Lately I have been sharing lots of ways digital tools can enhance, enrich and engage learning for not only the students we teach, but their families and other educators. When I share a platform and/or tool I am asked to talk about the digital tool, which I am happy to share as well as why I choose the tools I do. These questions offer me an opportunity to reflect again on the why and what I do and how it all happens. For me what is most important is how the digital tool will support and enhance learning for my students as well as how their voice can be shared globally. My students have amazing ideas and are always excited to share and ask questions about what they are exploring. The digital tools give them endless ways to share their learning with each other and the world.
When I share ideas and reflect it is always about the learning that is happening and/or has happened. The digital tools offer ways for my students, their families and others to engage, connect and be reflective. Through our ability to reflect and rethink about what we are doing, we learn how we are exploring ideas and what is it about how we are learning that we understand the process of gaining new knowledge and acquire new information. As an educator I want to make sure that I am always offering invitations to my students and their families that invite them to learn alongside me. This is possible through the use of digital tools because it offers ways to enhance and engage in conversations. Conversations are important and vital because this is the heart of our work, as educators, where we have opportunities to listen to our students voices and get at what is most important.
I value perspective because it gives me opportunities to have my thinking challenged as well as be inspired. My students need to be able to experience different perspectives as well. Through their ability to listen and rethink about what they are exploring, opportunities for collaboration appear and the digital tools help bridge this and make it possible.
Last year my students were exploring the forest. We created a forest inside our own classroom as well as explored the different types of animals and plant life that grew in Vermont forests. As we explored this idea of forest life we were able to extend our learning to other forests in the US via @skypeclassroom where my students were able to have a conversation with a real forest ranger in YellowStone National Park. This experience was so meaningful that all of my students were excited to learn more about forest life and take risks with new texts and create their own books about forest life.
So through Skype, posting on our Kidblogs about an animal, creating podcasts of what we learned about the Vermont forest and then Tweeting about what we were learning and how we were learning we all became very invested and engaged. This is where my students pushed themselves because they were curious about what we were learning. Through their curiosity about a topic of interest, they invested their own time and hard work pushing themselves to create a multitude of projects that helped encourage them to be creative and learn more about the topic.
Digital tools are amazing. They offer so many wonderful ways to enhance learning opportunities. I always think about the learning and then think about what digital tools might be helpful as I explore this new theme with my students. I also think about what tools will give us opportunities to connect and share our learning globally too.
As an educator I will always have lots of “have to’s”. The piece I look forward to is how I am going to get at the content, make it meaningful and engaging as well as what digital tools will help me and my students. The why of this work is always at the heart. It is what appears and is discovered by your students. The real learning comes from your students own curiosity. I am trying to make it happen whenever I can.