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Understanding the Connected Classroom

What is a Connected Classroom?

A connected classroom is a learning environment that is open to the outside world. It’s where students are engaged in real-life authentic learning starting in their own classroom and extends to reach other global learners.

Why should our classrooms be connected?

When we think about redefining learning (especially if we’re using SAMR as a lens to ensure that the use of technology is not just for technology’s sake) then we must think about what can our students do that wasn’t possible before without the technology.  Connecting with others outside the wall of the classroom or providing a window into the classroom is something that’s not possible without technology.  The increased scope of learning, the harnessing of an authentic audience and the ability to share and get feedback on student work were the driving reasons behind my reasons for having a connected classroom.

In Grade 3, my students were studying Rocks & Minerals for Science. We were able to skype an expert (a student’s grandfather who just happened to be a Geologist).  I cannot describe the fascination, the attention and the learning that was facilitated by having a conversation with an actual geologist who showed us his tools, shared what it was like to be a geologist and also showed us some of his most memorable finds!

How can we connect our classrooms?

There are many ways we can connect our classrooms. Here’s three easy ways to create an environment that is open to the outside world and engages students in real-life authentic learning that can extend to reach other global learners.

Video Conferencing

Use skype, google hangouts or facetime to connect, share and learn from others outside the walls of the classroom. There’s a variety of different reasons or times of the year to connect with others globally.

Ideas to try
  • Celebrations
    • Science Week
    • Coding Challenge
    • Christmas Tradition comparisons
  • Expert Encounters
    • Guest expert
    • Author Study
    • Mystery Skype for geography/cultural purposes
  • Shared Units of Study
    • Weather study/comparison
    • Seasons
    • Environmental studies
  • Authentic Collaboration Projects

Sometimes timezones can hamper global connections. Tools like VoiceThread can help. We were able to connect and share some Christmas Traditions with a class in Tasmania this way.

Blogging

Blogs can be a “window into your class” – an authentic, relevant way to connect to others beyond the four walls of the classroom. To help get started, check out 10 tips for Connecting Students Through Blogging.
Blogs can be used to

  • Share learning
  • Have an Authentic Audience
  • Get Peer Feedback
  • build ePortfolios
  • Communicate with Parents
Ideas to try
  • Start with a class blog and build content together
  • Use blogs as ePortfolios to show learning over time
  • Connect between school and home

Use Social Media

Social media tools can be used to

  • share learning
  • participate in global conversations
  • ask questions / get answers
  • connect with experts, authors, other cultures
  • back channel
  • expose students to different perspectives
Ideas to try
  • share learning visually with a class instagram account
  • create a class twitter account to globally connect with others
  • start a class facebook page to connect/share with parents

Tips for Success

  • It takes time to grow connections but it really is worth the effort
  • Be willing to take risks (be prepared to fail)
  • Be adaptable & flexible and have a sense of humour!
  • If you’re just starting out, start small – skype in an expert/guest speaker or your friend’s class from another school in your area, district or perhaps another country
  • Check out Getting Started with Mystery Skype or Authors who Skype with Classes for Free

Ways to Involve Students More

Use roles during video conferencing

  • photographer (responsible for taking photographs during the call)
  • documentor (responsible for writing down the memorable parts of the call)
  • videographer (responsible for video recording the event)
  • Skype Tips (including a list of potential roles for students)

Have a Class Blog

  • Student Writer of the Week (responsible for writing a summary post or a daily post for the class)
  • Blog Photographer (responsible for documenting learning each day)
  • Commenting on a class blog post could be a writing homework option
  • Blogger of the Week – use when each student has their own blog

Use a Class Social Media Account

  • The whole class helps write a summary of the day’s learning in 140 characters for twitter OR
  • A small group of writers during writing time collaborate for 10-15m on a class daily tweet
  • Social Media update – to help provide a window into the classroom, a student writes a morning and an afternoon twitter, instagram, facebook update each day
  • Instagram Photographer of the day – has to post 4-5 images of learning to the class instagram account
  • Facebook Post writer – writes a learning post/summary of the day’s learning am/pm (also uses the class photographer’s images)

Depending on how old your students are, you may wish to have the posts/updates have teacher approval before they are published. With younger students, updates could be orally told to an adult or written out on paper and approved by the teacher first.

Questions? Comments? What are your thoughts? Have I missed anything?  Would you like to share your ideas?  I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment!

 

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