Tag Archives: collaborations

Connecting Globally: A Collaboration Is Created!

Being connected is a must for everyone!  As a connected educator I can not imagine my life without the support, inspiration, colleagueship and critical thinking that my PLN has given me over the years.  We all have stories of how we have become connected as well as the many talented people who have changed our lives because of our connection.  Today I posted on Twitter: “Twitter is giving me opportunities for rich conversations w/others. that I can be enriched here through the inspiration of many.” I feel strongly about this.  As an educator I am continually modeling not only how I use digital tools, but why.

In a yearly author study I explore with my Kindergarten students we enjoy the repetition, rhyme and creative characters and dialogue in Dr. Seuss’s stories.  This author study encourages my students to be themselves and share their story.  Through our own ability to tell a story, we connect and engage with others.  Just as I explore the gift of sharing and telling a story alongside my students, I also enjoy sharing my own.

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Knauf via a conversation on Skype.  She contacted me because she came across a blog post I had written in regards to using Kidblog and social media with young children for teach.com. We connected on Skype and Twitter. She wrote an article that was published in Germany about our conversation and what she had learned from me, my story, my experience. Here is our interview.

Who is she?

Helen is a professor in the field of early childhood education at the University of Applied Sciences Fulda.  She is a researcher with an exploratory focus on social networks and digital media and parent participation. She is a mother of three, plus a teacher of early childhood education. I am so looking forward to this connection.

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Helen and I have remained in touch over the past couple of years on Twitter, Google+, email and Facebook.  This fall we will have an opportunity to meet face to face for the 1st time!  Helen is coming to the USA!  She wrote a grant and it was funded!  She will be spending time alongside me, my students and my families learning about how I begin to build, explore and discover connectivity alongside my students and their families.  This opportunity is possible because of a blog post I wrote for teach.com and that Helen, and other people are reading. This is where I am reminded about the purposefulness and power of an authentic audience.  A global collaboration develops because I choose to be transparent, share my voice and use digital tools to connect with others, who like me, want to make a difference.

Connectivity means many things.  What is most important to me about connectivity is how it can bring people, countries and learning together.  Think about your own classroom, opportunities to share a story that is important to you.  Share it and be open to engage and further your conversation globally.  This is where we begin to model how we can collaborate and work as a global team to share our own learning and enrich each others lives.

So looking forward to meeting Helen and learning from her.  I am most #grateful. Think about a way you can inspire, be inspired by someone.  What will you do? What will your impact be?

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Ongoing Reflection and Thinking

Last week I was reminded about the importance of self reflection and choice through play.  When students have both the time and opportunity to pursue a personal interest they are able to connect, collaborate and engage in meaningful ways that would, well, really surprised me.  One of my students is very interested in tornadoes.  He has been exploring books, creating tornadoes and even brought in a “tornado tube” and shared how a tornado is created.  unnamed-4Through his interest and passion for this topic he was able to share his ideas and engage through play and exploration of text about his topic.  He choose a friend to go to the library and get some books on the subject and then read them.  Afterwards he created an amazing picture of what he thought a tornado might look like from outer space.  I was so intrigued by his perspective. After having a conversation about what he created it was clear to me that by giving choice and more opportunities to our students we are giving them invitations to be inspired and share about what they wish to explore.  This is where our students experience critical and deep thinking because they work tirelessly to pursue their own understanding.  Through their curiosity they are  not only sharing what they are passionate about, but also inspire others to learn alongside them. Here is where authentic learning naturally leads to meaningful conversations and opportunities to collaborate.  Later this student asked if we would tweet his picture.  When I asked him why; “I want to share my idea with the world.” I recently heard from a parent as well about their Kindergarten experience.  Through feedback I am able to reflect, rethink and begin to think about things that worked well and what opportunities do I have to make changes moving on.  She shared; “I just want to say a heartfelt “thank you” for teaching our children in a way that inspires them to apply what they learn to real life problems!  You don’t just teach them to memorize – you teach them to understand!  Two examples in this past week show how much __ has grown in your class with regard to understanding math. First, two days ago we were discussing his birthday party. He was trying to determine how to divide all his friends up into the six stations we are going to have. He asked “If we have 5 friends in each group how many is that?”  I asked him what he thought and within 30 seconds he replied “30!”  He explained that he combined stations so he could count by 10’s:) This is on example of what can happen for our students when we create opportunities and invitations to learn in ways that connect, engage and inspire us.  For me I am thinking of ways that I can continue to offer choice through the content I am required to pursue.  I am thinking about ways I might be able to offer choice more often and in ways that might inspire my students to become more curious about the what, why and how we explore together when pursuing questions. unnamed-2unnamed-3Here are a couple of reflections from my students in Kindergarten this year.  We are creating books about what we learned how to do in Kindergarten.  Here is another way to think about what your students learned, but also what they were most interested in.  This is also another opportunity for me to reach out and ask more about why these ideas were mentioned, what they offered? As an educator I want to offer the best learning experience for my students.  I want them to feel important, cared for and also know that I have hope for each of them.  Learning is for everyone.  Through my own ability to ask for feedback and engage in meaningful dialogue about my own learning I am able to make changes and improve learning for myself, my students and their families.  Through my own change, I am growing and modeling how transparency can be revealing, but offers ways to create more learning opportunities that promote meaningful reflection and growth.

Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com

Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com.

The Hour of Code: @vermontkkids123

What an amazing opportunities my students and myself had this week in regards to the national celebration of “The Hour of Code”! We started our journey of coding by watching President Barack Obama’s video.  The video was well done and the message was clear, even to my 5 and 6 year old Kindergarten students.

We need opportunities to create and design ideas that we have in regards to our passions and interests. We need to be engaged and able to use a variety of digital tools to connect, inspire and challenge our thinking.  When we are exposed and transparent in our thinking, then we open up paths for others to invest, engage and collaborate with us and our thinking.  I am thinking that coding may be one way for this to happen.

unnamed-1We are in a world that is not only changing fast, but technology is really impacting our opportunities to connect and engage globally to solve common world problems as well as opportunities to use digital tools that enrich our lives.  So coding is important and yes, even in Kindergarten it is clear that we need to offer opportunities for our students to learn code and how it can support their learning now and in the future.

Creating code is one way I can create opportunities for my students to create & problem solve through collaboration.   We used an App called; “Daisy The Dinosaur” which was fun for my students because they were able to think critically and team together to solve a problem.  Then when we visited our technology lab and teamed up with our learning buddies my students were able to practice that idea again of collaboration.  Working in a team, 1 student navigates and the other is the driver.  This is not a new idea for my students, it is just another learning opportunity where they can experience this type of collaboration using different tools.

My kindergarten students were able to write code and learn how to create directions to make something move!  This was the immediate connection that my students made.  A few of my students shared;”Mrs. D. when we make code we tell the computer what to do!” Thinking about this connection moving forward past this week I am thinking about other ways I can provide my students with opportunities to code.

I am new to the idea of code.  The whole idea of coding was a little bit overwhelming to think about, but now, after this week of coding and being able to learn alongside my students it is not.  As an educator of young children I need to find ways where students can connect and collaborate together to solve a problem.  Coding supports this idea.

Reflecting about coding and why should I be coding and exploring this with my students?

Here is what I came up with….

1. use of high level vocabulary

2. collaboration, conversations in a face to face situation

3. risk taking and experience positive self confidence

4. learning “how to” give/follow a direction

5. setting goals

6. experiencing flexibility and adapting to a new situation involving critical thinking and problem solving

7. use of digital tools, their capabilities

8. experiencing digital citizenship

9. global opportunities, family engagement opportunities

10. It was really fun!

I am passionate about learning.  I support innovation and creativity because we need to be able to use our creativity to connect and collaborate face to face, in our schools, homes and communities. Learning is for everyone and the technological tools available make it possible for everyone to share their voice.

SKYPE: A Way To Connect, Enrich and Engage

Skype has been a fun, easy way for my students to say hello, have conversations about what we are learning, ask questions, listen to a story, connect and learn new things. Earlier this year a friend, Cathy, I met in an online course thanks to the #plpnetwork that we were both participating in last spring offered to be a guest speaker for my students. I discovered that she was very interested in and had a lot of knowledge about the Monarch Butterfly.  So this Fall when I was exploring this unique animal I was able to use Skype as a way to connect my students with an expert and ask her questions about the life of a Monarch.  My students had great questions and were very comfortable using this synchronous tool because we have had many opportunities earlier with different parents who were willing to call us and say hello and ask us about our learning.  Through this type of modeling and explicit exploration of this tool my students were able to experience what it might be like as well as explore what online etiquette is and how this tool can help support our learning, learning as digital citizens.

Last week another friend and colleague, Brianna Laue, I met at Vermont Fest 2 years ago used Skype to have a few of her students read a couple of wonderful stories aloud to us!  This type of experience gave my students a chance to enjoy a read aloud, but also make connections and other noticings about the story and some of the strategies that the readers were using. Some of the strategies that my students noticed were: *read nicely, good readers, read with expression and they showed us pictures.* This is the beginning of reader’s workshop for my students.  They had an opportunity to be a part of a read aloud where other students were teaching us and through their modeling I can now build on this experience to further my students understanding.photo 3

6 weeks into Kindergarten and all is grand!  I am very grateful for the connections I have made over the years.  My connections are an important part of my PLN.  I continue to be inspired and supported through my connections. They challenge my thinking and broaden my perspective.

Connecting With Parents: Value of Conversations

I value connecting and communicating with my parents and my students before I meet them as well as throughout our year together. These are vital and very important in regards to not only the strong relationships I want to develop, but how it supports and strengthens learning.

How it starts….

Prior to Kindergarten I send a post card to each of my new students via snail mail. I then create an email distribution list and contact my new families. I welcome them, give them LOTS of information in regards to how we connect and where to go to get information in regards to Kindergarten.

I send out a Google Form asking permission for using Social Media, YouTube, Skype, kidblog, posting their work and photos, video on the websites I have created. (Click here to see the form) This way my parents and students have opportunities to connect, share, have conversations virtually about what kindergarten life will be like. This is so important. Parents need lots of opportunities to ask questions, share and connect. As an educator I welcome the opportunity to get connected with my students and their parents. Through our connections and conversations that we have before, during and after Kindergarten are extremely important and valuable.

I also offer an informational meeting prior to school staring for all my new families. The focus is getting connected digitally. I invite former Kindergarten students to help me show how and why we use the tools we do in regards to our learning. This is an easy, fun and interactive way to have a large group conversation about how my new students and their families will be connecting throughout our year together.

My Rationale…..

I feel strongly about making opportunities for both my students and families to connect prior to Kindergarten starting. What an awesome opportunity I have to get everyone connected in the beginning. Digital culture is really different for many people. I look at this as a way for me to really highlight and promote the use of a variety of technologies in a safe, kind, responsible way. As I model and use technology in meaningful ways I am demonstrating and encouraging my students and their families to interact in a variety of ways digitally. The interaction is always focused on their learning and is meaningful in regards to what we feel is important to what we discover.

In the beginning my focus and goals are about connecting and developing relationships. As an educator the relationship is huge for me and very important. I want to be as transparent as I can in regards to what I am doing and why. This way my students and their families gain perspective about what kindergarten life looks and sounds like. Also, most importantly, how they can interact and be involved with their child’s school experience. Time is very valuable and opportunities arise out of nowhere sometimes, even unexpectedly. I try to capture and embrace those moments to share and connect. Through my modeling, parents feel connected and that their voice is heard and needed.

The information I share…….

1. Class Wiki This is where parents can connect, read and ask questions about Kindergarten life. This wiki has the “nuts and bolts” of what their child needs, daily schedules, etc.

2. Literacy Wiki This is where parents go to read, see and listen to what literacy is and how it works in Kindergarten. Each page focuses on a different aspect of our literacy program.

3. Math Wiki This is where parents go to learn about what mathematical thinking and exploration looks like and sounds like in Kindergarten. Each page focuses on a different strand, concept of what their child will be experiencing.

4. Class Blog This is where parents go with their child/children to see what is happening in Kindergarten. I blog in the beginning of school with my students so they begin to develop a sense of audience and the importance of how we connect, share, and what we explore.

5. Life Studies Blog This is where I highlight and emphasize science exploration. I originally created this blog to showcase our 4 Winds program. This is a parent run and organized science program in our school.

6. Summer Reading Blog This was created for former and new students to connect with in regards to literacy. This idea was shared with me by our Technology Education Integrationist, Bonnie Birdsall(@bonniebird).

7. Kidblog This is an amazing platform to use with my students and their families. Through blogging everyone experiences how you can share your voice and connect with others in a safe, kind and responsible way. A wonderful way to experience and model how to be a digital citizen.

7. Kindergartenlife This blog was created as a place where I can reflect about what I am doing and why. I share my discoveries, challenges and celebrations in regards to teaching Kindergarten.IMG_5286

I use a lot of technology because it gives everyone a voice. Technology is not separate from what I do and explore with my students. It is a part of our daily life and culture because I model a variety of tools in authentic ways, ways that capture and enhance our learning experiences. Learning is for everyone.

@vermontkkids123

What a wonderful start to the new year @vermontkkids123!  I am blogging about the variety of collaborations, connections and discoveries that have already taken place.  Friday was our 26th day of kindergarten and we have been so busy!

On our 3rd day together we began a new project called;”Learning Buddies” with Mrs. McCormack’s students.  We began by sharing a story and talking about our collaboration of learning that we were designing as the year develops.  Right away I ask the students if they understand what a collaboration is.  I then asked; “What do you think it means when you collaborate with someone?”  Right  away a few of the students responded ‘working together”.  Yes!!  So our discussion began to unfold and the students were excited to think about the how and what we would be doing with our time together.

Later a parent emailed me a photo of her child “collaborating” with her Barbie dolls.  I have been thinking a lot about this and I am so amazed that this young child was able to transfer/apply the meaning of collaborate to something she enjoyed and was meaningful to her.  Wow!  This new vocabulary word was just introduced and I was amazed at what happened.

We now begin “tweeting” with our new friends and also connecting with other Kindergarten classes who follow us @vermontkkids123.  Each day we talk about what is important to us about what we learned and explored during our day together.  My students use our stuffed twitter bird to hold when it is their turn to “tweet”/share about what they want to say.  This is another way that we are connecting and collaborating with others about our learning.  Many of my students parents follow us so it is really motivating for my students to know that they are ‘tweeting”/talking to their parents.  This is the beginning of developing a sense of audience outside of our classroom.  The children began to notice other Kindergarten classes, so we read their tweets and respond to a few.  One of the tweets we read was from the Kindergarten students at Yokohama International School in Japan. They tweeted that they had earthquake drills.  We had an opportunity to share about how we have fire drills and ask then ask what an earthquake drill was.  Another way to share and connect through twitter.

  Later on one of my students parents is traveling to Cape Town, South Africa and wanted to use SKYPE to say hello to his son and the class.  During the day we received our 1st SKYPE call.  My student was so excited to see and say hello to his father.  The children were also excited as well.  Again, by introducing another way to connect and share outside of our classroom my students begin to think about how this might work and how it is meaningful to them.

Later on another student shared that his dad was traveling to California and that he was going to call us using SKYPE.  wow!  Already my students are beginning to experience and think about how to connect in a safe way.  When his father called, we shared what they weather was like and had an opportunity to talk about the time difference too.

Now we have created a Google Map where we have pinned all of our connections we have made so far in the 26 days we have been together.  I have shared the map with my families as well so they can look at and talk about with their children.  Last week we created a map of the world out of paper and placed it on one of our classroom walls so that the children can see and reference when we make connections.  Now we are learning about the continents, the oceans and where we are in comparison to others.  Possibilities will include looking at the climate, culture and who knows what else.  All of this is inspired by what we are sharing and experiencing.

Exploring the natural world is a huge part of kindergarten.  My students have lots of opportunities to observe, explore and reflect about what they see in nature.  We have been involved in creating and designing scientific drawings of insects using iPads, paper and other tools.  We have been sharing our work through blogging and twitter!  This week we are sharing our work with ePals and posting our creations on the Smithsonian page where we will earn “Smithsonian Stars”My students will now have an opportunity to see what other kindergarten children are creating too!  This is another great way we can compare and contrast what we are learning.

Through twitter I am able to participate in a project called;“Kindergarten Around The World”.  Our connection is with another kindergarten class in British Columbia, Canada.  We have begun connecting through twitter and sharing a Google Doc!  I will post more on this collaboration as it develops!

We are becoming safe, kind and responsible digital citizens in kindergarten.  We are using higher level vocabulary that describes how and why we share and connect with others.  We are learning to be reflective and how to share with others in a safe way.  We are developing relationships with others who want to share about what they are learning too!

So far the technological tools we are using are; SKYPE, ePals, Google Maps, Google Docs, blogging, kidblog, twitter, podcasting, iPads, SMART board, document camera, computers and voicethread.  And yes!  We are meeting face to face with others too!