Tag Archives: connections

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 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 visit,s one of the children asked if she was on Twitter. She replied, “No.” Sothe 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 myself, my students, my colleagues, and their families have shared in regards 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… the 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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Exploring the Global Goals

New Beginnings….

As summer starts to fade away I am thinking about another wonderful year inside/outside of Kindergarten.  What will it be like? How will I connect and engage alongside my students and families?  What do I need to do and how will I be inviting others to engage in the learning that is happening? How will I accomplish all of my goals? student goals? parent goals? So I have decided to just breath……

I have to admit that I do some of my best thinking when I am walking or swimming.  I always wonder about the connection with exercise and fresh air, so important!

Anyway like many of you I am about to begin a new year.  I am so excited and of course my lists seem to be never ending, but I have decided to share a bit about some of the ways I connect with my students and their families before we meet.  The relationships that we build are very important because this is where we are able to develop ways to have conversations, engage in meaningful collaborations and connect.  This is the heart of our work, our students and their families. They matter!

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Last week I offered families opportunities to stop by while I was setting up Kindergarten.  This was so successful.  Not only do I get to say hello and reconnect with former families, but I also get to meet new people as well. Right away children engage with what interests them. Also former students are great helpers too because they have a sense of some of the things that need to get done and are very welcoming in helping others.

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Right away friendships are formed and the children begin to explore materials and their new learning environment while also helping create places for learning.

I always find that parents want to be involved and connected.  I think it is so important for all of us to think about this as we begin to create our own learning environments.

I also invited families former and new to engage with our summer reading blog.  This was another way that parents could begin to connect and explore what they were reading as well as begin to have a conversation with me about the books they were reading. Again, my intentions are to begin to model “how to” use digital tools in ways that demonstrate how I will be using, my parents and students to highlight ideas and experiences we are exploring as well as how we will be connecting.

I have been thinking lately a lot about the value of learning from each other as well as learning alongside each other.  For me I think their is a distinction between these ideas.  When I am learning from someone I am watching, listening and asking questions.  When I am learning alongside someone I am exploring an idea together with them.  We have conversations and opportunities to learn from our interactions.  I am thinking this is important because I want to be able to model the value of both ideas.

Some ideas to help build your relationships with your students and families….

  1. Invite people into your classroom to help you set up the learning environment.
  2. Look for opportunities in your community that offer ways for new families to connect like an ice cream social, library night, popsicles on the playground!  These are all ideas that our community offers for new Kindergarten families, very successful.
  3. Offer frequent celebrations of learning before school where parents can stop by on their way to work.
  4. Offer digital tool sessions for your families where they can explore the digital tools you are using as well as how they will be used.
  5. Invite former parents/students to attend digital tool sessions you offer.  This is so successful and has a huge impact. A nice way for parents to hear from other parents as well.
  6. Set up a class blog!  This is a wonderful way to engage and share daily, weekly the how, what and why you are involved in.  Your students will look for this as a way to share and have face to face conversations at home about their days in school.
  7. Project based learning opportunities are a wonderful way to engage families, students and the community you work in.  I always begin by asking my students;”What can be we do to help others in our community?” You will be amazed at what your students are aware of and want to do.
  8. Twitter is a wonderful way to share important ideas and things you are exploring also.  Twitter has been a great way for me to be in touch with families and also as a way to model “how to” have a conversation globally alongside others.
  9. Kidblog is an amazing platform for students.  Some of my families have really enjoyed sharing their child’s blog with extended family members outside of Vermont.  The children really get excited to think that others are not only interested in their learning, but might leave a compliment too!

Here are just some of my ideas.  I look forward to learning what you are doing too.  Though our sharing we are able to inspire each other and have our thinking challenged.  Wishing everyone an amazing beginning inside/outside of your school!

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.

I Blog Because…………..

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Why I Blog

In 2008 I was introduced to this idea, blogging idea because I was in a workshop that my school offered by an amazing technology educational integrationist, Bonnie Birdsall. I was inspired by her presentation and all of the possibilities that blogging could offer. I remember my mind being flooded with all of the possibilities that I started to think about in regards to communication, relationship building and perspective.

So my journey began….

Here I am 6 years later.  I manage 5 blogs, in my 5th year of using Kidblog and have had many opportunities to blog on other Blogs like SmartBrief on Education, Teach.com, Kidblog, Eduwin and I have also had the honor of writing a couple of articles for the ISTE Leading and Learning with Technology magazine.  These have all been amazing opportunities for me to share my voice using an asynchronous tool to be transparent about what I am exploring and discovering in regards to learning and how technology can really enhance learning experiences for myself and my students.

If you are thinking of blogging, do it!  Take a risk at sharing your voice with others.  I have found that the rewards of blogging have been inspiring and engaging.  I have had my thinking challenged, my perspective is wide and I appreciate what others have to say and ask in regards to what I am sharing.  Through this type of online conversation I am inspired, my thinking is challenged and I begin to connect and learn from others, collaborations develop.

I began by creating a classroom blog.  My goal was to create a place where my students and I could create posts about our learning explorations that we experienced inside and outside of kindergarten.  As I began exploring blogging with my students, I found the children to be very excited about it.  They enjoyed seeing themselves, hearing their ideas and asking each other what they noticed.  This was the beginning of something wonderful for me in regards to not only becoming more transparent, but also how this asynchronous tool was about to transform my learning as well.

What I noticed….

  1. Opportunities for conversations:

As a kindergarten teacher I want to make sure that I have plenty of opportunities for my students to engage in rich, meaningful conversations in regards to what they exploring.  These conversations are extremely important because they validate the thinking and ideas that my students have.  When a child can hear and see themselves in a photograph, a video, a podcast they are immediately engaged and naturally begin to make connections and observations.  This is a wonderful way to begin to validate and highlight the conversations that are happening inside of your classroom.  Then when you post on a blog, you begin to model explicitly what can happen when you share your thinking with others. You are thinking about how you can share outside of your classroom walls. Your students will be intrigued by the blog and how it can be used to highlight what they are exploring.

Then by adding a map widget on your blog you begin to help your students develop the idea of audience and perspective. Your students begin to think about the value of what can happen when they share.  I always tell my students that this map is the world, it is a way that we can share what we are learning with others.  Others are interested in what we are exploring and learning.  This is another opportunity for me to explicitly to model how a conversation can begin through blogging.  We begin to notice, look at others blogs and make comments about what they are doing too.  Through this type of modeling I am beginning to take steps with my students about what it means to be a safe, kind and responsible digital citizen.  The map on our blog now serves as a place where we notice all of the attributes blinking.  This is motivating for my students because they get interested where people are in the world and that they are interested in what we are learning.  Engagement and interest is high.

Communication became fluid, available, enriching, variety of tools: Communication is vital.  I want my students and their parents to be informed about daily kindergarten life.  Blogging is a great platform for this to happen because it is always their.  Sending paper notes home is really inefficient for me because folks loose the paper, forget dates, etc.  Using blogging as a platform is one way that I can consistently share what is happening inside/outside of kindergarten in regards to learning.

  1. Parents want to be informed and be able to contribute and have conversations with their children about their day in school.  Blogging is a vehicle to help make this happen.  The blog is a way for parents to engage and have face to face conversations with their  children about their day in school.  The photographs, video, etc. offer an opportunity to share and reflect. Here parents can begin to see and hear how learning is enriched through using blogging as a platform. Through blogging I am able to open up opportunities for parents to ask questions, post comments and share with other family members.
  2. In Kindergarten I have many opportunities throughout the day to capture what and how my students are exploring their ideas and what they understand about them. When I am able to photograph and/or use a video I offer another way for my students to reflect and explain their ideas.  As an educator this also gives me a way to listen to what my students understand and how they came to their justification of what they share.  Through face to face conversations and turn and talks that occur authentically I am able to use my class blog as a way to share not only what my students are learning, but how they are learning. Here is where excitement and engagement can really be ignited!
  3. I have seen how all of my students become more confident and take risks with sharing their ideas because they enjoy seeing themselves and their work.  When I model and share their learning I am offering them an opportunity to share their perspective globally.  All students want to share and talk about what they are doing.  The blog offers a way for my students to get positive compliments and feedback.  The commenting that occurs has been thoughtful and positive.  This inspires my students to take risks and share more!
  4. When others connect with us we also have an opportunity to model and share our ideas. Without always being aware of it my students are mentoring their learning for others.  This is also inspiring and offers time for my students to reflect and share what matters most about what they understand. Once we begin to share our voice, we capture what is important and give others opportunities to try what we are doing and the tools we are using.  All it takes is an idea and the willingness to try.  The opportunities unfold on their own.
  5. We are modeling how to be safe, kind and responsible because we always share about what and how we are learning.  Our online etiquette is the same as it is when we are having face to face conversations.

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I blog because……..

1.Opportunities for conversations=Builds Positive Communication

  1. Family engagement, Connection
  2. Authentic Learning
  3. Positive Self-Esteem=High Engagement
  4. Collaboration can lead to mentoring opportunities
  5. Digital Citizenship: safe, kind, responsible, explicit modeling

Blogging has offered me endless ways for my families to connect and engage in their child’s learning.  As a professional I continue to grow, learn and be inspired through my own learning, my students and others who take risks and chances in sharing.  I am able to make a difference because I care, but I am also willing to be transparent and share and engage in global conversations with others who strive each day to make learning fun and meaningful.

So when others ask me why I blog, I say;”Why not?”

 

Connecting Through A Quick Conversation!

Just a quick post in regards to what can happen when we take time to notice a smile and say hello!  Connecting through a conversation can be enriched and an opportunity can arise!

This morning I noticed a child getting his shoes on.  I said hello and waited to see if he needed help.  Falling out of his backpack was a bag filled with treasures and one caught my eye.  It was a flag of South Korea.  I made a connection with this right away and asked him if he would show me what else he had in his bag and where the flag was from.  I discovered this child goes to a Korean school and his family is from South Korea.

So…..  I shared with him that my class has connected with a Kindergarten class in South Korea!  He smiled and I invited him to come to my classroom to share his treasures.  He did!  It was wonderful to see how willing and excited this child was to share his story and experience with us.  My students were so excited and very eager to share our Padlet of what we are learning about our Kindergarten friends in South Korea.  He shared a couple of books with us and we made connections and shared what we noticed about the the text.  Then 1 of my students noticed  that we also have a book like his!  We made a text to text connection!  Again, another opportunity to mention in an authentic way a comprehension strategy that we are learning about through a child’s willingness to share.fish

I believe and value making connections because through our connections we have opportunities to share our story, enrich someone’s experience and enhance our understanding through another perspective.  So today I am grateful and so glad that I took time to say hello and connect.  We all have opportunities to connect and share our story.  All you have to do is say hello!

The Value of Conversations

Last spring I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion with Steve Hargadon and other amazing educators at the Dynamic Landscape Conference at Champlian College in Burlington, Vermont.  Prior to this panel discussion I first met/heard Steve speak through a prerecorded Google Hangout created by Lucie Delabruere and Charles Wilson.  It was an amazing conversation.  Steve shared with us about the importance of having conversations and being open to what they can reveal, inspire and the value of face to face conversations.  This has had me thinking deeply for awhile now about how I can not only have meaningful conversations, but how this might look and sound like for me professionally and with my Kindergarten students and their families.

View the panel discussion…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUVRPyR4Ot0&list=PL1oMB99j4uZZYwb3EjI2YKk_CzLOx3mr_&index=1

What has happened so far….

1. Twitter:  My students have “conversations” through threaded tweets about ideas that we find interesting, curious about or that we connect with.  The blue lines help my students visualize how our ideas, words are connecting. My students parents are also tweeting us as well and asking us questions about ideas we have explored.

2. SKYPE: Skype has been an awesome tool for us to use to have face to face conversations with others outside of our classroom.  This tool has only enhanced and enriched our thinking and we have developed a very positive and kind online etiquette as well because of how we use Skype to converse.

3. SpeakPipe: This is a great gadget that I found out about thanks to Karen Lirenman. I put this on our science blog.  Some parents leave questions and comments about scientific ideas we are exploring.  I have also had a few educators leave comments and questions for me as well.  This is great because I am then able to continue our conversation via Skype or Google Hangout.

4. Blogging/Kidblog: Blogging is an amazing platform to share and reflect.  My students experience commenting and giving compliments as another way to “speak” about what they are discovering.

5. Google Hangout: This is an amazing tool that can bring people together to have a conversation regardless of where you are.  I have used this tool with students, other professionals to share their ideas, have conversations and get help and advice.

6. Oral Language: I have created an Important Word Tree in my classroom where we post new words that we begin to explore and use everyday in Kindergarten.  This has been an amazing opportunity for me to capture and enhance the words of my students as well as offer them other words that mean the same thing.  For example in kindergarten we are not talking, but having conversations.  This has really raised the level of vocabulary not only being used, but how my students are beginning to strengthen and develop their oral vocabulary and understanding.DSCF3067

So because of my experience last spring I was inspired, my views and perspectives were challenged and I made some new connections with other inspiring educators.

I learned about how conversations can be experienced in a variety of ways and some of the tools that can make this possible.

One of the things that I enjoy most when I meet new people is what their story is, their experience and what they have discovered.  This offers me an opportunity to stay connected and know that these connections are always there and available.  The technology does not replace ideas or opportunities to have face to face conversations, it captures, connects and enhances our stories.

Who are these amazing educators?

You can find these educators on twitter.  They are: @stevehargadon @alanfletcher4 @babbitjoyce @nissakauppila @mattallenedu @techsavvygirl and @chaswilson.