This term has been the first time I have used twitter as my PLN and I have to say it has been a remarkable experience.
In 9 short weeks the quality of my practice, my learning, my enthusiasm, and the children's experiences has increased. I have always thought that the internet provides a '5th' wall in the classroom but we have always interacted with it in a passive manner.
Twitter and active blogging, and the connections it provides with like-minded classroom practitioners, has enabled my class to connect with classrooms globally.
It started with a tweet...
I followed a tweet where a teacher from Hamilton had linked a post to his classroom blog. His student was appealing to classrooms to help him answer a maths question that would be eventually collated into a movie for a specific competition. By participating in this project I was able to see other teachers who had contributed and follow their classroom blogs (while in turn those teachers saw our contribution and followed our classroom blog).
A connection was made with a school in Geelong, Australia. The kids there are around the same age as mine and do similar things to us, the most notable being the weekly news shows. The first time my kids discovered that there were other schools out there filming news shows they were somewhat unnerved.
"Aaaaw Miss! They're copying us!"
This provided an excellent learning opportunity as to what is meant by collaborative and shared learning. What do we like about what they have done? What have they done well? What ideas of theirs can we use in our news?
That day when they went off to film their stories something had changed. Things seemed to get very serious. Suddenly our news presenters were thinking about their angles, the camera people were thinking about their backgrounds. Here's what they came up with.
The kids then started to shift their reflections. Prior to the 'audience' they were reflecting on their content and features such as clarity of speech etc. Now that they had an authentic audience they started looking at the news through the audiences eyes "The sound doesn't sound good, Miss. They wont know what that was about."
So we thought we would be able to rectify that problem with a couple of Easi-speak mics. It was a lot harder to implement them into the news programme than I had anticipated. Here's what we did.
The kids were rather chuffed with themselves until the next Monday when they saw the latest news show from Geelong
Yep, there was an uproar - "They've got mics Miss!" AND THEY'RE BIGGER THAN OURS!!!
Without any input from me an impromptu brainstorming session came up. What can we do now??? So I thought it would be a good time to show them the concept of The Green Screen. (it was in fact a terrible time to introduce the green screen - week 9, an impending cultural festival to rehearse for as well as a DARE graduation) But they were in class an hour before the bell rang the next morning experimenting and playing with the concept. They then came up with this.
Interestingly the quality of the actual stories are taking a dive as the kids are focusing on (and learning about) the new technology. This is something that I will have to address next term. The point I am trying to make however, is that the children's hunger for learning can be directly associated with this authentic audience. The kids are no longer shy or self-conscious when the camera is on. There is a message to be delivered and nothing is going to stop them.
Meanwhile on the other side of town...
A school in Dunedin Tweeted that they would like assistance with their project. This school in Dunedin are making postcards to depict their community. On Tuesday an exciting parcel arrived from Dunedin. In it were beautifully made postcards depicting the St Clair community with little messages and explanations on the back. As well as that was a HUGE block of Cadbury chocolate (another iconic symbol of Dunedin)
I was impressed with how this teacher had fused two kinds of communication together thus cementing the authentic audience. Immediately we uploaded a photo with the kids holding the postcards to send to our friends in Dunedin. I am itching to get into the response to the postcards - we could just about use them as the basis for an inquiry. But at the same time I am aware that there are kids in Dunedin eagerly waiting for a response.
eLearning and collaboration is definitely changing the way I am teaching. In one respect the workload has become a lot easier because ideas, planning and motivations are coming in thick and fast. But on the other hand, I seem to have inherited a new set of children, the eChildren.