Monthly Archives: July 2014

We All Have the Power (Should We Choose to Use It)

I can’t count how many times since I started my twitter journey that I have had friends and colleagues question me about it.  “I just don’t get it.”  or “I don’t have time.” is something I have heard time and again, even though I have gone on and on about how much I have grown as a teacher since I joined. The funny thing is they are the first to question me on where I come up with these amazing ideas or projects I’ve done, or where did I find that cool tech tool that I now use in my class.  To my friends, to my new co-workers at the new school I am joining, I offer you the following evidence as to why twitter is such an amazing place.

Two nights ago, I was sitting there watching  “Ghost Shark” with my husband (in my defense, he loves these horribly awful movies), so I was on twitter and one of my PLN, Dena Glynn, this awesome  gr. 4/5 teacher out of California that I have been connecting with on and off since I started twitter, sent me a message.  She had come up with this idea of doing a project looking at international holidays and thought of me. I quickly jumped on board because well one, its just what I do and two, it would fit in very well with my new grade 3 social studies unit. She was looking to put together a group of teachers across the globe to work on this, so that our students would get first hand knowledge of holidays in other countries.  Instead of reading about it in a book or researching on the internet, our students would get a first hand look from the point of view of other students’ celebrating those holidays – how much more real, authentic learning could you get than that!

Soon after we threw it out to a few other people in both our respective PLN’s, but Craig Kemp, this totally great head of ICT in Singapore was the first to jump on board and say that he might have a few teachers interested and would also put it out to teachers he knew in Australia and New Zealand.   Within two hours, we had the beginnings of our project with teachers from all over asking about it and saying they were definitely interested in learning more.  So within the span of a weekend, I had the start of a project I am so excited to share with my students and all because of the power of twitter.

Another piece of evidence I have would involve my partners in crime – Zoe Bettes, Dana Ariss, Kelli Holden, Paige Brimacombe and more recently, Tanya Baybrook. I have spent a lot of time talking and doing activities with these wonderful teachers that are from all over Alberta and Manitoba (in Zoe’s case) over this year and am proud to call them not only an integral part of my PLN, but also my friends. Kelli sent a message on twitter asking about this interesting project called the “The Global Cardboard Challenge” wondering if I’d heard when the start date was.  Again, I wasn’t completely sure so I threw it out to another of my go-to guys in my PLN, Paul Solarz.  Now anybody that knows teachers on twitters will know of Paul – he is someone I aspire to be when I “grow up” as a teacher.  Between the amazing work he does with “Genius Hour”, his class library I don’t so secretly covet,  and so many more reasons he is one of the first I go to when I have a question because most times he will either know the answer or he will point me in the right direction.  So I threw it out to Paul and within a 1/2 hour, we had an answer and were sharing ideas about hands on building projects. Kelli was sharing pictures, Dana shared these cool cardboard sleds her students built, again this got me already thinking about the direction I am going to go when I starting my own building unit this year with my students.  I’m excited to see where this project takes me thanks to who I found on twitter.

Lastly, I offer the following evidence – global readaloud is just around the corner; if you haven’t heard of it – you can check it out here http://www.globalreadaloud.com/   Already on twitter there are many teachers debating novel choices, asking other’s opinions on the book choices this year and making plans to connect already.  All this before school has even started because we all excited about the valuable connections our students can make, the real life learning they will be able to do with this activity.

So to all of you out there that question the power of twitter, I offer you the above evidence.  This is been the most powerful professional development I have been exposed to since I have become a teacher.  I have the power to use twitter and I choose to use it, the question is will you?

My PLN posse

My PLN posse

Twitter

Words are Powerful

A year ago I decided to change things up.  I had been teaching grade 4 and 5 for a few years and was ready to freshen things up a little, do something different.  I went into the year with a goal, I wanted my students to see they had a voice and they deserved to be heard.  In the upper grades is quite often where students start to lose that willingness to risk and share things because they might look “stupid” or feel judged by their peers.  I really wanted to help them develop a confidence in the power their words could wield, if they were willing to open up and put it out there.

There were many little things I did that to help me reach this goal with my students, but one of the more powerful ones I did with them was blogging.  I went into it at first, like many, questioning whether this would really work.  Were they mature enough?  Did I have time to fit this into the myriad of things and objectives I needed to teach them?  Would they actually open up and be willing to try this new form of writing out?  So many of the “what if’s” went through my head, but I decided that I had to try this out and if it didn’t work out the way I hoped, then it would be a learning experience for all of us.

The experience of having my kids blog turned out to be something that started out small, like a ripple.  At first, they were intrigued and really got into it because it was something new they had never done before, but then once the thrill was over, some of them really started taking it seriously.  The blogs written, the comments shared are hard to describe – some made me laugh, some made me cry (in both good and bad ways), and some made me look at that student in a different way.  Once I gave the power over to them, I explained that what they were writing was giving others a glimpse into who they are as a learner, as a person so how they wanted to share that was totally up to them, it was quite amazing what happened.  I didn’t tweak or edit (even though I wanted to), I let them share what they wanted to share. And yes, I ultimately still had the power because I was able to see everything they were sharing and if I felt it was not appropriate, I could delete their work.  However, again I was often able to take those situations where I was not entirely comfortable and use it to have a conversation with that student to help them see where they needed to be aware that what they thought was “funny” didn’t come across that way to others.

By the end of the year, my students grew in their confidence, in seeing that they had important things that should be heard.  Was everyone the same, of course not – some grew in leaps and bounds, others in tiny steps.  But all that mattered to me was that they were able to see themselves the way I saw them, to take pride in the ideas they had. Did I reach  my goal – you bet I did… but more importantly my students did.

And interestingly enough, to those that might question blogging with students, whether the students really bought into it,  I would tell them this – it is now summer holidays, my students have been out of school for almost 3 weeks and I still have seven or eight of them blogging about their summer, talking to each other which I think is marvellous.

blogging