Fun and Games

So many rewards can come out of connections made through blogging and global collaboration.

I love watching my students learn about literacy, maths, geography, technology, history and all sorts of things about life around the world with their blogging buddies. It is such an authentic and memorable way to learn.

Last November when we were working on the Our World, Our Stories project, Mrs Yollis’ class shared one of their favourite playground games, Bamboo.

This video below, courtesy of Linda Yollis and her students, explains the game.

Bamboo became an instant hit. As Mrs Yollis’ class describe in this November post, our blogging friends around the world quickly started enjoying this unique game.

Three months on, Bamboo is still extremely popular at our school. Students from my 2011 class have introduced the game to the other students, and every lunchtime and recess the parallel bars are swamped by children of all ages.

I remember being at school and learning new games from students who had come from other schools, or from friends and neighbours who went to other schools. Now children from all over the world can so easily connect for fun and learning!

How can we encourage student centred sharing?

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!

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?

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!

Why Schools are Spooked by Social Media

I was pleased I was listening to ABC Radio Melbourne this morning when I heard the next segment was going to be about social media in schools.

While I braced myself for a flood of ill informed callers harping on the negatives of Facebook and the like I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Denis Masseni, a Monash university lecturer and a director of Sponsor-Ed was the guest on the topic. Denis has written a report called “Why Schools are spooked by social media”, which presents findings from a survey of 140 principals on the subject of social media.

Throughout the radio segment, Denis addressed many issues related to social media in schools and callers also provided interesting insights. The most compelling statement for me was when a caller said something like “hospitals and banks can no longer operate without computers but classrooms can.” This is so sad but true and really says it all to me about the change that is needed in schools.

I enjoyed the conversation that ensued and subsequently sought out Denis’s report.

This 34 page paper is well worth reading. It is a powerful document that illustrates how the commercial sector uses social media in many ways which could be imitated by schools. It also addresses the “blockers” that stop schools from utilising social media.


If you are having trouble accessing the embedded report, visit this link to download a copy.

Denis defines the term social media as accessing, sharing, commenting and collaborating online, and for the sake of the paper, as blogging, Twitter and email newsletters.

In summary, the premise of the report is “With over 9 million people in Australia accessing social media (46% of the population), including 43% of small businesses and over 70% of not for profits, why are schools under-represented in their use of this new communications device in connecting with their parent community?”

The following statement from the report rang very true with me, (evident by the fact that a large amount of parents at my recent parent-teacher interviews commented how much they enjoy our class blog and regular class e-newsletters).

“Simply delivering information in more contemporary mechanisms and allowing for two-way communications will lift parental involvement and promote engagement. Parents don’t connect in the school yard in the numbers they once did – the pace and pressure of modern life has seen to that”

Denis sums up the future of social media with this statement:

“The way forward is to find schools that are enthusiastic about extending social media to parents and support their activities technologically, strategically, tactically and philosophically. These schools will provide the benchmarking for those waiting for someone to go first. We need the early adopters.”

What do you think about Denis Masseni’s report?

Why are schools spooked by social media?

Global Collaborative Projects

One of the richest ways you can use technology in the classroom is to collaborate globally. I am becoming a big fan of global collaborations and the projects my Grade Two students work on are proving to be powerful learning experiences.

Global collaboration provides authentic learning opportunities that help students learn about another culture while developing their skills with 21st century technologies. Increasingly, to be a successful member of society our students will need to know how to collaborate effectively with others both locally and globally.

My first experience with global projects was in 2008 when I signed up with iEARN and involved my class in a Holiday Card Exchange with seven schools around the world and then a Teddy Bear Exchange project with a class in Canada. These were both fantastic experiences.

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Over the past few years, my grade has made connections with classes around the world through our blog. We have many blogging buddies from every corner of the world. These connections have allowed less formal collaboration to occur.

Over the past twelve months, my class has strengthened their friendship with Mrs Yollis’ class in California. Informal interactions have developed into more structured collaborative projects through a joint blog called Collaboration Corner. Read more about Collaboration Corner here. We have completed our “Lunchbox Project” on the Collaboration Corner blog and after having a student vote, we’re now embarking on a project called “Our School.” The amount of learning that is taking place through these projects is priceless.

Time zones no longer allow our class to skype with Mrs Yollis’ class inside school hours. To overcome this, next Tuesday my class will come to school an hour early and Mrs Yollis’ class will stay back late so we can have a special “show-and-tell” Skype session before the school year ends for our American friends. This will be made into a fun event by Mrs Yollis’ class ordering pizzas and our class having a pancake breakfast.

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This week, my grade also participated in the Flat Stanley project that Mrs Lynch’s class in Quebec, Canada organised. Click here to read about Flat Stanley’s visit to the 2KM classroom. I am looking at doing the Flat Stanley project later in the year and was interested in John Pearce’s post about using Twitter to send Flat Stanley virtually.

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On a more local level, my students also Skyped this week with students at Kunawarritji Aboriginal Community School in W.A. Due to some technical difficulties, we weren’t able to develop our conversation as far as we would have liked but since Skype is so easy to set up, we will try again next week. This sort of experience will inject some life and authenticity into our Aboriginal Australia unit of work.

Our next unit of work will be on dinosaurs so I will have to think hard about what sort of collaboration we could embark on! Let me know if you have any ideas!

collaboration skype


The sorts of global collaborative projects you can embark on are only limited by your imagination and ability to strike up connections. Students can measure, collect and evaluate data, write, read, publish, simulate, compare, debate, organise, investigate, share or report.

Here are some links to get started with collaborating in the classroom:

http://www.globalschoolnet.org/

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

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

http://www.epals.com

http://www.ozprojects.edu.au

http://theedublogger.com/want-to-connect-with-other-classrooms/

What sort of collaborative projects have you been involved in?

Do you know any other sites that you can use to get started with collaborating?