Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Connecting your classroom

It's a cyclone day today!  It has been pouring with rain for hours in Mumbai which is really unusual as generally there is not a drop of rain between October and June - but today the rain is a result of Cyclone Ochki and the Education Department in Mumbai has declared it's a holiday for schools in the city today.  Classes at my school have been cancelled, and I've had the unexpected bonus of a free day to catch up with friends over email, and to read and blog.

Last month I noticed a post on Facebook by Kim Cofino.  Kim mentioned that Eduro Learning has now set up a new enterprise, Eduro Press, for publishing books.  The first book is called Your Connected Classroom: A Practical Guide for Teachers and it's available on Amazon.  Kim offered to give a review copy to her connections who were willing to review the book on Amazon - and I was happy to do this.  I haven't yet finished reading the book, but decided that I'd also blog about it - and this post is based on the first 4 chapters of the book that I read this morning.

The book starts with a discussion about what a connected classroom is.  Technology can be used to connect students beyond the physical limitations of space and time in the traditional classroom.  Students can connect to each other as part of a virtual classroom where resources, materials and discussions can be shared, as well as connecting to other students and classes around the world.  When students are connected, it's the ideal "teachable moment" to introduce important issues such as digital citizenship, academic honesty and so on in an authentic context.  This is important both in a "closed" virtual classroom as well as when students are publishing publicly for others.  It's likely this would also provide a good opportunity for discussion about topics such as international mindedness, culture and community building, which might not otherwise be addressed.

One emphasis that I really like in these chapters is the purposeful use of technology - not being fixed on the tool but instead thinking about how to transform the learning experiences for students.  The book explains very clearly several models of technology integration such as SAMR, developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura (who incidentally is coming to ASB Un-Plugged this year), and TPACK.  SAMR is basically giving you a framework in which to view learning tasks, and it also gives you the language to have conversations about the "so what" of technology-rich learning.  I've written about the model a number of times on this blog - and these remain the most popular of all my posts (click here to see an example SAMR being used to transform learning).  TPACK works well with SAMR to use technology with a focus on learning (another popular blog post), as TPACK looks at the 3 critical domains of knowledge (technological, pedagogical and content) and strives for a balance in all 3 when designing learning engagements.  The book gives several examples of how teachers can use SAMR and TPACK together to help teachers evaluate the use of technology.

Kim recently spoke at Learning2 about her struggle as a student with maths.  My struggle was with languages.  At school I tried to learn both French and German unsuccessfully.  However when given a purpose for learning, such as actually moving to a new country as was the case when I started to learn Dutch, the learning became much easier.  There is a lovely quote at the end of Chapter 2 that I really related to:
To learn another language, one must take risks and acknowledge that his/her lens isn't the only lens to view the world.  This opens the door for empathy and tolerance.
I thought a lot about this because I'm currently designing some new Category 1 workshops for the PYP and the first modules are about international mindedness.  It's really clear from this quote how language is important in strengthening relationships and the building of international mindedness, which is at the heart of all 4 IB programmes.

Chapters 3 and 4 are about becoming a connected teacher and managing a connected classroom.  Of course if you are not connected to others as a teacher it will be really challenging to find ways to connect your students!  These chapters outline how to go about building a personal learning network (PLN) and explain the difference between a community and a network - for example when you join Facebook you join a community, but within that you network to connect to people you know or who share similar interests.  A quick look at my Facebook groups shows that I have some professional groups such as the PYP Workshop Leaders Network and the International School Teachers group, and I have other groups based on personal friendships I've made in the various schools where I have taught.  In addition I have groups based on interests such as mindfulness and one group just based around things like events, restaurants and shopping in Mumbai which is a great place to get local recommendations.  These chapters also deal with some of the tools for creating and growing PLNs such as Twitter, and a step by step approach to creating and managing your connected classroom including a number of shared resources that can be accessed using QR codes.

I'm now about halfway through the book and keen to read on and blog about the rest - and to write that Amazon review of course.  Upcoming chapters deal with designing technology-rich learning experiences, media literacy, global connections, parent education and how to continue learning.  The book sells on Amazon for $7.79 which is extremely good value and affordable for all teachers.  Look out for another blog post about the second half of this book in the coming days.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Flickr via Compfight cc

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