Connecting with Other Classes Through Blogging

One of the things I love most about blogging with my class is the global connections we have developed. When I first started blogging in 2008, I didn’t even think about the possibility of connecting with other classes. It was a good six months before we started to cross paths with other blogging classes around the world.

One of the first connections we made was with Mrs Yollis’ third grade class in California. Read one of the first posts about our friendship on Mrs Yollis’ class blog here. Our friendship has now developed over three years of blogging with different cohorts of students.

There have been so many highlights from our connection with Mrs Yollis’ class. Apart from regular conversations through comments on each others blogs, we have skyped a number of times, worked on many collaborative projects together and one of my students has even visited Mrs Yollis’ class. Excitingly, that number will increase to two this week!

Photo courtesy Linda Yollis

Riley meets Mrs Yollis! Photo courtesy Linda Yollis

On a personal level, I have learnt so much from Linda Yollis and she has shown me the power of setting high standards for students, involving families and taking risks (among other things).

Mrs Yollis’ class is not the only class we call our blogging buddies. There are classes from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Asia, Europe and Australia featured on our blogroll who we have had meaningful connections with.

I have found many teachers are inspired to embark on blogging with their class when they realise what a powerful avenue for global collaboration blogs are.

Here are some tips for forming friendships with other blogging classes:

DO

  • Visit Sue Waters’s compilation of class blogs from around the world and add your blog to the list.
  • Work on building your own PLN. Twitter is a great meeting place for teachers who want their classes to connect.
  • Show a genuine interest in blogs you start commenting on and work on being an active member of the blogging community.
  • Find blogs that are at a similar stage to you. If you have just started blogging, you might get more out of a connection with someone at a similar stage as you rather than someone who has been blogging for many years with an extensive blogroll.
  • Hunt for like minded educators. The teachers I have bonded most with are those who have classes around the same age group, who post at a similar frequency, who have a regular online presence and who share similar teaching philosophies and goals for blogging.
  • Keep blogging relationships student centred. While I enjoy collaborating with other teachers, our core business is the students. Help students to get to know their blogging buddies, develop their relationships and extend their learning.
  • Smart small by getting into the routine of commenting on your new buddies’ blogs before delving in to more structured collaboration.
  • Encourage parents to be part of your blogging community and comment on your buddies’ blogs or attend Skype sessions. Blogging is something your whole school community can be a part of!

DON’T

  • Rush in to finding blogging buddies before you establish your class blog. I have found it is most beneficial to ensure your students know the basics of blogging such as safety, etiquette and quality commenting before embarking on collaborative ventures.
  • Start writing comments on random blogs simply saying “please visit my blog”. I see this all too often! Like all friendships, blogging relationships require give and take and develop from genuine interest.
  • Introduce your students to too many different blogs at once. In 2009, I tried to have my students comment on and keep up with dozens of different blogs which only resulted in confusion for both me and my class. We launched this year with our Quad Blogging project and have three core blogs we visit regularly. Additionally, we have a variety of other blogs that we drop in on on a semi-frequent basis which were introduced after we got to know our Quad Blogging buddies. We get a LOT of people visiting our blog and asking us to connect with their class but there is only so much we can do. I no longer feel compelled to start ongoing relationships with ALL of our visitors.
  • Give up – if you have trouble finding a suitable class to connect with or finding time to develop relationships, keep trying! It is worth it.

DSC07449

What are your tips for forming friendships with other blogging classes?

Skype in the Classroom

As I have blogged about many times in the past I love to flatten my classroom walls and collaborate globally with my students.

I have found Skype to be a wonderful tool for collaboration. It is easy, free and has countless uses.

Skyping can bring learning to life!

In my grade two class we have skyped our blogging buddies many times and have also skyped “experts”. There are so many other uses for Skype, and for teachers of languages, I view Skype as a vital tool!

When I have told other educators about the potentials of Skype, they often ask how can they find other classes to skype and collaborate with. In the past, there were various roundabout ways to make connections but now there is a one stop shop called Skype in the Classroom.

http://education.skype.com

On Skype in the Classroom, teachers create a profile about themselves, their class, their location and interests. They can then browse through a directory of international teachers interested in skyping to find someone they’d like to connect with. From there, it is as simple as adding the teacher as a Skype contact and introducing yourself.

Skype in the classroom is in beta, which means it is still being developed and refined.

I was involved in the initial trials of Skype in the Classroom in late 2010. While I found it extremely easy to use and valuable, I signed off as I was receiving more offers to collaborate than I could manage!

If you are new to collaboration or looking for specific types of contacts, Skype in the Classroom may be a useful tool for you. It makes collaboration so easy; the only issue you may face is the isolating time zone here in Australia!

skype in the classroom

If you don’t know how to set up Skype, check out the Tech Tools for Teachers newsletter we wrote last year.

How do you use Skype in your classroom?

How would you like to use Skype in the future?

Have you signed up for Skype in the Classroom?

QuadBlogging

Update: David Mitchell launched the official QuadBlogging site in June 2011. Click here to find it. This is the place to go to sign up for quad blogging and find out all about it.

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If you’re on Twitter you may have heard the term QuadBlogging being thrown around lately. I first heard about it from Pam Thompson who started QuadBlogging with her year 6/7 class in January.

QuadBlogging is an idea that  David Mitchell came up with.

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.

The benefits: The alliance will help each class increase their readership while flattening their classroom walls and learning about the wonderful world we live in.

How to get involved: If you visit Mr Mitchell’s blog you can enter some details about your class to be put together in a quad.

As I’ve been blogging with my class now for a number of years, I didn’t need to be matched with other classes. 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 *

Mosaic Final quad blogging yollis

Starting this week, we are taking turns to put one of our blogs in the spotlight.

Each class has published a post directing their readers to the focus blog. This week, our focus is Mrs Yollis’s class blog.

Click here to check out our first post about QuadBlogging on our class blog.

Below is a visual adapted from Mr Mitchell’s work to demonstrate how QuadBlogging works.

What do you think about QuadBlogging?

What other methods do you use to increase readership and get to know other global classes?

My Journey with Global Collaboration

Bright Ideas is a blog by the School Library Association of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria. Rachel from Bright Ideas recently asked if I’d share with readers how I got involved in global collaboration and I was only too happy to help. Hopefully, together we can inspire more teachers to make connections globally and open up whole new worlds for their students.

As I mentioned on the recent Virtual Staffroom podcast, one of things I love most about blogging and using technologies in my classroom is the opportunities for global collaboration.

2008 was the year that I began blogging and also collaborating globally with my students. In the three years that have passed, our experiences of collaboration have become more integrated, frequent and richer.

I created the following diagram to demonstrate how my involvement in global collaboration has progressed (tip: click on image if you want to see it more clearly).

diagram progress global projects

A summary of how I progressed with global collaboration

2008

Christmas Card Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with seven schools around the world and we exchanged Christmas/holiday cards.
PROS – Learning about all the different countries involved and their holiday traditions.
CONS – Lack of “real” connection to the classes and lack of technology used (the contact was slow!).

2009

Teddy Bear Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with a class in Canada. We exchanged teddies via snail mail and we “helped” the teddies write weekly emails to each other. We collated all the emails on a page on our class blog.

PROS – We learnt a lot about life in Canada; children learnt about email.
CONS – There wasn’t the chance for a “real” connection to develop between students – it was all through the teddy.

*****

Blogging Buddies: in our second year of blogging we began forming connections with many classes around the world. We would leave comments on our new friends’ blogs and keep track of what they were up to in an informal manner.

PROS – Blogging suddenly become more powerful, interesting and meaningful as we had a real international audience. Students began to learn there was a life outside of their neighbourhood.
CONS – All our interactions and learning was “ad-hoc”.

2010 – first half

Our relationships with our blogging buddies continued and expanded while we looked to more structured, self-organised and personalised projects.

Collaboration Corner http://collaboration-corner.blogspot.com
I created a blog with Linda Yollis in California. Our classes had got to know each other since early 2009 via our class blogs.
We called the blog “Collaboration Corner”. This was a place for the students to work on projects together and have rich discussions through commenting.

We had two main projects in the first half of the year:
•    Lunch Box Project – this complimented our “Food” theme. A child from each class took turns making a post about their lunch. They used a tool like Fotobabble to narrate a picture of their lunch. Some great conversations got going in the comments on healthy eating, food preferences, cultural difference with food, food groups etc.
•    Our School – the students used tools like VoiceThread and video to show their American friends around their school. The students made posts about the play areas, library, office etc. The students were really interested to compare how school is the same and different in Australia and the US.

PROS – The students got to really connect with their blogging buddies and the blog provided a window into their lives. Skype was used to enhance this connection such as our Skype breakfast party. A lot of content was learnt about food, time zones, schools, geography. A lot of reflection and new ideas also arose.
CONS – We were working together and learning a lot but what for?

2010 – second half

Ugandan Global Project http://ugandanglobalproject.blogspot.com
This is an idea I came up with because I loved how my students were learning and connecting with their buddies overseas but I thought something was missing. I knew we could take it further. I wanted my students to be able to use these global connections for a greater good; to raise their social conscience, help others and learn more about the world in which they live.

In this project, we set up another blog and invited some of our blogging buddies to join in. We had two Australian classes, three American classes and one Chinese class involved all working together to help out a school in Uganda.

The students were sponsored by their family and friends and at 10am on Friday 22nd October, all the classes around the world ran/walked for one hour to earn their sponsorship money.

Throughout the project all the classes involved worked on various tasks to learn more about Uganda and put up posts on the blog on topics such as
•    A day in the life of a student in Australia/USA/China/Uganda
•    A traditional song in each country
•    The run/walk event in each location
•    Time zones
•    Currencies

Behind these posts, the commenting was fantastic! The students (all aged 7-9) were involved in some rich conversations.

This project raised $20,000 which is making an enormous difference in the lives of our Ugandan friends.

There are also incredible flow-on effects still happening. A group of Americans who followed our project blog decided to volunteer at the Ugandan school. There are around 20 of them in Uganda at the time of writing and they’re making an invaluable contribution. Additionally, a teacher who read about our project contacted the school founder asking how she can help. The possibilities of these after effects are endless.

I feel that one of the ultimate goals of being a global citizen is to be able to work together for a common good, be understanding of others and have a social conscience. Through blogging, my students are developing as effective global citizens and I’m so proud of what they are achieving! I can’t wait to see where we’ll go next…

What next?

Needless to say, I want my students to be involved in more global collaboration in the future. I think a mix of informal collaboration and more structured projects works well. We’re now at a point where we don’t need to look at projects organised by outside agencies as we are part of a large international blogging community.

When it comes to projects, I like the idea of working on some projects that are simply designed to increase student learning and global awareness, while also aiming for perhaps an annual big project (like the Ugandan Project) where the aims go beyond individual student learning.

How to get started

If you want your class to connect and collaborate globally, I recommend you read this post by Edna Sackson “10 Ways to Create Global Connections

If you want to start in a more structured way like I did, there are many free and paid organisations co-ordinating global collaborative projects.

You might like to try…

http://www.globalschoolnet.org/

http://www.iearn.org.au/

http://www.theteacherscorner.net/penpals/

http://www.epals.com

http://www.ozprojects.edu.au

Good luck!

Leave a comment if you want to share your experiences of global collaboration.

Goals for 2011

The school year begins for us in Victoria, Australia in a few weeks time.

2010 was a steep learning curve for me; I started to do a lot of things differently and this has influenced how I plan to approach the 2011 school year.

I am again teaching Grade Two and, like 2010, I will be sharing a large open classroom with Kelly Jordan. We team teach almost every lesson and I find this a very effective and engaging way to teach. We will be greeting our combined 42 students on Friday 4th February and we have a lot planned for them!

2KM 2KJ classroom

In terms of technology integration, these are a few of my goals for 2011:

  • Start blogging on Day One: As I have blogged about numerous times, blogging is a huge part of my classroom and the benefits for my students have been priceless. Before the holidays, I met my new students for an hour and we spent the bulk of the time blogging and skyping our blogging buddy, Mrs Yollis. I sent a letter home to the new families encouraging them to comment on our 2010 class blog over the holidays and many of them have. This year, Kelly and I have decided to have a combined class blog. After all, we do almost everything together and last year we found that we were putting almost identical posts on each of our class blogs!
  • Teach ICT skills incidentally: Last September I blogged about how I try to take every opportunity to teach my students various ICT skills as they arise. I find this a really effective way to truly integrate ICT into the curriculum. With the help of many of my readers, I have compiled a Google Doc that suggests some of the ICT skills that could be taught to students in an incidental manner. Check it out and feel free to add to the list.
  • Increase meaningful global collaboration: Last year, my class was part of some wonderful global connections. The majority of these were informal, however we did set up some more structured projects. We worked on a joint blog with Mrs Yollis’ class called Collaboration Corner where we collaborated on projects about our lunchboxes and schools. The highlight of 2010 was our Ugandan Global Project where we worked with six classes across the world to raise $20,000 for a Ugandan school. My aim for 2011 is to continue with regular informal global collaboration while also structuring some more purposeful formal collaborative projects. Stay tuned!
  • Integrate more inquiry based learning: This method of teaching and learning is something I haven’t had much experience with, however, through learning from my peers such as Edna Sackson, I am gaining an understanding of how valuable an inquiry based approach is. Put simply, I believe students learn best when they make discoveries for themselves and I want to integrate more questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving into my classroom. Technology can be a wonderful avenue for this. At my school, our integrated studies units of work have traditionally been heavily fact-based. I hope to change this in my classroom and learn more about inquiry based learning from my PLN in 2011.

Leave a comment.

What are your goals for the new school year?

After Effects of the Ugandan Global Project

As I have previously blogged about, the Ugandan Global Project involved six grade two and three classes working together to raise money for a Ugandan School.

We raised $20,000 and all students students involved in the project developed enormously both on an academic and personal level.

Click here to read part one explaining the project.

Click here to read part two explaining the project.

Click here to read about the results of the project.

The project is now finished but the effects continue to spread.

Last week, the founder of the Ugandan School, Renee Waun, emailed me with great excitement. A Californian lady had been in touch with her a while back about volunteering at the Ugandan school in January. They had been making plans for the trip and, when our Ugandan Global Project was launched, Renee shared the link to our blog with the lady.

From Renee…

She looked at everything and decided to forward the links to several of her friends.  The result is that so many people in her circle of friends were inspired by the energy and activity of the teachers and children participating your project and the African school, that her friends started asking if they could go along.


There are now 22 people going to Africa in January! Among those in the group who are going are teachers, photographers, a dance instructor, and dental hygenist who will bring dental supplies and treat teeth, etc.

Even more unbelievably, there were even MORE people than that who wanted to go to Uganda but they had to cap the number in the group this time.

Who would have thought that a group of seven to nine year olds and their teachers could have such an enormous impact on others?

This shows the amazing power that collaboration, communication, creativity and effective use of technology can have!

What do you think?

How else can we set up projects with long lasting effects?

Global Education Conference Presentation

This week (Thursday/Friday), Linda Yollis will be presenting about our Ugandan Global Project at the Global Education Conference.

This is a free online conference for anyone around the world. The session is held in Elluminate.

The goal of the conference is to help everyone make connections with other educators and students in order to increase opportunities for globally-connected education activities and initiatives.

global educ conference

SESSION INFORMATION

TITLE: Ugandan Global Project
PRESENTER: Linda Yollis
TIME: GMT+11 Fri 19 Nov 2010 11:00AM (click here for international time conversions)
SESSION ROOM: CLICK HERE to enter the Elluminate session room, open one hour before session.
DESCRIPTION: The Ugandan Global Project (UGP) is a collaborative blog that brings six elementary school classes together from four continents in order to raise money for the African Rural School Foundation in Uganda, Africa. The UGP members walked on October 22, to raise money to purchase a play area for Ugandan students. The walk signified the miles some Ugandan students walk each day to get an education. The UGP blog incorporates cultural and geographic information from all of the students involved in the project. The teachers and students involved in the project are elementary school blogging buddies. The classes regularly follow the learning of each other via blog posts and frequently ask questions or share information in the comment sections of the classroom blogs. The teachers were looking for a way to use their international blogging connections to help raise the global and social awareness of their students.
WEBSITE: http://ugandanglobalproject.blogspot.com

Here is a video I made to conclude the Ugandan project

Thank  you Linda for sharing at this conference!

Please try to attend and spread the word!

Leave a comment if you have any thoughts or questions about the conference.

Ugandan Global Project Update

As I have previously blogged about here and here, my grade two class has been working with five other classes around the world on a Ugandan Global Project.

We worked on a blog together to learn about Uganda and the nationalities involved, and completed a run/walk fundraiser to raise money for the ABC Divine Foundation School in Uganda.

Our goal was to raise enough money to purchase some land adjacent to the school for a play area.

We exceeded this goal enormously. Team Toa in China got their whole school involved and raised a massive $15,000! This brought the total for all the classes to about $20,000. Obviously, this amount of money will make a huge difference to the lives of the Ugandan students and we are currently working with the foundation to plan how the money can best be spent.

Our students got so much out of being involved in this project. The learning that went on through the blog posts and comments was fantastic.

I have used the text tool on this website to highlight just some of the learning that has taken place.

In my opinion, blogging and global projects are all encompassing ways to authentically improve student outcomes academically, socially and as digital citizens. I look forward to being involved in many more with my students in the future!

Leave a comment and share your thoughts about global projects.

Ugandan Global Project: Part Two

Last week, I blogged about the Ugandan Global Project which we launched today. Read the Part One post here.

Mrs Yollis and her students made this fantastic video to launch the project.

Mission

To raise the social conscience and global awareness of our students through fundraising for The ABC Divine Foundation Primary School in Mutundwe, Uganda, Africa

The Goal

Primary school “blogging buddies” from around the world will collaborate together to raise money to help purchase land adjacent to The ABC Divine Foundation Primary School in Mutundwe, Uganda, Africa. The land will be used as a play area for the school. Read more about the goal here.

The Run/Walk

Each class will complete a one hour run/walk around their school or community at 10am on Friday 22nd October 2010.

The one hour walk signifies the effort the Ugandan students make to get an education. Many students travel long distances to get to school and some live so far away they have to stay at the school.

From the school director: “Many families in rural areas live in abject poverty, with no school within a 6-mile walk. In areas where schools are available these poor families cannot afford the fees, and so their children grow up without any education at all.” Read more from the school director here.

Students will collect donations from their friends and families for completing the run/walk which will be passed on to the Ugandan school.

The Blog

http://ugandanglobalproject.blogspot.com/

The Ugandan Global Project Blog will be a place for students to share and learn about each other. Posts will include: cultural and geographic information, training updates, the run/walk events, and fundraising efforts. Hopefully the Ugandan students will be able to be a part of the blog through posting and/or commenting. We may also be able to use Skype to communicate with some Ugandan contacts or people who have been there.

Ugandanblog

The Benefits

We’re hoping that through participating in this project, our students will

•    Help people less fortunate than themselves
•    Develop their social conscience
•    Improve their fitness
•    Learn more about the world in which they live
•    Develop their friendships with their blogging buddies
•    Improve their understanding of different cultures and ways of life
•    Improve their ICT skills
•    Feel good and have fun!

Photo courtesy of Renee Waun

Photo courtesy of Renee Waun

Leave a comment and tell us what you think about our global project.

Have you been involved in any global projects? What did you students get out of it?

Ugandan Global Project: Part One

The school holidays are almost over here in Victoria and on Monday I’m launching an exciting new global project.

As I have previously blogged about, I have found global projects to be one of the richest ways to use technology in the classroom.

My class has collaborated globally with others both informally and in a more structured way such as through our Collaboration Corner blog project with Mrs Yollis’ class and skyping with experts, however I felt like there was something missing.

I wanted my students to be able to use these global connections for a greater good; to raise their social conscience, help others and learn more about the world in which they live.

The idea…

One day in August this year, I was reading my Runner’s World magazine, when I came across an article about a woman who ran to raise money for the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This article planted a seed and I got to thinking that I could have my students do a run/walk “alongside” their global buddies to raise money for children less fortunate than themselves.

The cause….

It didn’t take long to find a worthy cause to support. The African Rural Schools Foundation strives to provide affordable education to disadvantaged students in Uganda while also supporting children who are affected or orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

The foundation is doing amazing work, running the ABC Divine Foundation Primary School in Mutundwe, Uganda, Africa. There are over 400 students who attend the school, about half live there and many of those are orphans.

Rev. Renee Waun, the founding sponsor of the Foundation from the USA, has been more than helpful in getting our idea off the ground. She has been an excellent link to the Ugandan students and has provided invaluable information and support.

The partners…

When I shared the idea with some of the teachers of classes we collaborate with across the world, they were very keen to jump on board with the project. We are spanning our Ugandan Global Project across four continents- Africa, Australia, North America and Asia.

The partners of our project include

* The African Rural Schools Project and students at The ABC Divine Foundation Primary School in Mutundwe, Uganda, Africa.
* 2KM in Leopold, Victoria, Australia
* 2KJ in Leopold, Victoria, Australia
* Mrs Yollis’ class in Los Angeles, California, USA
* Mrs Ranney’s class in Los Angeles, California, USA
* Mr Salsich’s class in Connecticut, USA
* Team Toa, Shanghai International School, China

Photo courtesy of Renee Waun

Photo courtesy of Renee Waun

In part two of this post I will explain how we’re using blogging and other technologies for our collaboration and how we’re fundraising for our new African friends. Look out for it next week!