Beginning the Project

imageWhere does one start a new project? At the beginning, of course! But this project is something that has been percolating in my brain for over a year, so perhaps this isn’t the beginning at all? Whatever point I am at, in two months there will be a product from much time thinking, reflecting and making tangible what has been developing in my classroom.

For the past two years I have been using twitter as a tool to help connect my students with other kindergarten and grade 1 classes around the world. It has been an evolving collaboration based on the Kindergarten Around the World project developed by Amy Murray from Calgary, Alberta. As part of the #kinderchat Play Projects, Amy matched up classes from different parts of the world so that they could learn about each other, our respective geography, cultures and traditions.

My intent for my EDCI 338 project is to create a “how to” e-book for educators of young children to help them teach their little ones how to be safe online while building relationships with friends all over the globe. Twitter is only one tool we could use for this project, but it happens to be the one that works best for me. I have found twitter to be easy to use, and easy to teach to young children. This media has allowed my class to connect with other students and learn about the real world in a way that cannot be achieved through books or any other source.

Another important reason I think that social media literacy is important to teach our children is that our students are exposed to computers, hand held tech devices and social media at a very young age, most before they even come to kindergarten. I believe that it is our responsibility as educators to guide our students and teach them appropriate use of these technologies. My belief stems from seeing what teenagers are doing online without proper teaching. The social media technologies are so new, most teachers don’t know how to use them. I believe that if we embed social media teaching into our curriculum, we will see fewer incidents of “user remorse” for things posted publicly rather than kept private. There needs to be a bridge from a generation that did not grow up being taught how to use social media safely to a generation that is literate and safe in the social media environments that are ever-emerging.

I believe fully in a play-based  Early Childhood education program. I know that children need to be out in nature as much as possible, and need to explore and play with their surroundings. My hope is that through this learning project I can help other teachers lead their students through a meaningful, play-based exploration of the use of twitter.

As my project progresses, I will be fleshing out how best to present this e-book so that it will be an accessible document to be used by others. This by no means indicates that twitter and tech is the “be-all and end-all” for tools used in my classroom. I treat technology similarly to a pencil or box of crayons…one tool that can help my students learn. Twitter just happens to be a tool that can connect my class with other students just like mine throughout the globe.

Reflections on a New Kind of School

As our first guest speaker in EDCI 338, Jeff Hopkins inspired me as he told the story of his latest project, Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. Jeff is the former Superintendent of School District #64 (Gulf Islands), but he had a different vision for what education can and should look like. He mortgaged his house (that’s dedication!) and set out to create an independent school that could help realize his vision.

The first statistic that stood out to me during his talk was the fact that he received over 400 (did I hear that correctly?) unsolicited applications from teachers who wanted to work at his new school. This tells me two things: 1) these teachers can see Jeff’s vision and want to be a part of the project and 2) Jeff must be an amazing leader. Who applies to a school that hasn’t opened it’s doors and hasn’t established it’s identity yet? Visionaries.

I appreciated Jeff’s descriptions of the learning environments at PSII. He spoke of a non-traditional room set-up…smaller spaces for students to do their work. More intimate. A small room for music. A small art room. Spaces to collaborate and participate in learning. I liken this to the small areas of a kindergarten classroom. Places where children can play and learn together. We don’t all have to do the same thing at the same time in the same space.

I had an “aha moment” when Jeff described how the students were taking apart the learning outcomes and creating projects to meet those outcomes. How meaningful! It is important for our students to take ownership of their learning. One size does not fit all and with the students determining the pathway on which their education moves, I am sure they will feel more fulfilled and more in control of their learning.

Jeff mentioned that each student had an e-portfolio as the basis for assessment of their learning. I asked him to give us a picture of what that looked like and how it complied with the FIPPA laws in BC. He acknowledged that the students are taught not to put any personal information online, their parents gave informed consent (which covers the legality of the issue), and that Google Drive was the tool used for the e-portfolios. It was exciting to hear about this as I am also developing an e-portfolio system for my students using Kidblog. I think it’s wonderful to have students giving input into building their learning plan and the assessment of their achievements. It will be interesting to see how the new BCEdPlan allows for and hopefully encourages this type of assessment as the new curriculum is implemented next year.

Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your passion with the EDCI 338 class. It is inspiring to see how your new undertaking has motivated your students and it is encouraging me to think about how I can change my classroom within the public system to better suit the learning styles of my students.

Who I Am And What My Interests Are

Well, my journey back as a university student has begun! My first assignment is a multi-media clip that introduces me to my cohort, #tiegrad. In it I have included a bit about where my twitter name came from, who my family are and what we like to do together, a little bit about #kinderchat and where my study and research interest lies. There will be frequent updates to my blog as I go through each class, and I look forward to any feedback you can give to make my educational adventure even more meaningful.