Tag Archives: connecting

Postcards: An Opportunity to Build Relationships & Learn About the World

In June of each year, I send a welcome letter, a postcard from Vermont with Vermont animals on it, and a map of the United States to each of my students that I will have in kindergarten in the fall. I ask my students to examine the animals and to share with someone at home if they recognize any of the animals and share where they think they may live. I am beginning to help model and create opportunities for my students to become explorers and to think and experience ways they can interact with the natural world.

I do this for many reasons.

Why does this matter?

One important reason is that I want to begin to establish a relationship with all of my students and their families. Kindergarten is an important year and it goes by quickly so I want to take every opportunity I can to connect. Through making personal connections early on I find that both families and their children feel welcomed and a part of their learning experiences.

Through sharing our personal stories of our travels, experiences, and ideas not only to we begin to connect, but I am sharing information about myself as well. This is always helpful when establishing new relationships.

The postcards invite conversations for families to think about why are things where they are? They begin to think about land and water. This helps me explore how all my students will become geographers because they will have opportunities to ask why things are where they are in the world.

Through this postcard exchange, I am helping me to promote conversations about where places are in the world as well as opening up perspectives about what is possible and where you can go and what you might find there/learn.

I am intentional about the cards I send because I am also trying to promote the idea of inquiry. For example; In the cards I sent from Chicago I visited a museum and the artist produced lots of visual art by creating patterns. One of the cards I sent had patterns in it so I am able to pose the following questions on the card giving all my students opportunities to think and share their ideas with a family member. What do you notice? Do you see any patterns? How do you know they are patterns? Look at the postcard I sent you from Wisconsin, do you see any similarities?

The postcards have land, water, trees, art, animals, and other amazing things that give a glimpse of where I have traveled. The variety of photos invites conversations about why is water here along the shore in Chicago? etc. This helps my students think a bit about the geography of the land. This is important because in kindergarten as explorers my students will be investigating Global Goal #15 Life On Land and these experiences help establish some familiarity with the world.

Through these types of questions, I am opening up dialogue for the family to look at the cards and to discuss their observations with their child, while also modeling open-ended questions that promote thinking and curiosity. I am modeling how writing can be used as a tool to communicate and invite my students to send and create cards as well.

What I notice:

In one of the photos, you see a young boy using his holding hand while his other hand guides him to color in the state I am currently visiting(his mom shares he is mentioning my name and where I am while coloring). He is coloring carefully and has a natural grip to help guide him. These are skills that we explore in kindergarten and this helps me get to know a bit about this child. Through an authentic opportunity to connect, I am learning many things about my new kindergartners.

The family shares that he states: “I need to color in Michigan because that is where Mrs. D. is.” The child uses his oral language to talk about the map and have conversations with his family about my travels. Each place I visit I send a postcard to all of my students. This experience invites opportunities to make predictions about where is Mrs. D. going next. In some ways, I am promoting curiosity and deep thinking so this child and others can make predictions and use their imagination about what it might be like there, where I am.

You will notice in the photos that many of my students sent me postcards of how they were using their postcards and maps I sent them. You notice that many of my students mailed me postcards and one of my students found a map on an airplane and used that to mark his travels and mine. What an amazing, authentic connection with how maps can be used to give information and share a story.

Once kindergarten started, many of my students brought me postcards of places they traveled as well. I created a place in kindergarten to display these cards because we are connecting and developing relationships from our experiences and are inspiring each other through our stories.

In the photos, you see the different ways families have used the maps. Some children taped on a wall, others kept on a table. One family added Canada to their map because that was where they were from.

Looking at photos of my new kindergarten students this year I am reminded about the impact visual information can offer and how much I can learn about my students and what they are exploring as they receive the many postcards I mail them throughout my summer travel.

As a National Geographic Certified Educator, I have been very excited about The Learning Framework that National Geographic created. The framework has 3 components; Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge. I have experienced how these pieces when woven together through inquiry offer endless opportunities for students to begin to think like a geographer and an explorer.

The postcard exchange I create each year begins to create a culture and model how we can all learn from each other when we share our experiences and our stories. This is a wonderful example of how the Learning Framework can be a part of learning. I am inviting opportunities to be curious, promote inquiry, and to connect with others who have a different perspective.

I am a very passionate educator who believes in opening up my classroom globally to help build bridges between people and cultures. I believe that this matters because even young children can think and learn about the world through sharing. I choose postcards because they helped to tell my story of my summer travel and to give authentic images of real things in the world. This inspired my students to do the same.

Sharing Our Story…..

Sharing Our Story:@vermontkkids123

My Story….

Recently I had the opportunity as a former Ignite award winner to work with an amazing storyteller, Sue Schmidt. I, along with 3 other talented educators was able to share our stories at a recent Vita-Learn conference.  For me, this was really hard at first! As I practiced my story, wrote it down and then shared with a live audience I was struck by the ease at which my words and passion came through. I learned that when we share a personal story, it has such deep meaning because it represents a journey, a beginning and a place where we end up but still evolving.

The other thought I have about this process is how reflective it was. My reflection was both backward and forward about my experience. I thought a lot about my inward reflections as well about my journey and what I thought others might be thinking about what I was sharing, my story. As reflective and challenging as this process was, I felt very inspired and confident in my story and hope that it inspired others too.

Telling our story….

Back in Kindergarten, I started to think about when and how my Kindergarten students have opportunities to share their stories and when. One of the opportunities in our class is to create an iMovie about the Global Goals for Sustainability. One of my colleagues and awesome ELL teacher, Patti Tursi offers her expertise in being a director for our movie. She shares how we are going to talk about why we want people to know about the goals and why. As we begin this work collaboratively we meet and come up with a plan of action. The plan provides us a way to organize our thoughts and ideas but is also flexible if we need to change things. We use Google Docs because we can both add and change things anytime, anywhere. If we have questions we can post and support each other in our thinking. So we begin…

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Our plan….

  • introduction
  • What are the goals?
  • Individual photos with words
  • Voice over photos
  1. How are we learning about the goals?
  2. Service-learning connection/experiences
  3. Think: goal(s)
  4. Create photo/illustration
  • individual/small group
  • Background of the world with our identity(color, collaborative)
  • Exploration of the filming” studio”/stage we created with the children
  • Explore microphones
  1. Rehearsal/Filming: Practice using student voice to tell their story and connection with the goal they choose
  1. Filming Cutaways:
  2. A small group of students works with Patti to edit and make decisions about what we want to keep and/or retakes

The children learned so much from Ms. Tursi. She has special expertise in creating movies and as our director, we all learned how to create a movie and what was involved. Through this process, the children were collaborative and very respectful and supportive of each other. They learned how to use technology in an authentic way with a strong purpose to inspire others. Thinking reflectively about what they thought of themselves as storytellers about what they are passionate about, helping the world. As an educator this really is amazing and how wonderful that we can all learn alongside each other to create a story/message about why others need to engage in the goals.

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Reflecting further…

Through the use of a microphone, iPad, iMovie, Google Docs, Ms. Tursi’s time, energy and expertise, and flexible space we were able to collaborate with each other to create something wonderful. The process is easy to think about: a plan, design, create/produce and publish.

So because of this experience, one of my students thought it would be a great idea to tell the school about the goals and ask for others to help us collect food one more time before school ends and then walk and deliver the food before school ends. So we did! Small groups of Kindergarten students are visiting interested classes to speak about their goals and why they are important. They share our work around Global Goal #2 Zero Hunger as a way to share how collecting food connects. Then something wonderful happens. Another Kindergarten teacher reads the story; “On Market Street to her students and shares that her students decided to do something kind for others and that they also wanted to collect food for the food shelf. Awesome! So now students from both classrooms are making a morning announcement at our school to explain what we are doing and why we need everyone’s help.

 

 

When we share and invite others to help we create a positive culture of learning and a culture that encourages kindness and builds empathy. I am proud to be an ambassador for the global goals and feel privileged to work and learn alongside so many inspiring educators, students, and their families globally.

Check out one of my kindergarten students’ writing she created during a playtime.. What if we all felt this way? How can we all make this happen?

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My Story as an Ignite Teacher

 

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.

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Digital Learning Day 2016

Digital Learning Day is one of those opportunities students and their teachers have to share about why this is an important day to recognize and why digital tools are important in regards to our learning.  So my students created Kidblog posts and we are using Twitter this week also to share how and why we use digital tools.

This afternoon I asked my students to think about why this might be an important day to celebrate and what are the ways we use digital tools.  I was really impressed and also felt validated about why digital tools are important.  Here are some of the responses that were shared today.

  1. We can have conversations with other people in the world.
  2. We can share our learning with the world.
  3. We show how we use them in a safe, kind and responsible way.
  4. They make your brain think more things and they help you learn.
  5. They help us to have conversations with other people.  We connect.
  6. You learn how to use digital tools.
  7. They help you think better.  They help you think when you don’t know what to do.
  8. They want you to learn.
  9. We celebrate this day because we want other people to know what we are doing.
  10. Our parents know what we are learning.
  11. They are fun.
  12. We help each other and collaborate.

Learning is for everyone and technology gives us all a voice.  Digital tools and platforms have enriched and engaged my own learning and that of both my students and their parents.  The communication is ongoing, fluid and just by offering a variety of platforms to share, I am also modeling explicitly “how to” use tools in safe, kind and responsible ways.  Parents want to be informed and engaged.  They are important stakeholders in their child’s education.  So today was another opportunity to model and celebrate the value and excitement me, my students and families have in regards to learning, but also how we share and reflect what we are exploring.

Happy Digital Learning Day!

Exploring Coding:@vermontkkids123

Last week was really wonderful.  My students, some parents and myself participated in the Hour Of Code.  This is my 2nd year participating and I am already thinking more about how I can use the Hour of Code week as an opportunity to introduce coding to my students and then continue to weave in opportunities for my kindergarten students to continue to explore coding.

Last week our technology integrationist, Bonnie Birdsall visited Kindergarten.  She was awesome.  She shared a video of coding happening globally and then alongside me and my students we explored code.  We used Daisy the Dinosaur as a way to begin.  The children were very interested and intrigued about how they could make the dinosaur do things.  After this introduction I then began to explore more coding alongside my students and families.

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My students were so proud and happy when they finished a challenge.  I was so excited to hear how they were all supporting each other and asking questions to help them solve problems.  Lots of critical thinking happening!

I had 2 fathers volunteer to come in and work with small groups of children using Daisy the Dinosaur. What I noticed was lots of collaborating with students and I was amazed at how my students were supporting each other when stuck and the connections that were being made.  Remarkable really.

Here were some of the responses my students made about why everyone should know how to code:

  1. It helps you think mathematically.
  2.  It is so fun.
  3. It helps you learn.
  4. Coding helps your brain solve problems.
  5. It helps my thinking.
  6. It helps us learn to use technology.
  7. Coding helps us think and justify our thinking.
  8. Coding is learning Mrs. D.
  9. Coding helps you learn about math.
  10. Coding is important because you can do it by yourself or you can collaborate.
  11. Code

We created a poster to display in our classroom.  I really liked how a few of my students made brains.  I asked why and I was told that that is where we think!  Wonderful.

 

Later in the week my students created a Kidblog post about coding.  I am always reminded about how easily young children can make connections and build on their prior experiences when trying something new.  A couple of my students were creating their Kidblog post and wanted to know “how to” spell a word, so 1 child went to get a book to find the word he needed!   Another child went to get our ‘how to” use Kidblog book to help guide her through the steps.  Wonderful. What a great example of young learners using prior experiences and tools that we created together to create and design what is important.

As a teacher I am able to learn so much from my students through this experience.  How are they figuring things out? Sounding out words? Looking for environmental print? Print in books? Other ideas? This is also an opportunity for me to grow and to begin rethinking about what I need to do, where do I need to go next in regards to learning opportunities that my students need.

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Technology really offers so many ways for even our youngest learners to not only connect and engage, but also problem solve and build their own confidence with digital tools. I am grateful for being able to be a teacher and work alongside so many wonderful people.

Then I was inspired to write a project in regards to coding!  If interested, my project for Bee-Bots can be found here.

Being Grateful: @vermontkkids123

This is a very exciting and busy time of year for everyone.  As a kindergarten teacher I am trying to weave in opportunities for my students to share, reflect,connect and make a difference.  These ideas begin in the beginning days together as we get to know each other and develop, create and design our learning culture together.

This past week we used voicethread as a way to share what we were grateful for as well as Kidblog.  Both of these platforms are opportunities for my students to connect, reflect and inspire others to think about what they are doing to make a difference and also what are they grateful for.

One of the features I like about Kidblog is how versatile it is.  My students can take photos of their ideas and then upload to a blog post.  Sometimes we use other apps as well to create pictures.  After their picture is uploaded my students create a title and last week was the first time we added a thought/sentence expressing our idea!

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Right away I noticed the writing conventions that we have been exploring being used!  For example; Children were remembering to leave spaces between their words, capitalize the 1st letter of a sentence.  Some even remembered punctuation. I was also thinking about the comprehension in their drawings.  They were detailed and their pictures told a story and reflected their idea of what they were grateful for.  The writing of their thought/sentence matched their illustration.  So as an educator I am able to learn many things from this blog post about my students writing, their understanding of comprehension of an idea and various conventions.

Moving forward this helps me get a sense of what is familiar and known as well as where I need to focus next.  The invented writing reflects their understanding of sound/symbol relationships.  It shows me what they understand a word to be, a thought and how they express themselves.

Another feature about Kidblog is that it has a map of the world.  This is important because my students get to see where people are from throughout the world that are interested in our learning.  As we blog and Tweet our learning we are connecting with others along the way, learning alongside each other.

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As an educator I begin to create a culture alongside my students that is transparent and reflective.  Our culture is also global because we are sharing our ideas with the world and look forward to getting compliments on our Kidblog posts.

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I am most grateful to be able to use a variety of tools that enhance, enrich and engage learning for myself, my students and their families. Through our transparency we are able to connect globally and extend our ideas and learning outside of our classroom walls.

 

Creating Relationships: 38 Days @vermontkkids123

What an amazing year I am having with my students.  I am always struck by the endless energy and excitement for learning and engaging with others.  Young children are so curious and are great about asking questions to clarify things they want to know and pursue endless perseverance when trying to solve a problem.

Today I’m thinking about all of those things we are engaged in and how we are using social media and blogging as platforms to enhance and engage what we are learning and how.  Through the use of these digital platforms I am able to offer my students, families and others who are interested in what we are exploring.  As I have shared before young children are naturally curious so why not find ways for them to have conversations and reflect on what they are learning and curious about with others and experience “how to” have a conversation and reflect alongside others.

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So we do…

Twitter is left on all day because we check it periodically to share/tweet out an idea or connect with others who are exploring similar ideas.  It also offers us a way to ask questions and learn something new as well.

Our class blog provides snapshots of the big ideas we are exploring.  Through our class blog parents have an opportunity to engage in face to face conversations with their child about what they are exploring.  This is important because I want parents to be a part of our learning journey.

Many parents and others leave comments as well.  This gives us an opportunity to respond to someone through blogging, another way to leave a comment/compliment about our learning.

Our class blog also provides ways for my students to share books we are reading, a map of the world as a way to see where people are from who are looking at our blog.  This has been a nice opportunity for me to explore the world globally as well.  Just by having a map my students begin to see how huge the world is and what we can all learn from each other. My students know the continents and get to “see” globally where people are who are interested in our learning explorations.

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Parents appreciate the variety of ways they can connect with their child.

So far this year…

Parents have asked..

  1. “My child is home sick today.  Should I tweet you and check in and also look at the class blog?”
  2. A family is on vacation for a week and asked:”What platform should we use to connect?”
  3.  Another family is traveling in Japan and wants to connect to share.  We use google Hangout.  They send photos and a video of a speeding train to share some highlights from this country.  Wonderful also for their child to see them and say hello.
  4. We have “Guest Readers” each month.  Parents have the option of coming in to read a story.  One parent asked to use GoogleHangout as a way to read to us because of the time of day they are not able to get into our classroom.

These are just a few ideas I am exploring with my students in regards to connecting with parents and globally.  I think about how digital tools and platforms have opened up my classroom to the world and how we are also learning from others outside of our classroom walls.

Things inside/outside of @vermontkkids123 are really wonderful.  I am grateful for the support of my families, students and school for all of the opportunities I am able to explore because I am encouraged to create, design and be innovative.

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So what can you do?

  1. Create a class blog
  2.  Find ways to share your learning experiences outside of your classroom walls.
  3. Twitter is an amazing platform.  Think about using this as a way to have conversations globally with your students and families.
  4. Think about a learning exploration, map it out thinking about who you want to share with, why and how will this be accomplished.
  5. Take photographs and video of your students creating and designing.  Offer opportunities for them to see, listen to and share what they notice.  Think about how their ideas might add, enrich and enhance your learning goals.
  6. How will you invite and offer invitations for your families to connect and learn alongside you, their child others?

Learning is for everyone.  The magic and heart of my work as a teacher is to offer hope and to develop relationships that will support my efforts to learn alongside my students, their families and others globally. I believe that being transparent and having an open mind when approaching learning explorations gives me opportunities to model the value and importance of perspective and how it is important when collaborating and learning.

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Artwork inspired and created by some of my students.  “Mrs. D. we want to have decorations on tables because it makes us happy.”

What Lucia Taught Me….

The iPad is really an amazing digital tool with so much flexibility.  I have noticed how easy it is to navigate and also how this tool enhances my students learning. This digital tool has become part of my classroom culture as a way to enrich, connect and collaborate relationships and learning.

I have been asked lately how I got started using the iPad.  So today I share my story because it is an example of what can happen when we watch, listen and share. iPads, tablets, any device has the potential to bring people together to communicate, share and explore the world.  I am #grateful for Lucia, a former student, who taught  me about the value of having a voice and being able to share it.

I have the pleasure of working in a wonderful school district that supports innovation and creativity. My school district provides teachers and students with many types of digital tools and professional opportunities that stretch our thinking.  Our school also has amazing technology educators as well as IT people who work tirelessly to ensure that our tools are working and ready, as well as provide updates about new things happening and opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate inside/outside of our buildings. 

Every spring near the end of Kindergarten our preschool teachers offer their students opportunities to visit their kindergarten classroom for the fall.  This is a wonderful way for me and the students to begin to say hello and explore the classroom with each other as well as the present students.

So Lucia arrived.  She is an amazing young lady.  She came with a smile, confidence and sat right down on the floor near a group of her students with her iPad. Right away I was struck at how many of the children started talking to her.  They asked her for the code so they could unlock her iPad.  Lucia was not able to speak, but used sounds and gestures with her hands.  The students immediately began looking at her with amazing eye contact, speaking to her and waiting for her to answer and show them what was next.

The iPad was new to me.  I did not have one, hadn’t used one before and already Lucia, was demonstrating alongside her new friends how this digital tool was going to open up opportunities in regards to learning.  Remember this was brand new for me and I was also going to get some professional support because our school was also going to purchase iPads as well.  My learning started, my eyes were opened, my mind was racing with ideas about the possibilities that might be possible because of this digital tool.

Thinking back on my first introduction to an iPad I think about how naturally the other children were drawn to Lucia and how she immediately felt comfortable showing and using her iPad with them.  Right away the children started taking turns speaking to Lucia, listening and watching her as she responded using sounds, her iPad and gestures to answer.

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What a wonderful surprise! iPads really make a difference in student learning and engagement.  This has been so exciting and a great learning opportunity for me and my students.  This is a digital tool that is making a difference and yes, Kindergarten children are finding lots of ways to use these tools as well as discovering lots of a ha’s about how this tool can help them to reflect and create learning experiences.

On the 1st day of Kindergarten I begin by introducing this interactive tool to my class.  We talk about being safe, kind and responsible as well as how it might help us with our learning.  The children immediately start exploring with the iPads and instantly began figuring out how they work.  We explore the basic features of the iPad.  Then I explore how to use the video, camera and take a screenshot.  I begin with these 3 features because this is where I want to model and show how this digital tool can be used to capture the what and why we are exploring. I continue to be really impressed with how quickly the children adapt to this tool and of course the excitement is wonderful.  The touch screen really makes it easy for the children to type and access.  The children begin touching the screen and the exploration begins of how this digital tool will enrich our learning.

As an educator I often think about all of the things I want and need to do during the course of a school day.  It can be a bit overwhelming…  So when presented with a tool that might make learning more accessible and engaging, I find myself beginning to see how many opportunities I have to make connections within my lessons as well as help children to become more engaged and invested in their own learning.

In the photograph you see a child creating a post on an iPad on her kidblog.  Lucia helps by showing her where to go to next. swlm

As a class we spent time from the beginning of school talking about blogging, what it is, why do it and how it helps us with our learning. The children understand that when they blog, they need a title and thoughts that we call sentences.  In the beginning I use lots of books to help demonstrate this point.  I find that the more explicit you can be with children and the more tangible, concrete connections and comparisons you can make, the easier it is for children to grasp and begin to use technological tools.  The beauty of this example is that this child knows 1 way to use the iPad in a meaningful, safe way.  She is motivated to blog and share her ideas with others.                                     

As an educator I find myself trying to create and design meaningful learning opportunities for and alongside the children and families I work with.  Digital tools are amazing and their impact on student learning and engagement are endless. For me the iPads have enhanced everything that I do.  I can’t help but love them!

I am #grateful for Lucia and how she introduced me to what was possible with the iPad.  She has courage, perseverance and amazing ideas.  She taught me to always have hope, to be brave and that technology gives us all a voice.

Digital Tools: It’s Always About The Learning!

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.

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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.

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.