Today I had the opportunity to share my story as an ignite teacher. What a pleasure it was to share and listen to my fellow Ignite teachers stories. I shared my story about how my learning evolved with the support of technology and how opportunities for developing meaningful and deep relationships were created. I believe that because of the connectivity and my willingness to be transparent in my own learning, I am able to learn alongside my students daily as we share our voices globally.
Here is my story………
I am learning how to connect and learn about the world alongside my students. Together we are exploring how digital tools and platforms offer opportunities to have conversations with others, who like us want to make the world a better place.
In the beginning, I had computers in my room that I did not want. I asked to have them removed because I wanted the space for other things. The computers stayed, collecting dust. I did not understand how technology could be used and why did we need computers anyway? I kept thinking about why do I need these machines, what purpose do they have, and how will they help with my learning and that of my students?
In 2008 I participated in a blogging workshop. I was immediately intrigued by how I could use blogging as a way to share what we are doing in Kindergarten, why it is important and how learning evolves. So I started a class blog and immediately my students and their families connected and our conversations and relationships deepened and learning became the focus. Blogging helped me experience the value of the audience and how by sharing a variety of perspectives, relationships develop and we open up opportunities to have conversations about our learning. Now parents, students and others globally can read and listen to what we are learning about and how. I thought about how wonderful this will be for parents especially. Families had access to our day of learning, our stories…Families were in a way being invited, daily to see what is happening inside and out of Kindergarten anytime they wanted to, no more losing and misplacing endless pieces of paper about our days. Our learning was always available. Parents and their children would have a way to begin a conversation about their day.
One of my students was from Africa. He traveled by himself to the United States where he met his new family and school. With the help of his mom, we were able to use Skype as a way to say hello and learn a bit about Africa. My student introduced his Mother to us as his African mother, Rita. The children were mesmerized by this conversation, and as my student introduced his classmates, I watched the expression on Rita’s face, one of happiness. Then his mother asked her son, “How are you? Do you like your school?” Right then, at that moment it struck me about how important conversations are and the value of developing relationships that share who we are and where we come from. So at this moment, we all learned about how technology can be used to create a bridge to connect. Later my students asked why this child had more than one mom. He shared; “I am lucky because I have an American mom and an African mom.” We learned about the value of acceptance… and our perspective of family widened, we learned that families look different.
Later another child’s parents were traveling in Japan. They shared videos and photos of what life was like there. The children were really intrigued by the speeding trains. When the child’s parents connected with us using GoogleHangout, their child was able to say hello. As he softly cried, when he saw his parents on the screen. he told his parents how much he missed them. In those moments he was reassured that he would see his parents tomorrow. The other children immediately spoke kind words and told him that it would be okay. At that moment we experienced empathy and the webcam that was once put in mouths and licked was now a portal to connect and speak with people who care about us and our learning. Through our interactions with each other, we learn about the importance of friendship and empathy.
As we explored Global Goal #13 this past year, and previous years, Climate Action, the children were able to learn about waste. As we explored what waste, how it is created and what might be some possible solutions we connected with Recycle Rhonda from the Chittenden Solid Waste District. We learned about ways that we could be less wasteful through hands-on workshops. We created a padlet to ask others globally what they were doing to be less wasteful. Then during one of Recycle Rhonda’s visits,s one of the children asked if she was on Twitter. She replied, “No.” So the children explained to her what Twitter was and if she joined Twitter we could talk to her. So she joined! The children now share their positive actions around waste with her via Twitter. The children, at the ages of 5 and 6 are modeling and teaching an adult about how to use this social platform in a safe, kind, and responsible way. The children begin to experience and understand how this platform can help us make connections, share our learning and have conversations with others who are interested in our learning. Now we, together with experience understand how we can deepen our learning through the use of technology. Twitter becomes a platform to have conversations.
I’ve decided not to try to keep up with it all, but to focus on the things I’m using while being open to new ideas. Another challenge is being explicit and intentional about what digital platform to use and how. I have been inspired by the authentic, personal experiences that I, my students, my colleagues, and their families have shared in regard to how technology has enriched and enhanced their understanding and connection with each other and the world. For me, learning is for everyone. I have hope that technology will offer endless opportunities for everyone to share their voice and connect with others who have a passion for what is important to them. Learning is always the focus… technology is a tool that offers a bridge to the world. Through our ability to be transparent, we model how we can all learn from and alongside each other in positive ways to make the world a better place.