Reflection on Our World, Our Stories

The Our World, Our Stories project has come to an end this week. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of 2011 for my class.

My grade two students worked with classes in the USA, Canada, Belize, New Zealand and Ghana to share their stories and learn about how others live.

We used our blog http://ourworldourstories.edublogs.org as our central meeting place.

Our World Our Stories Blog

For seven weeks, the students blogged, commented and conversed about a wide range of topics. 30 posts and over 700 comments were published.

Week One: Typical School Day

Week Two: Recess Activities

Week Three: Food

Week Four: Our Local Environment

Week Five: Traditional Stories and Festivities

Week Six: Traditional Song

Week Seven: Final Celebration

Highlights of the Our World, Our Stories project:

  • Seeing the students excited about learning. The beauty of this project was that it was authentic. Learning about other cultures by reading a book is no longer enough for today’s generation. Our students can now develop friendships and have ongoing conversations to learn about others. Seeing my students curious about how other people live and coming up with such a wide range of questions was a real highlight.
  • Creating a joint reading of Mem Fox and Leslie Staub’s book Whoever You Are as one of our culminating activities. This picture book was perfect as the message was based around the idea that everyone in the world is different but we’re all equal. The most exciting part was that Mem and Leslie commented on our blog and brought such joy to our young students. This was truly a moment that many students will remember for life.
  • Recording a song together to celebrate the friendships we’d made. All the classes had different interests but we found singing was a common highlight for many students. The ‘traditional song’ week was very popular. Linda Yollis and her music teacher, Mr B, were the masterminds behind our joint performance of Make New Friends. Check it out!
  • Working with such dedicated and passionate teachers. As our students are quite young, the structure of this project was organised by the teachers with input from the students. It was a real pleasure to work with the other teachers who work so hard to create exceptional learning experiences for their students. This is was not the first time we have worked together and it won’t be the last.
  • Being nominated for an Edublog Award and inspiring others. Our World, Our Stories has been nominated for Best Group Blog in the 2011 Edublog Awards. Vote here! It was also pleasing to see some teachers liked our idea so much that they created their own spin off! Update: we won! Find out more http://ourworldourstories.edublogs.org/2011/12/15/we-won-an-edublog-award/.
  • Global collaborative projects are one of my very favourite aspects of teaching. I’m excited to see where global collaboration will take us in 2012!

    For those of you who have followed Our World, Our Stories, what has been your highlight?

    What have your students got out of collaborating with others?

    Are You On Twitter Yet?

    Earlier this year, Kelly Jordan and I gave a few presentations on using Twitter for educators at various events.

    If you’re not yet on Twitter, read this post to find out some reasons why you should be.

    Confused about the Twitter language? Hopefully this brief explanation will help.

    Need more tips? Check out my post of 10 Twitter Tips.

    Twitter has certainly had an impact on my grade two students. Discover one example of how Twitter has impacted a student, here.

    Finally, click here if you want to learn more about hashtags, which seem to be popping up more and more in a wide range of media.

    twitterfollow

    QuadBlogging Video

    QuadBlogging is something I have blogged about here earlier this year.

    The term QuadBlogging was coined by David Mitchell.

    The concept: four blogging classes come together and learn about one another one week at a time. Each week a different blog in the quad is the focus and the other three classes take the time to visit and comment on their blog.

    Earlier this year, Linda Yollis, Jonah Salsich, Judy McKenzie, Kelly Jordan and I all decided we’d make our own quad.

    *Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog, California, U.S.A.*
    *Open the Door to B-4  in New Zealand*
    *Mr. Salsich Class Blog, Connecticut, U.S.A*
    *2KM and 2KJ  in Australia *

    This works really well and we wanted to share the message with other classes. Teachers and students from all four classes got together recently to collaborate on a video about QuadBlogging. We used the tool Sliderocket which was easy to use and effective.

    Thanks to Linda Yollis who put the final product together!


    Visit http://quadblogging.net/ for more information and to become part of a quad.

    Start Your Own Global Project

    Last week I blogged about Our World, Our Stories which is a new global project my class is involved in.

    2008 was the year that I began blogging and also collaborating globally with my students. Since then, our experiences of collaboration have become more integrated, frequent, richer and self-initiated.

    It is an amazing experience to see your young students communicating, conversing and learning with children from all corners of the globe.

    What is a global project?

    I define a global project as any sort of collaborative project that involves two or more classes from different schools/countries. There is usually a defined purpose and structure to the project. The learning is usually documented and shared on an online space such as a blog. Some global projects have a culminating event.

    A common starting point

    My first experiences with global projects involved my students joining pre-organised projects. When you’re first starting out, you don’t need to think of the project idea and find your own connections. There are agencies and groups that can do this for you. You might want to check out The Global Classroom Project, iEARN or ePals if you need a starting place.

    When you and your students are familiar with the concept of working with other classes, you might want to think about starting your own global project. I have found this is very beneficial because you can customise the learning experience to meet your students’ precise needs and interests.

    Here are 10 steps, based on my own experiences, to starting your own global project.

    1. What do you want your students to get out of a project? As teachers, this is the question we’re always asking ourselves when planning new experiences. If you start with this question in mind, you will be more likely to help your students achieve their full potential. Clearly we all have systematic standards we need to be covering in our classrooms. Global projects don’t have to be an add-on. They can be an authentic and innovative way to teach and go beyond core standards.

    2. Find teachers/classes to connect with. Twitter is my number one place to find a diverse range of educators to connect with. If you have a class blog, you might find this list of blogs around the world useful. It was compiled by Sue Waters to help teachers find other classes to connect with. When deciding how many classes to connect with, my suggestion is to start small and see how you go. I have found that the benefits from global connections comes from quality over quantity.

    3. Decide on project outcomes. Discuss with the other teachers what you want your students to learn and document this somewhere (I use Google Docs when collaborating with other teachers). The learning outcomes may differ for different classes but of course would have a common thread. Sometimes the outcome might be based on making an impact in the world (such as our Ugandan Global Project) or simply based on student learning and development (such as Our World, Our Stories).

    4. Come up with a timeline/structure. Once again, I use Google Docs to create a table that outlines each week that the project will run with ideas for activities/themes/milestones. Of course, this is just a guide and a working document.

    5. Create an online space. I think of an online space, such as a blog, as a place where the classes can meet, collaborate, converse and learn together. Of course the online space doesn’t have to be a blog; it could be a wiki, YouTube channel, VoiceThread or any sort of web 2.0 tool. When using a blog for a global project, such as our Collaboration Corner blog, one teacher can start the blog and add the various teachers as administrators.

    6. Regularly connect with the teachers. When working on a global project with other classes, I use Google+ Hangout, Skype, Twitter, email or Google Docs to stay in touch with the teachers. I find projects are generally more successful when the teachers are working harmoniously behind the scenes to steer the learning in a forward direction.

    7. Involve the community. Publicise your project to parents, the school community and your PLN. A global project is a fabulous opportunity for students to work with a diverse range of individuals in their community near and far.

    Research has shown that where effective partnerships exist, the quality of schooling improves, students enjoy more satisfying educational experiences, and communities are strengthened.(http://www.familyschool.org.au)

    8. Be organised but flexible. The great thing about global projects is there is so much extra learning that is unexpected but powerful. I have found global projects work best when they they have a clear framework but also a large degree of flexibility to pursue student interest and curiosity.

    9. Culminate the project. A culminating event can be a satisfying way for students to showcase and celebrate their learning. This could be a movie, fundraising event, song, Skype party, digital story, community event or art display. The possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of the teachers and students.

    10. Review your project. Naturally you learn from every involvement in global projects. Be sure to discuss with your students what worked and what ideas they have for next time. A thorough debrief and reflection can lead to even more powerful outcomes next time!

    What other questions or advice do you have about global projects?


    Our World, Our Stories

    Next week, my class will be joining in with many of their “blogging buddies” from around the world in a new global project.

    This project is called Our World, Our Stories and the blog  http://ourworldourstories.edublogs.org/ will be our central meeting place.

    After months of planning, we look forward to launching this seven week project on Monday 24th October.

    Our World Our Stories Blog

    Classes involved

    The students are all from junior primary classes and are from three different continents and six different countries.

    2KM and 2KJ from Victoria, Australia

    B4 from New Zealand

    Mrs Yollis’ third grade class from California, USA

    Mr Salsich’s third grade class from Connecticut, USA

    Melody Watson’s 2/3 class from Canada

    Andy Sefa Boachie and his students from Ghana

    Miss Usher’s standard 3 class from Punta Gorda, Belize


    View Our World, Our Stories in a larger map

    How will it work?

    Students from all classes will connect and collaborate by sharing their stories, experiences, thoughts and opinions about a variety of themes. This will happen through the blog and involve a variety of media.

    A different class will “lead” a topic each week, publishing posts and moderating comments. Topics will be based on students’ interests such as school games, hobbies, food, local environment etc. The other classes will read the posts, possibly publish their own posts, and students will leave blog comments.

    The learning

    Through the blog comments, students from the different classes will have conversations. Students will gain an understanding of different countries and cultures. They will make comparisons and contrasts between their lives and other students’ lives.

    The students will reflect on their own experiences and hopefully develop a curiosity about other students’ stories. They will develop a voice to share their own stories.

    Concluding the project

    Stayed tuned for a culminating celebration in December!

    If you want to keep up to date with how the fun and learning unfolds, there is a “subscribe via email” box on the right hand side of the Our World, Our Stories blog.

    I have received a number of questions about how to organise your own global project so I will be posting a guide on this blog soon. Stay tuned!

    Team Teaching

    This post isn’t about technology but it is about something I am asked about often – team teaching.

    This is the second year that Kelly Jordan and I have team taught and we find it to be hugely successful and rewarding. In this post I will explain how it works for us.

    Physical Environment

    We work in a large open classroom which is basically two classroom with folding doors that stay open. There are a small number of classrooms with this set up in our school.

    2KM 2KJ classroom

    We have a small withdrawal room which we use regularly for different groups and activities. We also have a number of special needs students who often require one-on-one support, so integration aides take advantage of this quiet space to work with these students.

    DSC05871

    Kelly and I are extremely lucky to have two interactive whiteboards (IWBs) – one in each classroom. We alternate which IWB we use for our introductions and usually have both in operation during small group work.

    IWB

    This year we were fortunate enough to acquire 20 netbooks and an iPad to add to our 10 desktop computers and four iPod Touches. It goes without saying, we use these tools constantly!

    KJ iPad

    Students

    For administrative purposes, we have two separate classes (2KM and 2KJ) however we work together for every session except for two hours of the week when one class is at a specialist (eg. Art, Music, P.E. etc).

    Like all classes, our students have a mixture of abilities, needs, interests and personalities.

    There are 22 students in each class who are all aged seven or eight years old.

    Planning

    Kelly and I plan everything collaboratively. This usually (officially) begins early in the week when we sit down and discuss what we think our students need to work on and draft out a plan for the following week. During this planning time, we write down many of the things we have been discussing informally as we have been observing and working with our students.

    From there, we often share out tasks and source different resources and activities separately. For example, I might look for some reading activities and Kelly might look for some maths resources. We then get together and discuss what we’ve found, tweak our ideas and finalise our planning.

    We have three hours per week of specialist classes which also provides time release for teachers. 2KM and 2KJ has one of their specialist classes at the same time which allows Kelly and me one hour planning time. The rest of our planning is done before school, online at night, at lunchtimes etc.

    The planning process never stops and we are continually teaching, assessing, reflecting, planning. It is an ongoing and efficient cycle.

    Our Day

    We begin each day by marking the roll separately with our classes. We then join together for blogging, then literacy and then the rest of our program. The first ten minutes of the day is the only time we work separately.

    Kelly and I do all of our whole class teaching together. Our introductions and explanations bounce off each other and can almost seem scripted at times! Contrary to what some people have asked in the past, it is certainly not “tag-teaching” where one person teaches and the other person rests!

    Following our whole class explanations, we teach small groups or individuals separately. This provides real advantages for meeting students’ needs as the children can be flexibly grouped together.

    KM reading

    Our Blog

    Most readers will know that the 2KM and 2KJ blog is a huge part of our classroom. In 2010 we had two separate blogs however we find it much more efficient and effective to have one joint blog this year. This also has the advantage of cutting down the work load for Kelly and me.

    Every day we start with 20 minutes of blogging and also work on the blog at other times during the day. A day without blogging would be unheard of. Read more about that here.

    Our blog is a way for our students to improve their literacy skills, collaborate globally, connect with parents, learn about internet safety, work for an authentic audience and develop the classroom community, among other things.

    In 2KM and 2KJ, we love blogging and it has opened up the world to our young students. Our students don’t just learn from their teachers and classmates, they have children and educators from all around the world who impact on their development daily.

    Benefits

    My opinion is that our team teaching is hugely successful. Kelly and I feel like our students’ learning outcomes are greater overall when compared to when we used to teach separately.

    Most people would agree that in order to continually learn and improve, individuals need to engage in regular reflection. This includes teachers.

    Team teaching allows for such rich reflection almost every hour of the day (and night!). When we’re not teaching, Kelly and I find ourselves talking non-stop about what our students need to work on, what ideas we could use and how our teaching is going. Our ideas just seem to bounce off each other proving that ‘two heads are better than one’!

    I simply can’t compare how valuable team teaching is as opposed to teaching  individually and working in a grade level ‘team’. Discussing my students with someone who is never in my classroom rarely works for me – the inside knowledge and vested interest just isn’t there. Kelly and I are still part of a great team and it is fantastic for sharing general ideas and strategies etc, but for specific, individual professional dialogues, I prefer to talk to someone who is in my classroom.

    Why it Works

    I think the main reason our team teaching is so successful is our compatibility. I strongly believe that that two teachers cannot be just put together and told to team teach.

    Kelly and I chose to embark on our collaborative teaching. We have almost identical views on discipline, organisation, work ethic, student expectations, teaching philosophies and even smaller things like noise tolerance and how we like our classroom to look. Our partnership is harmonious and productive.

    Obviously we are not clones of each other and despite many similarities, our personal strengths in different areas also complement each other. I believe this helps to provide a rounded education for our students.

    Student Response

    Our students respond extremely well to our team teaching situation. 2KM and 2KJ has developed a great community atmosphere with students having the chance to work with a wide range of their peers. If Kelly or I are ever absent and the doors are closed, the students are very quick to complain!

    At the end of 2010 we surveyed parents about having their student in a team teaching/open classroom. All parents responded positively and said that they felt it had benefited their child.

    What Next?

    Kelly and I would love to be able to teach the same cohort of students for two years and see where we can take them. As Chris Bradbeer said in his recent post

    In setting up learning hubs where children stay with the teachers for certainly two years, there was a feeling that learners wouldn’t experience that ‘dip’ of lost learning that is always evidence post summer holidays, as teachers and children get to know one another.”

    We just know we’d be able to help our students achieve even greater success if we had more time! We hope we are given the opportunity to try this at some stage.

    KM, KJ and Leo

    Have you been involved in a team teaching situation? How did you find it?

    Do you have any other questions or thoughts on team teaching?

    The Power of Twitter

    In the last few weeks Kelly Jordan and I have been speaking to teachers and school leaders at the VITTA conference, ICON conference and our own school about the power of Twitter.

    In our presentation we shared how we use Twitter every day as a form of ongoing, personalised and invaluable professional development. We stressed that Twitter not only makes us better teachers but impacts on our students.

    We concluded our presentation with an example of the power of Twitter; sharing how it helped to connect one of my seven year old students to the world.

    Jarrod is a student in my grade two class who earnt his own blog in June of this year.

    When my students write posts on their blogs, I often promote their post with a tweet using the hashtag #comments4kids. You can read more about that wonderful hashtag here.

    One Friday night in July, Jarrod wrote a new blog post asking his readers to vote on his poll to help choose his next blog post. Jarrod had only been blogging for a few weeks and had a very small readership.

    Jarrod's blog poll

    I sent out a tweet to my PLN and the #comments4kids followers encouraging them to support Jarrod.

    Jarrod tweet

    The response was amazing! My single tweet was retweeted 17 times.

    Jarrod retweet Two

    27 people took the time to leave a comment on Jarrod’s blog post.

    42 conversations Jarrod

    Jarrod’s Clustrmap showed 113 visits in 24 hours.

    Jarrod Clustrmap 113 visits

    The poll Jarrod put in his blog post showed 117 votes.

    Jarrod poll

    The next morning, Jarrod’s mum emailed me: “You should have seen Jarrod’s face when he saw his post this morning, he was so excited!”

    Without Twitter, Jarrod would not have had an authentic audience for his work. He would not have received validation and encouragement from a wide range of teachers, education professionals and students. Jarrod would not have received the positive reinforcement that showed him his voice counts.

    Jarrod is seven years old and is now connected to the world. Many of the people who visited Jarrod’s blog on this one night in July have returned to offer Jarrod more encouragement, support and conversation.

    All this from one tweet…

    How have you experienced the power of Twitter?

    RSCON3 – Collaborating with Global Blogging Buddies

    Want to learn about how my students and I have connected with blogging buddies around the world?

    As I have blogged about here, RSCON3 is the third Reform Symposium e-conference for educators.

    It is 100% free and is scheduled to be held on July 30th – August 1st, 2011.

    My presentation – Connecting with Global Blogging Buddies

    Time – 10:30am Saturday 30th July (GMT+10 Melbourne time). Click here to find out what time this is for you.

    Where – The session will be held online in Elluminate. Don’t worry if you haven’t used Elluminate before, it’s very straightforward and we’ll help you out. Click on this link to join the room.

    Summary – One of the most exciting aspects of educational blogging is making global connections. In this presentation I will discuss how my grade two class came to have many blogging buddies around the world who we collaborate with regularly.

    Please spread the word about RSCON3! You can find out about all the other fabulous sessions being held this weekend here.

    RSCON3

    Will you be attending RSCON3?

    All About Twitter Hashtags

    After writing my Teacher Challenge guest post on using Twitter to build your PLN, I was asked by a number of people about hashtags.

    I know when I first started using Twitter, it took me a little while to get my head around what the # symbol meant. This is a handy feature of Twitter that is worth learning about.

    What is a hashtag?

    The # symbol + a word/acronym in a tweet is called a hashtag. It is used to categorise a tweet into a topic or keyword. Hashtags are not created by Twitter but by Twitter users.

    hashtag

    Why use hashtags?

    There are so many tweets flying around at any one time that they can get lost in the crowd.

    If you click on a hashtagged word in any tweet, you can find a list of other tweets with that hashtag. Whether or not you’re friends with someone, you can find their hashtagged tweet (as long as their profile is public). If you add a hashtag to a tweet, your tweet can potentially reach a larger audience.

    Hashtags can help you connect with people who have similar interests. For example, you might be doing the Daily 5 literacy program in your classroom but you might not know any other people on Twitter who are also using that program. You could go to the Twitter website and put #daily5 into the search box to find a list of tweets from people tweeting about this subject.

    daily5 hashtag

    If you use a desktop application like TweetDeck, you can add a column with all the tweets on #daily5 so you don’t miss anything.

    In TweetDeck just click on the + sign at the top of your screen and then put #daily5 (or your favourite hashtag) into the search box. Alternatively, you can click on a hashtag in any tweet in TweetDeck and a column with all the tweets with that hashtag will be added.

    Hashtag etiquette

    Most Twitter guides suggest one, two or three hashtags is a good amount to use. Any more than three hashtags can take away from the content of your tweet.

    Where do you put hashtags?

    Hashtags can replace a word in a tweet or be tacked on to the end of a tweet. Sometimes people put a hashtag at the start of their tweet to preface their message with the subject.

    where to put the hashtag

    Who makes up hashtags?

    Hashtags are community driven. You can create any hashtag you like as long as members of your community or professional learning network (PLN) know about it and agree to use that hashtag.

    To avoid using a hashtag that is already being used, it is advisable to search for that hashtag first. Things can get confusing if your hashtag is being used by another group! http://hashtags.org/ is a useful website to find out about hashtags being used.

    The lighter side of hashtags

    More and more people seem to use one-off random hashtags to add a humourous element to their tweet. You definitely don’t want to overdo this but they can add a little fun to your interactions with others.

    hashtag humour

    Conference backchannelling

    Most conferences these days have a hashtag. This will generally be advertised prior to the event and allows people to connect their tweets about the conference before, during and after the event.

    A hashtag can be used for a conference backchannel. Backchannelling allows conference participants to engage in an online discussion about what they are seeing, hearing and learning. It allows passive audience members to become active. Sometimes, people who can’t make a conference will also get involved in a backchannel by following the hashtag.

    If you’re on Twitter you might have seen many tweets flying around with the #ISTE11 hashtag recently. This hashtag allowed participants at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia to connect while also giving a running commentary to non-participants.

    hashtag iste

    Tweet chats

    Usually, conversations on Twitter are interspersed with gaps of time while people come online and offline. Some people plan times when everyone is online to engage in a live chat about a certain topic. These are often called “tweet chats” and are defined with a hashtag.

    One of the most well known tweet chats in the ed tech world is #edchat. Each week there is a different topic and up to 2000 people from around the world get together and have a focussed conversation.

    You can use a client like TweetChat to converse in real time or you can simply add a column with the hashtag search to TweetDeck or whatever Twitter application you prefer.

    Anyone can organise their own live tweet chat. Just come up with a hashtag, a time and a topic, and get your PLN on board!

    Archiving conversations

    If you want to keep an archive of hashtagged conversations from a conference or tweet chats, there are some websites that make it easy to do this. Try Keepstream or Twapper Keeper.

    Trending topics

    You may be aware that Twitter is often the first place to break news as it happens. Twitter has an algorithm to work out which topics or hashtags are the hottest topics or trends right now.

    If you go to the Twitter homepage, you can see a list of trending topics or trends. There might be hashtags there that you want to follow! These aren’t all hashtags but if you click on any of the trends, it will take you to search results of tweets about the topic.

    These trends can change by the minute.

    hashtag trends

    Some education hashtags to try

    Now you know all about hashtags, why not try adding some to your tweets?

    #vicpln – for teachers in Victoria, Australia

    #Ultranet – discussion about the online portal for teachers in Victoria, Australia

    #edtech – anyone interested in educational technology

    #comments4kids – a way for students and teachers to find blogs to comment on and to get their own posts commented on (find more here).

    #elearning – anyone interested in elearning

    #elemchat – this is a live chat for elementary (primary) teachers but is also used for general discussions (find out more here).

    #RSCON3 – this is the hashtag for the upcoming online PD that I discussed in this post.

    Find more popular education hashtags here.

    What hashtags do you use?

    Do you have any other tips about using hashtags?

    RSCON3 – Free PD in your PJs!

    Want the chance to be inspired by education professionals from around the world while relaxing in your PJs?

    RSCON3 is the third Reform Symposium e-conference for educators.

    It is 100% free and is scheduled to be held on July 30th – August 1st, 2011.

    RSCON3 will focus on interactive presentations that help teachers create engaging and motivating lessons, build relationships with students, engage parents, integrate technology effectively and much more.

    This event is suitable for anyone with an interest in education.

    RSCON3

    My presentation – Connecting with Global Blogging Buddies

    Time – 10:30am Saturday 30th July (GMT+10 time). Click here to find out what time this is for you.

    Summary – One of the most exciting aspects of educational blogging is making global connections. In this presentation I will discuss how my grade two class came to have many blogging buddies around the world who we collaborate with regularly.

    Five things you can do:

    • Visit the Reform Symposium website to register, check out the schedule, presenters and more.
    • Write the time for my presentation in your calender. Click here to find out what time this is for you.
    • Tweet about the conference using the #RSCON3 hashtag. Click here to follow #RSCON3
    • Get a badge for your blog, Facebook, Twitter profile or website to say you are attending RSCON3.
    • Let the staff at your school know about RSCON3. You could email them the link to this post or print off/email this flyer.

    What are you looking forward to at RSCON3?