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!