Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Importance of Supporting a Connected Community in School

Being supportive of connected educators is very important. Not only is it important, but it can be really easy to show support. When I think about being connected, and seeing connection, the first thing that pops in my mind is Twitter. I see educators post all the time, whether it's an interesting article, unique project idea, or showcasing student work, all of these are very easy to support - hit the like button... But do I feel like that is as supportive as I can be? Maybe there are better ways to show support.

I would like to challenge myself in being more supportive for teachers and here are the ways I think you can show support:
  1. Reach out to them, let them know that what they are doing is awesome!
  2. Actually read the articles they share...
  3. Share what they are doing with others who might not know.
  4. Collaborate or even brainstorm with them on new, innovative, and even interdisciplinary projects!

Creating a community in schools, across classrooms, I believe will only lead to much greater projects and student achievement in school. When educators can work together, and show support of one another, this also is a great model to set for students to see on a daily basis. The more supportive and connected you are to each other in a building, the larger your personal learning network becomes!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Supporting A Connected School Community

One of the first steps in successfully creating personal learning networks is to start within your actual school building. Working and collaborating in different subjects is always encouraged. I remember it was a big part of my undergrad education classes - creating multidisciplinary units. Now, that I am in my second year of teaching, I have yet to reach out and plan something like this with another teacher. The reason? I think it is a little bit of fear, a little of not wanting to step on anyone's toes... But, in order to created a connected atmosphere, it is going to be one of my goals to step up and make something happen.

I believe one of the biggest challenges with creating and supporting connected teachers, is the amount of time and energy you are willing to put into it. When I think about creating new and exciting units and projects, I get overwhelmed. However, I really do see the value in creating PLNs and getting students into a globally connected educational environment, so it is time I put some planning on my to-do list.

As a STEM teacher, I am constantly looking for new projects to complete with my students. This past summer, I attended an awesome PBL (project based learning) workshop and planned one of my favorite projects with my 7th grade class. It's an Animal Enrichment project, where students design zoo animal toys and then, luckily, due to the local Zollman Zoo connection, get to test out their final prototypes with the actual animals. It is a long project, and with only quarter-long classes (at 47mins), it takes about 1/3 of my time with the students to complete. It's so worth it though. Seeing students that don't normally get excited to learn, create these creative toys and to see their expressions when the zookeepers give them to the animals is truly amazing. (Pictures and videos below.)

That being said, this go-around, I am trying to increase the amount of connection the project brings. We skyped a zoo architect, however, I feel there are other experts out there that my students would benefit from hearing from. I want my students to share their projects this time, not just me. And I want them to see the value in sharing at this global scale. Finally, to see that Twitter is not just for #yolo (if they still do that....).

I will be updated this blog when I start the project with my class, and hoping finding some greater connections for them!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Here's What I Know About Having a Connected Classroom

What does it mean to have a connected classroom and where do I see value for my classroom, students, and school?

From what I have learned so far in class, from reading our book, and our #wsucohort1 Twitter Chats, this is what I can summarize about having a connected classroom:

1. It all starts with the teacher. If you do not buy into the value of connecting, and try to connect yourself, it is going to be really difficult to create a sense of connection for your classroom and students.

2. Connection can be as simple as going on Twitter, sharing student work, creating a personal learning network with other professionals on the site, and finding other local connections to make.

3. Having a thin-walled classroom is also important to creating a connected setting. Parents and other classrooms/teachers should know and see what you are doing with your students.

4. Getting to students to buy into connecting might take some extrinsic motivation. Whether it's a competition, expert visits, or working with other students from different schools, students need to see the value in why they should go out and make their own learning networks - at least in the beginning.

5. Connecting means putting yourself out there - and we shouldn't be afraid to do it! Having to connect and share can seem a little stressful to me, but seeing how students benefit from this level of connection outweigh and negative feedback I might receive.

Here's a great short article from Edutopia that fits really well with being connected and gives us all some more tips on how we can make this change.

For my class, as a STEM teacher, I can see many valuable outcomes coming from a connected classroom. All from engineering design challenges, to collaborating in a genius hour project, or even experimenting with different 3D printer projects, I know there are many ways to connect. One of the challenges I have to overcome is to just trying some different things out! If I can start small with these types of connections, I know that over time, it will lead to great learning opportunities for myself and my students.