Tag Archives: creativity

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.

How We Explore The Global Goals: @vermontkkids123

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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A Culture Of​ Learning: Global Goals

As a kindergarten teacher, I have the privilege of working each day with young children who are eager to learn and connect with their learning environment. I look forward to being inspired by our busy days together.

In the beginning days of school, I began to build a learning culture with my students through a big idea. This year our big idea was sustainability. We began by asking what we could do to help sustain and keep the world healthy. As we began to explore this idea I introduced the Global Goals for Sustainability because these goals were at the center of our learning. We put a poster of the Global Goals in our classroom and it became an easy way to weave the goals into our daily learning explorations. I explained to my students that these goals are promises we can make to make a difference in the world. I shared that if we make a promise to help, we are pledging our help to save the world. My students immediately become excited about this idea and wanted to know what they could do to help. I began by asking a simple question, “What do you do if you are cold?” The children responded with: I get a jacket, snuggle with a blanket and put a coat on.  I used their examples as an opportunity to connect the goals. I asked my students to imagine that the goals were a large blanket that wraps itself around the world.  The blanket represents the goals. The goals are around so we can all help sustain the world for everyone to enjoy.

Why does this matter?

The world needs everybody’s help. Global Goals provide endless opportunities to build awareness and create a plan of action. The goals also translate to my local community as I began thinking of possible needs and opportunities we have and ways my students could engage in a positive manner to build awareness for change. Children want to be a part of solution-based problem solving, and this can begin in kindergarten. A good place to start is with teaching how our actions of kindness can help create people who care and have empathy for others.  

Getting Started:

There are seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, and I chose to begin with Goal #16 because it is about being kind, advocating for others who may need help and promoting fairness. A good place to learn more about the goals on the #TeachSDGs site, there is also a Twitter conversation around this hashtag.

This goal sets a positive tone for risk-taking, support, and encouragement.  Young children need experiences and opportunities to feel what it is like to support others and be kind.  Through establishing these ideas at the beginning of Kindergarten we all begin to understand that it is about what we can do together, not as individuals that offer invitations for everyone to participate.

Creating a Culture of Learning

We created a culture of learning, by noticing and sharing our actions of kindness towards each other. Through our actions of kindness, patience, and collaboration my students felt connected to Kindergarten and each other. As we built trust, took risks and learned from each other we created a culture where all students feel safe, valued and inspired. Once my students felt connected to a classroom, we painted a map of the world as a way to show that other people live outside of Vermont and this Kindergarten class. I also began connecting with other educators and people around the world using Padlet, Skype, Google Hangout, and Twitter.  As we connected with people I took photos so my students were able to see where people are from globally, but also how we were having conversations with them.

Connections with Content:

As I began exploring how to teach about the SDGs, I looked towards the content I was teaching to determine where the goals and the content meshed. I first looked at the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), these standards are a wonderful way to begin to think about where you want to start and what goals you will explore. As we explored Goal #13 Climate Action and Goal #15 Life On Land, my students were able to connect that through our ability not to be wasteful, we can have a positive impact on land and climate. Since the goals are displayed on my wall, the students make connections about being responsible for waste every time we recycle, compost, and reuse. This helps my students make a connection with authentic action. I found a good place to start is by simply putting up a Global Goal in your classroom where your students can make a connection. Just by adding Goal #6 to our sink area my students are being more responsible for not wasting water. These visual reminders are helping to build their awareness.

Another idea is to ask your students to make a pledge or promise to the world.  I have found this to be very impactful in my Kindergarten class, as students highlight the goal and what their action will be. I then ask my students to read their promises aloud, as if to the world, and they all feel proud. We created a board outside our classroom as a way to highlight our promises.

In my class, we are currently exploring forest life, and this offers opportunities to explore and expand on two Global Goals: #13 Climate Action and #15 Life On Land.

Through our weekly nature walks and explorations outside, my students are beginning to develop an awareness of the outdoors and why we need to take care of it.  Through Padlet we were able to share what a tree/forest looks like in Vermont as well as what trees look like and need in other countries. To get started with this activity, we first shared our Padlet on Twitter, and I also asked families to share with family members and on their Facebook pages. I also shared on my Facebook pages with other teachers. We received responses from Hong Kong, Egypt, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, London, and Australia. My students were so excited to see that people from 5 continents added to our Padlet! I printed the photos off from each country and we made observations about the trees and forests, then we put the images on our map of the world.  This allowed my students to see where the trees grew globally.

Through our forest exploration, my students were able to reflect on what things trees need to grow and survive no matter where they are in the world.

This is what they came up with:

  1. All trees need a seed.
  2. All trees need water.
  3. All trees need soil.
  4. All trees need sunlight.
  5. Trees need people to care

My favorite response was #5 because when we take care of things we are modeling and demonstrating how we care.  This idea comes back to no matter what the content. These ideas turned into a belief statement for my Kindergarten students. We now connect all of our learning explorations to the global goals.  

As an extension to this project, we made a connection with a Kindergarten class in Hong Kong because my sister is a teacher there and she put me in touch with other teachers who are interested in connecting globally with another class.  Now we connect monthly using Padlet and/or Twitter to share what we are exploring. Twitter and Facebook teacher groups are also great places to post projects and ask if others are interested in joining my class to explore a specific learning idea.

Now What?

The goals can be woven in and out of all content, standards, and learning. Regardless of the age you teach, the world needs everyone to care, now! What are some themes of study you are exploring? Ask your students how they can make a difference. What is important to them? Think about a global goal that would connect with their learning. Then take it a step further and think about a community need or school need you to have.  How can you build an awareness alongside your students and their families?  

To help you get started here are some resources with great ideas: Participate, World’s Largest Lesson, and the Global Goals.

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The Global Goals: @vermontkkids123

Collaborative efforts bring awareness, engagement, and advocacy from even young children in helping develop an appreciation for the natural world.  It starts through an exploration of what the goals are, why we have them and why it might be important for others to know about them. Then we create a plan of action.

This is our journey…

We created awareness and listed our goals, talking about why we thought they were important and what they meant to us.  What was interesting is that while we explored them and hung a poster in our classroom, they became part of our classroom culture.  By doing this it was easy for me to connect conversations that we were having with a specific goal.  Through our authentic and genuine curiosity about the global goals, we have all become more aware of not only what they are but why they are important. “The why” is most important because it helped drive deeper thinking and the children then had an opportunity to be reflective.

We have been exploring all year ways that we make a difference for ourselves, our school, our family and community. We started with an essential question…  Where does waste go? So we created an awareness of what we thought and then created a padlet that we could share globally to find out what others in the world are doing.  This was easy to tie into the global goals because as we created our own awareness, we also were able to think about how our actions could impact the climate and life on land.  Yup!  There just happens to be two global goals, Climate Action #13 and Life on Land #15.

Another way we helped make a difference for others was to build awareness of hunger.  We were curious if people were hungry, Did children have enough food?  What happens if people need food?  Who helps them?  Again, this is another opportunity to refer to the global goals, goal #2 zero hunger. My students collect food twice a year.  Then we walk to our local food shelf and make a delivery.  This is always exciting for children.  They have direct experience with what it means to help others and have empathy.  This is easy to do.  Think of a need that your community has, build awareness and then create a plan of action that includes your students, families, and communities.  Together, everyone begins to connect and weave a thread of caring because it directly impacts a need.  

Now the Global Goals are a part of my classroom culture.  They remind us all of what the world needs.  My students understand why they are important and are creative in their ideas to find ways to make the world a better place. Even in Kindergarten, these ideas have an impact.  My students are really genuinely invested in making the world a better place.  I think about the impact this could have if more and more young children were familiar with making goals.  Just by building awareness, through the content I explore, we are finding ways to connect to the goals.  It raises awareness of the world and really, my students love learning about the world!  Kindergarten seems like the perfect place to begin thinking about how we can collaborate globally to make the world a better place.  We all need each other.  The world needs all of us to care and make wishes come true for everyone. Why not start collaborating with your students today!

My ELL teacher, Patti Tursi collaborated with me around the goals.  As an ELL teacher, she has special expertise and perspective about students who are from places other than the US.  She becomes a director of our 1st documentary on the Global Goals.  She sets up a filming studio in my classroom with the children and then the children begin to explore the filming equipment and play so they experience what it can be used for.  Later when we film, Patti teaches us about being quiet on the set and other languages used for creating a film. This experience is real life and offers my students an opportunity to learn a new language with a new expert.

Here is our 1st documentary!

The Global Goals

I paint a map of the world each year with my students.  We add places we visit and people we connect with.  We share how we are having conversations with others and what we are learning about.  Now that I am aware of the Global Goals I can add the goals to our map, as well as when we explore them.  This is another way we can build awareness, inspire others and think deeply about what we are doing and how.  The why of our ideas is through our own reflection and how we share our voices.

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As our year comes to an end I ask my students to think about why we connect globally?  Why is it important? Do you think others need to connect globally too?

Here are some of their reasons…

  1. When we connect we show we care.
  2. We learn from others.
  3. We solve problems and learn new things.
  4. We like global goals because the whole world cares about everyone.
  5. I love the world.
  6. We help the world. We love the world. We connect globally because we care.
  7. I love to learn about the world.
  8. It is fun.

I believe in people and have a passion for learning.  I have hope that through our collaborative efforts we will be able to make a difference globally.  This means we all can begin taking 1 step at a time, building an awareness of what we can do.  I am inspired by my Kindergarten students.  They give me hope that we can all learn from each other and work together to keep the world healthy.

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.

Classroom Map

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.”

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?

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.