What is a Connected Classroom?A connected classroom is a learning environment that is open to the outside world. It’s where students are engaged in real-life authentic learning starting in their own classroom and extends to reach other global learners.
Why should our classrooms be connected?When we think about redefining learning (especially if we’re using SAMR as a lens to ensure that the use of technology is not just for technology’s sake) then we must think about what can our students do that wasn’t possible before without the technology. Connecting with others outside the wall of the classroom or providing a window into the classroom is something that’s not possible without technology. The increased scope of learning, the harnessing of an authentic audience and the ability to share and get feedback on student work were the driving reasons behind my reasons for having a connected classroom. In Grade 3, my students were studying Rocks & Minerals for Science. We were able to skype an expert (a student’s grandfather who just happened to be a Geologist). I cannot describe the fascination, the attention and the learning that was facilitated by having a conversation with an actual geologist who showed us his tools, shared what it was like to be a geologist and also showed us some of his most memorable finds!
How can we connect our classrooms?There are many ways we can connect our classrooms. Here’s three easy ways to create an environment that is open to the outside world and engages students in real-life authentic learning that can extend to reach other global learners.
Video ConferencingUse skype, google hangouts or facetime to connect, share and learn from others outside the walls of the classroom. There’s a variety of different reasons or times of the year to connect with others globally.
Ideas to try
- Science Week
- Coding Challenge
- Christmas Tradition comparisons
- Expert Encounters
- Guest expert
- Author Study
- Mystery Skype for geography/cultural purposes
- Shared Units of Study
- Weather study/comparison
- Environmental studies
- Authentic Collaboration Projects
- Writing projects
- Mascot travels (read one of Sam the Kiwi’s weekend adventure with a student)
BloggingBlogs can be a “window into your class” – an authentic, relevant way to connect to others beyond the four walls of the classroom. To help get started, check out 10 tips for Connecting Students Through Blogging. Blogs can be used to
- Share learning
- Have an Authentic Audience
- Get Peer Feedback
- build ePortfolios
- Communicate with Parents
Ideas to try
- Start with a class blog and build content together
- Use blogs as ePortfolios to show learning over time
- Connect between school and home
Use Social MediaSocial media tools can be used to
- share learning
- participate in global conversations
- ask questions / get answers
- connect with experts, authors, other cultures
- back channel
- expose students to different perspectives
Ideas to try
- share learning visually with a class instagram account
- create a class twitter account to globally connect with others
- start a class facebook page to connect/share with parents
Tips for Success
- It takes time to grow connections but it really is worth the effort
- Be willing to take risks (be prepared to fail)
- Be adaptable & flexible and have a sense of humour!
- If you’re just starting out, start small – skype in an expert/guest speaker or your friend’s class from another school in your area, district or perhaps another country
- Check out Getting Started with Mystery Skype or Authors who Skype with Classes for Free
Ways to Involve Students MoreUse roles during video conferencing
- photographer (responsible for taking photographs during the call)
- documentor (responsible for writing down the memorable parts of the call)
- videographer (responsible for video recording the event)
- Skype Tips (including a list of potential roles for students)
- Student Writer of the Week (responsible for writing a summary post or a daily post for the class)
- Blog Photographer (responsible for documenting learning each day)
- Commenting on a class blog post could be a writing homework option
- Blogger of the Week – use when each student has their own blog
- The whole class helps write a summary of the day’s learning in 140 characters for twitter OR
- A small group of writers during writing time collaborate for 10-15m on a class daily tweet
- Social Media update – to help provide a window into the classroom, a student writes a morning and an afternoon twitter, instagram, facebook update each day
- Instagram Photographer of the day – has to post 4-5 images of learning to the class instagram account
- Facebook Post writer – writes a learning post/summary of the day’s learning am/pm (also uses the class photographer’s images)
All images my own or purchased via Adobe Stock unless otherwise stated
- Is it bad for my child to game?
- What limits do you place on gaming?
Is my child learning while playing games online?The short answer is yes. The long answer needs to keep in mind what I said earlier, not all games are equal. Games that encourage problem-solving skills, communication and collaboration skills and reading/writing skills are ones that are meaningful and purposeful. When we think about Reading and writing skills – it’s no longer just the traditional skills of reading and writing. Various research from Learning Designer Jason Engerman (Ph.D) to Tech Entrepreneur and Edtech Pioneer Idit Harel (Ph.D) shows that online games (or gaming) can
- increase spatial knowledge
- improve aptitude for math and science
- improve physical dexterity with keyboards and touch-screens
- provide opportunities to learn through failure
- encourage risk-taking in a positive goal-oriented way
- encourage grit and perseverance
- value exploration & discovery
- help develop critical thinking and computational fluency
- provide opportunities to learn to collaborate & work together to accomplish a task
Advice from a “Gamer” Parent (aka me)From my own experiences as the parent of a teenage boy “gamer”, here’s my top tips
- Strive for Balance. We used to have a time-limit for Ben’s gaming but now that he’s older we know that he has an active life both online and offline. As parents, it’s also our job to guard against addictive behaviours in any of our life’s activities.
- Value the gaming that our kids are involved in. In this TEDTalk video, Ali Carr-Chellman highlights that valuing their gaming activities amounts to respecting them and their culture. Jane McGonigal believes that gaming can make the world a better place and that competitive, violent fantasy games contribute to the development of strong future leaders and citizens.
- Invest the time to sit down, watch AND play the game with your child(ren). A bonus part of this week’s free PDF is a link to a 20 minute video conversation with my amazing friend Tara and her equally amazing daughter Sojo – an avid minecrafter! This is a must-watch especially when Tara shares her thoughts and advice on being a parent of a “10 year-old gamer” and what she learned when she did this exact thing.
- Have regular, open and honest conversations with your child(ren). We always say it, and we’re saying it again. This is our key piece of advice for all parents. These conversations will help you to understand what is so appealing about certain games, what your child is learning and how, and will also help you to decide if a game is appropriate or not for your child.
Staying Safe Online: 3 Good Digital Habits to Build
#1 Always Be S.M.A.R.T
- Safe – Giving out personal information like our address, phone number, date of birth or passwords without having parental/guardian permission first is not smart.
- Meet – Meeting someone you only know from online is not smart, and you should never agree to do it without parent/guardian’s permission.
- Accept – Clicking on messages, emails, texts, pictures etc from people we don’t know or trust is not smart. It can open us up to problems like viruses and unwanted/nasty messages.
- Reliable – We need to understand that not everything out there is true, or reliable – checking information before you believe it is now a vital skill. It helps to talk about what we’re reading/finding online with an adult.
- Tell – Our children need to know that they can tell us, or another trusted adult when something happens online that makes us feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
#2 Always THINK B4 U POST, CHAT or UPLOAD
- T – is it True?
- H – is it Helpful?
- I – is it Inspiring?
- N – is it Necessary?
- K – is it Kind?
And if it’s not, then don’t post it, chat it or upload it!
#3 Always Be A Good Digital Citizen
Not just sometimes, not just some days, not just online but offline too! This is the foundation of being safe, kind, and smart. How we behave online is no different to how we behave offline. How we treat others online is no different to the expectation of how to treat others face to face. If you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, then don’t share it with the rest of the world. This is the best habit your child(ren) could ever have.
One More Important ThingRegular, honest and open conversations with our kids are so important. Habits aren’t made overnight and mistakes are going to happen. Having those difficult conversations that as parents we sometimes don’t like to do, must be had. Talking openly and honestly about our worries and our expectations really does help. Having something like a Family Media Agreement – which believe it or not starts with a conversation – can help too.
If you’re not sure where to start or what to include in a family media agreement, sign up to Eduro Learning’s Parent Mailing List by clicking the button below and get this FREE digital download:
Managing Devices at Home: Conversation Starters + Family Media Agreements
It’s the perfect resource for you!