As an avid follower of twitter – all the different chats, hashtags and conversations, I have seen lately this need by some to put parameters on what connecting really means when looking at it from an educational point of view. Some feel you are only truly connecting if there is some sort of technological component or a global aspect to your connection. While others feel that true connections need to happen within your school boundaries. All this greatly fascinates me honestly because I have never felt the need to put any sort of limitations or defined aspects to what connecting is for my students and I.
I have had really meaningful connections through my participation in Global readaloud – the brainchild of the mighty Pernille Rip. This year my students and I fell in love with Edward and his companions in the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and connected with classes around the globe. We had great conversations through Skype and blog, sharing our thoughts and ideas. But yet, we also recently read Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard and connected with classes much closer to home and again through this novel reveled in the adventures of Wendell and his motley crew of companions. I will not lie though because technology was how we were able to connect with the author John Spencer, who was so gracious to answer our multitudes of tweets and questions via Skype.
It is because of my wondrous PLN on twitter that my eyes were opened to new ideas. Paul Solarz shared the wonders of Minecraft and gave me multiple ideas on how I could use it in my class. It was because of the ideas of Terri Eiccholz that I tried coding with my kids – trust me, I would have never thought they would be able to work on coding, but they have surprised and some have actually surpassed me in their abilities on writing code. Oliver Schinkten shared the importance of play and it was from the ideas he shared that I convinced my school to participate in Global Play Day this year. All students right from kindergarten to grade 6 enjoyed our time playing together. Looking back, all these things have made school more engaging for my students and brought their learning to life. They all came about because of the connections I had made through twitter.
Yet, I connected and collaborated with my grade partners and collectively our students did a cardboard arcade project. There was not any technology involved – just a whole lot of cardboard and duct tape. Within our school building our students had one of the more engaging, hands on projects and their connection only went as far as down our own school hallway.
And just today my students shared their knowledge of Minecraft with the kindergarten and grade one classes of our school. It was through the work my students had done throughout the year and seeing the possibilities that convinced the teachers in our school to give this Minecraft thing a try. We connected right within our own school walls. I saw my students become teachers, having to find the right way to explain how to build and create, yet how to break it down when things were not working right. It was funny to see how patient many were, yet how challenging it was for some not to just step in and do it for them (which I explained was a big no no)
All these variety of connections have given my students meaningful learning experiences. And to me, that was the important piece in all this. Whether technology was involved or not, whether it was within our school, our district, our province or the globe … to me all these were valid connections. My students came out of them excited, engaged, talking about their learning and for me that was the most important piece of all. It didn’t matter to me how they connected, just that they did connect and isn’t that what it is truly all about?