Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WCDSB GAFE Symposium

Sharing my experiences integrating technology in the classroom is something I have become passionate about. I was delighted when asked to be a part of the very first WCDSB GAFE Summit at Resurrection High School. I was slightly concerned at first - how would my experiences in primary relate to those in the High School setting? What has occurred to me is good pedagogy is good pedagogy! Creating dynamic learning spaces where students are engaged and empowered translates to all grade levels.

+Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB and I teamed up to prepare a presentation which we entitled GAFE-volution to encapsulate our learning journeys. We created our slide deck solely through sharing and Google Hangouts. We were able to connect and plan using GAFE tools without having to meet in person. As much as I enjoy meeting up with Rolland, because of time constraints, using Hangouts facilitated the planning process for us.

Here is what we created:

We used this video by Veritasium as a minds on activity to think about whether current technology integration is a revolution or evolution. 

“We are not limited by the experiences we can give to students. What limits learning is what can happen inside the students’ head. That is where the important part of learning takes place.” ~ Veritasium

Afterwards we used a shared doc for participants to reflect. Here is a screenshot of our collaborative thinking. 

During our presentation, to model the use of Google Hangouts, we connected with my Grade 2 class. They explained how they use technology to help with their learning. I was very proud to listen to my students' ideas and thinking about technology. It was obvious from their comments that purposeful tech integration instills a sense of empowerment and pride in learning. 
Having the opportunity to connect and reflect with Rolland about the tools we use with our students (& why we use them), and later share our reflections and experiences with other educators was affirming. Just as we build in opportunities for students to share their voices, we need to do the same with fellow educators. Experiences like today build capacity, connections, and stimulate further growth.

Links to other slide decks from today and greatest 'ah-ha's:

Pear Deck for quick assessments and student engagement.

Forms and Sheets ADD-ONS to build efficiency. My Next Step: autocrat
Fabulous Forms Slide Deck

+Suzanne Smart
Suzanne reminded us that sometimes 'jumping in' to the unknown and trying something new WITH our students can be very powerful. During her presentation we participated in a live Hangout with an educator from Texas she has connected with. Suzanne's enthusiasm as she shared her experience was infectious for all of us. You don't have to be the expert - you just have to be willing to try.
Collaborative Hangouts

Friday, May 1, 2015

Authentic Connections in Social Studies Using Google Hangouts

Our latest curricular inquiries in social studies have centered around what it's like to live in different places around the world. Students are ever so curious to explore and learn about unfamiliar places.
I noticed the look of wonder as they conducted their own research - from the pyramids in Egypt to geothermal homes in Iceland. 

I began conducting my own research (curiosity is contagious!) about ways to connect with communities beyond the walls of our classroom. I had heard positive reviews of Mystery Skype from other educators and began putting out 'feelers' online. I was still apprehensive of what this would look like in the class, how I would facilitate the learning, figuring out the 'how to' aspect of technology, as well as possible hesitation from other stakeholders. After a week or two with no luck on Mystery Skype, I connected with a Google+ community called Mystery Hangout. Within a day I was in contact with a primary teacher from Vermont who was interested in 'Hanging Out' with us. Here is what unfolded ....

PLAN: Students struggle to make deep, meaningful connections when learning about communities around the world. Context is a critical component in deep understanding. Students will generate questions they would like to find out about other communities and use Google Hangouts to connect with other classrooms.

Minds On - We used various read alouds to activate our thinking about communities around the world. Here are just a few examples:
Off To Class by Susan Hughes
All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon

Student Generated Questions
Using Google Docs, students recorded answers for later discussion and reflection (task for 2 students during Hangout).
Mapping our Hangouts (4 so far!)
In the future I will use Google Maps to and create digital flags.

OBSERVE: Having the opportunity to connect real time with other classrooms increased student engagement. I noticed their level of questions deepen as they recognized they were talking to ‘real people’. During the Hangout students had particular roles (questioners, recorders, etc.) This really helped with organization and accountability. After each Hangout we reflected on similarities and differences with our own community as well as others we had learned about. 

REFLECT: When I think back to previous methods of facilitating student connection with global communities, I am struck by the great value in engaging in digital, live discussions with other classrooms. This goes far beyond the capability for student-generated questions to be answered. The value is in students recognizing themselves reflected in others (our similarities) as well as our differences. The value for myself as an educator (affirmed by connecting with educators beyond typical PLNs). The value of facilitating connections that awaken students perspectives about the world around them and their place in it. 

To anyone considering getting started with Google Hangouts ... the risk is so worth the great reward.

Getting started resources:
Google Hangouts EDU - resources
Google Maps for Education