As we aim to broaden our students knowledge of the world, connections and communication becomes more important. Teaching through Web 2.0 allows students to communicate with others, instead of just a one directionally path with no authentic audience input (Hew & Cheung, 2012, p.48). Collaborative approaches to learning are key to helping students construct knowledge together.
In my classroom, I have used a number of Web 2.0 and social media tools to support learning:
Edmodo is like Facebook for education but fits the needs of my students who are under age 13 (age requirement of Facebook). It can be used a general discussion board to ask questions and share resources both during the school day and after hours. As a teacher, I can post polls and also reward students with badges for their efforts. It also provides a great platform for some important digital citizenship conversations such as appropriate online communication, what to reveal about yourself, the difference between professional and personal communication, who to connect with, avatars and profiles and online image.
Available at: https://www.edmodo.com
Skype is often an under used resource. Skype allows you to make video calls to another around the world. Last year, our class did a number of Mystery Skype calls with other classrooms to develop our geography and problem solving skills. We also sang Chinese songs with another school for Chinese New Year, wrote poems together and played math games against other classes.
Available at: http://www.skype.com/
In Year 4, students create cultural blogs to explore their identities. As an international school, the students can find this task challenges with many being third-culture children. The blogs allows them the experiences of writing different posts to explore aspects of their identities and follow the journeys of their classmates and interacting with each other through the commenting features.
Available from: www.blogger.com
e-Portfolios (Google Sites)
All students at our school have e-Portfolios from K1- Year 6. This is a great way for students to reflect on their learning and select pieces of work they wish to share. Students share these portfolios with parents, teachers and other students. Together it opens the lines of communication in person and through the comments. It really helps students to know we are all working to help them grow and learning with constructive feedback and encouragement.
Available at: https://www.google.com/sites/overview.html
As a teacher, I use Twitter to connect globally with other educators. It is a great way to have short discussions while also getting ideas and resources. With the options of both private and public messages, I can easily communicate with the many educators I have met online.
Available at: https://www.twitter.com
Here are 2 articles related to introducing social media to your classroom in the Primary school:
Introducing Social Media to Elementary Students
A Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom
Hew, K.F. & Cheung, W.S. (2012). Use of Web 2.0 Technologies in K-12 and Higher Education: The Search for Evidence-based Practice, Educational Research Review. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2012.08.001
Connectivism is defined by George Siemens as a way of gaining knowledge through your networks of others and their experiences (2005). He suggests learning is a continual process and that the focus should be more on how to learning than what you are learning yourself as part of his principles of connectivism (Bell, 2010). This learning theory was developed as previous learning theories (behaviourism, cognitivism, social constructivism) did not take into account the implications of technology on pedagogy. Connectivism focuses on having social connections as a way to develop actionable knowledge (Siemens, 2015).
I believe that in the 21st century we need to be sure that we are taking into account technology and the affordances it allows us when we look at learning for our students. From a connectivist perspective, teachers should be focusing on developing skills for our students to develop learning. While content is important, students can easily access content online if they are aware how to. Students need to know where and how to access a variety of online resources to find out the ‘what’ when they need it.(Siemens, 2005). Thus, teachers need to educate themselves on how to teach students these new skills.
As an educator, I value the need to be connected to other educators as a way to develop personally and professionally. Engaging with blogging and Twitter as a way of personal reflection has allowed me to connect with educators from around the globe. This has helped me continually improve my practice by gaining feedback and ideas from others. When I am faced with a problem, I often reach out on Twitter and instantly have a network of others who may have had similar experiences and different perspectives to shed light on what I am experiencing.
This idea of creating networks is also important for our students. Students networks may be significantly smaller due to age restrictions on many different online platforms. However, the idea of being connected and using your network in gaining access to various knowledge is important. I see this currently with our Year 6 students who are completing Exhibition as part of the Primary Year Primary (International Baccalaureate). Students are working with other group members who have varied experiences and knowledge. They are reaching out to different teachers at the school who have different skillsets depending on their research and action. They’ve emailed members of the community and different organisations as other sources of information and have gone to other schools even to gain ideas of what exhibition could be like. This provides students a better understanding of action and learning being continual, different people in your networks offer different perspectives and knowledge and that they don’t have to know everything to be successful, but how to gain the information they need. This social component of learning has allowed them to develop lifelong skills that are transferrable as they continue their education and build their network further.
Bell, F. (2010). Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 98-118.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.
Each student we have in our schools is unique and reacts differently to different situations. How we connect to who they are as individuals is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. As teachers, it is so important to find ways to build rapport with our students so that they develop a trusting and positive working relationship with the teacher in the school community. By going out of our way to connect with a student on a personal level can have an exponential impact inside our classroom.
Year 3 students participate in a Laptop Bootcamp on a weekly basis with myself, the Education Technology Coach, to support their transition from iPads to MacBooks. This is primarily skills-based with meaningful connections to their units of inquiry. The first week of the Laptop Bootcamp found me faced with a Year 3 student who was having a challenging time. He wouldn’t listen to the directions, leading him to become frustrated when he was unable to do something. He wasn’t open to asking for help or receiving support. He didn’t want to do it, stated he couldn’t do it and that he didn’t want to even use them. He began disturbing other students and preventing them from doing the task at hand. No matter what I did to try to help ease the task, his negative attitude and mindset prevented him from being successful. I walked away from the class knowing that I had to find a way to reach this child and that the flow of the class for the rest of the year would depend on it.
With the clear goal of finding a way to connect with the student, I tried to figure out a way that would know that I genuinely cared about the student. The first thing was to look for him in the playground at break and ask him what kind of mood he was in today. He told me not a good one, which led to further discussion of some things he was struggling with outside of school and we brainstormed how he might go about changing these things and also how he might be able to change his mood at school. I wasn’t sure how successful I had been with the one interaction and knew it needed to be a reoccurring pattern for him to begin to develop trust.
The next day I saw him and asked about his evening and how he was feeling about things today. While his mood had shifted slightly, there was still more that needed to be done. I needed to find a way that made him feel unique and special. So I did what anyone would do before moving on. I asked what he thought about a secret handshake just for the two of us. He looked at me kind of funny and then showed me one he wanted to have.
Every time I see him whether it’s on the playground, in the hallway, or in the classroom, we do our handshake. He lights up with a smile knowing that we have the coolest handshake in town. In class, gets a reassuring ‘You got this’ with a handshake as a combo as he heads back to the desk and tackles the challenge of the day. This week, not only was ready and listening as soon as I got started, but he also finished the task and started helping other students be successful.
What could have been an ongoing and constant challenge in the class became a positive experience for a student and an opportunity to empower him to support others and be a leader in the classroom. Never underestimate the smallest gestures and interactions. One gesture might make the largest difference.
So I can't help myself but be the proudest teacher in the world right now!
The same student who has struggled to process information, sequence events and get thoughts from pen to paper the past few years wrote a story today that pretty much blew me away. We were doing our pre-assessment for our new Writer's Workshop fantasy unit. The task was simple - show me as much as you know about fantasy writing in a small moment story in one period, try your best and let's see what you can come up with.
Well, I wandered the room ensuring my ESL students understood and redirecting another student or two back on task and didn't notice the student writing away. About 15 minutes in, I wandered over to him and he had four lines written on. I gave him a high five and off he kept going. After about 45 minutes it was time to break and I asked if he was done. He said he wasn't but almost and asked if he could finish. I figured he wanted to write and he is allowed the extra time as an accommodation so I was happy to let him finish.
When he handed his work to me that was almost a page long, I was beaming with excitement. He had done it completely independently as well. We exchanged our class secret handshake (which I did wrong, so we had a redo) and I gave him a ton of praise for his hard work and perseverance. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for our personal narrative pre-assessment, I got a blank page in 45 minutes so this is a major step forward.
Then he reached for the iPod, took a picture of his work and continued to write another sentence about his work before posting his blog. His fiction story was sequenced and had a beginning, middle and end. It had some descriptive language and he even wrote some of his words creatively to help create a feeling for his haunted story.
Is it having the blog that is similar to Instagram that he loves that made things click? Was it sharing the positive feedback about his blog I got from his family with him? Was it the positive encouragement that has finally sunk in? Was it just everything aligning in one go? I'm not sure but I will do whatever I can to keep him on this path.
It's simply a great reminder we really need to be these kids biggest cheerleaders and never give up on them. There is always something that might motivate a child. The student may not have the best progress every day, and likely many setbacks along the way but there is always something else that could work - so don't stop trying.