Thursday, November 15, 2012

Global Connections

We live in a global village. Technology has opened up so many opportunities for connection and collaboration. In the computer lab we have been taking advantage of the opportunity for global connections via the Global Classroom Project. I joined the Skype chat group for GCP. Due to time differences the group is active twenty-four hours a day.  The chat is lively and informative. 

One of the fun activities of the group is a "Mystery Skype".  Two teachers connect their classes in Google Hangout without telling their students where the other class is in the world. The children have to ask questions that elicit a yes or no answer in order to work out the location. 

These two photos show how the students could see one another on the screen.

One of the first things the students have to understand is the concept of a continent. Once we have established which continent the other class is on they then have to pinpoint the country. If they do get really stuck they are allowed to get clues such as the capital city or the hemisphere. I was surprised and delighted when one of my Grade 2 classes guessed Indonesia after they had established that it was in Asia. After trying the larger countries like China and India they began to study the map more carefully. They could barely pronounce the word Indonesia but  they learned that it's a country in Asia and they met a class of real live students from there.  Some of our students demonstrated good thinking when trying to find the answer and then I had one little girl who kept coming up and saying, "Johannesburg! or East London". It's a whole new world out there. Our students are young and many of them are lacking exposure to the world beyond our school and homes but I believe that we can offer them opportunities for enrichment beyond their present development through technology and good scaffolding.

We are coming to the end of the academic year. This has been the first year at Cotswold that I haven't worked through a set curriculum purchased by the school. It's been an adventurous year and I have learned so much. I'm looking forward to what the new year brings. Technology is changing so rapidly and the trend is towards the "Read Write" web where we discover how to construct our own new knowledge using online tools. It certainly is a great time to be involved in education.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Adventure in Learning Continues

We have continued to add posts to our blogs this term.  We have used the blogs as lesson reflections, recording real world events such as recent heavy storms and sharing stories about our friend from Sydney, Flat Rosie.  You can see Flat Rosie on the board just below the screen supervising the children's blogging.

On Monday 5 November we will be having a Skype call with Flat Rosie's class in Sydney. This will be an exciting culmination of the Flat Rosie visit. After that she will be returning to Australia with a new friend, Sipho. 

We have enjoyed some fun lessons this term, notably "Don't Eat the Data". The children were each given a box of Smarties. They had to sort them and count each colour then enter the data into an Excel template and convert the data to a chart. They managed to exercise self control until the data had been sorted - except one of the brightest boys who mysteriously only recorded 11 Smarties on his graph to everyone else's 20+. They then used their blog to reflect on the lesson and what they had learned.

Blogs are such a good way to give children practice in literacy skills. Kidblog is a great platform for young children as logging in so easy. A new addition to Kidblog is a viewer map which has been added. This makes the reality of writing for a global audience so real to the children and it's a great motivator. They only have a short time each week to add to their blogs but they are getting much more efficient at logging in and adding to their blog.

I always have the dilema of how much editing I should do. The fact that our blogs will be read by other children we need to keep the text as error free as possible. I walk around as they type and help them edit and correct their errors while they are working. I believe this is a more effective way of helping our children learn correct grammar and spelling than if the teacher takes in a set of books and uses a red pen to highlight errors. 

It's always sad when the Grade Threes have developed to a level where we can be adventurous in our projects and then they leave at the end of the year. I hope the skills they have learned in computer lessons will help them in their new schools. 

The Grade One classes are just beginning to develop skills in typing their names and simple sentences on the computer now that they have learnt to read in class. It's encouraging seeing them develop during the year and to know that in a year's time they too will be ready to start blogging.

Through a Skype group called "Hello Little World Skypers" (HLWSkypers) I have been able to connect with teachers in other countries. Last week one of the classes spoke to a teacher in Moscow and another group spoke to a class in Indonesia. This was really exciting for the children. We then went to the big wall map and put an X on the places on the map, giving them a global perspective and a beginning understanding of time zones and hemispheres in a real world setting. I am hoping to extend our global connections in the new year. Another useful Skype group is the Global Classroom Project.  Through chatting with teachers I have picked up contacts and ideas for projects. Networking is definitely the way to go! Thank you fo my Professional Learning Network. One idea is to have a Mystery Skype. Here is a blog post by a teacher who held a Mystery Skype for her students.

And so our school year is winding down and planning for 2013 begins. New classes, new beginnings and new ideas for stimulating projects in the computer lab. I am learning new things every week and look forward to what we will all learn together in the coming year.