as you speak, the ‘real you’ is visible to all and you don’t get an opportunity to rewrite if it doesn’t turn out well. Next week I’ll be presenting at the IB Asia Pacific Conference and it’ll be my first presentation outside my own school, so more than a little nerve wracking. The title is ‘Kids Talking to Kids’ and here’s the blurb:

What could be more engaging than kids talking to kids across the world? What better way to encourage intercultural understanding and international-mindedness? The session will include examples of  collaborations which have enabled the flattening of classroom walls, allowing students to learn from and with people around the world. It will explore the ways learning can be enhanced through such interactions. It will highlight what we have learned, challenges and successes, and share effective ways such connections can be established.

I’m not an expert. There are many wonderful educators out there who have been doing this for longer and more successfully than I have. I hope to continue to be inspired by them and perhaps, in turn, to inspire those who haven’t yet taken the first step.

By chance I was invited by Anne Mirtschin to present on the same topic in Elluminate as part of the Tech Talk Tuesday series of webinars, so I’ve chosen to do it in the same week for practice. I’ve participated in these sessions a few times , the atmosphere is relaxed and Anne is very supportive and encouraging. The session is at 4pm (Australia time) on Tuesday 15th March (world times here) and here’s the Elluminate session link in case any of you want to log in and join us. Hopefully we’ll all make some new connections and set up future possible collaborations.


(Variation on an earlier video)

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Leaders as learners…

The more I connect online with other educators through blogs and Twitter, the more I see how those who don’t are lagging behind in their learning. I was invited this week to share with my ‘leadership team’ (admin.)

We looked at what leaders get out of blogs…

We looked at what kids get out of blogs…

We had a quick overview of Twitter and educators worldwide shared what they get out of it.  The plan was to Skype with Patrick Larkin, a principal in Burlington, USA, but it didn’t happen because…

Feedback from my learners…

There is a world of people out there willing to share, learn together and support each other- You are not alone.

This provides the most wonderful, exciting opportunities to be a part of a learning community

I have spent time reading blogs – I came away feeling inspired, yet a little apprehensive  to write one.

Would love to explore twitter – it was a little bit too fast for me

We live in exciting times in terms of education.

I cant wait to begin exploring.

 

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