Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Importance of Connecting Locally

In case you haven't heard, it is Connected Educator Month.  Chances are that you have, in fact, heard about it and have also seen many posts about how important it is to be a connected educator.  You have probably even read numerous posts about how to become more connected.  Last night, #KinderChat had an entire chat devoted to the importance of being connected and the difference it makes in the classroom.  (Here are the archives for that fantastic chat in case you missed it.)  Throughout much of the chat, teachers discussed the importance of connecting globally as this is often what we think of when we think of being a connected educator.

During the chat, however, @sj_bartlett made a very good point.  She tweeted, "The fact that twitter is constant does force you to be conscious of finding that balance between local and global connections." With the overwhelming amount of information and connectedness available through Twitter and other social media sites, it is easy to get wrapped up in the online world and online connections. This tweet caused me to reflect on the importance of finding educators near me who impact me, challenge me, and inspire me.

I have found that seeking out similarly-minded educators locally is not necessarily an easy process just because they are nearby.  They may not eat lunch with me, teach on the same team with me, or even be in the same building as me.  Getting together to discuss, collaborate, question, brainstorm, and sometimes even debate can be difficult due to different schedules.  Regardless of the difficulties, it is worth it to find these people.  There is great value in those relationships.  Conversations with these educators result in me becoming a better, more engaged teacher.  Discussing the reasons behind my decisions forces me to be aware of and evaluate the educational choices I make throughout the day.  Additionally, their enthusiasm and curiosity spark my enthusiasm and curiosity.  Their great ideas fuel my great ideas.

As we focus on being connected educators this month, I encourage you to branch out and seek people in your district with whom you can connect.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

How Do You Lesson Plan Together When You Live in Different Countries?

This year @HulseAnnMarie and I will be continuing connected learning that our classes began last year.  This evening, she and I got together to plan.  This planning time looked much different than any other planning time I've ever had.  We didn't meet in a classroom, the teachers' lounge, or even at a coffee shop.  Meeting in the traditional way would have required passports, plane fare, and a lot of time.  See, Mrs. Hulse's class is in Ontario, and my class is in Missouri.

Last year I began tweeting with my kindergarten class, @LRKindergarten.  Twitter time became one of our favorite times of the day.  We connected with other classes around the world, learned with them, and learned from them.  These learning experiences were organic, student led, and provided my students with some of the most authentic learning that we achieved in kindergarten.  One activity we enjoyed was playing math games with @KinderLAPS, Mrs. Hulse's class.

This year, she and I decided that we would be more intentional about connecting our classes.  Tonight, we sat down to figure out what that would look like.  Through Google Docs, she and I were able to work together to create a series of math games that our classes will play together.  

These games are intentionally designed as a way for our classes to learn together and from each other.  However, the collaboration and planning provided Mrs. Hulse and me the opportunity to learn together and from each other as well.  We experimented in Google Docs to figure out the best way to design our games, and we bounced ideas off of each other to fine tune the activities to ensure the best instructional integrity.  

When I began tweeting with my class last year, I knew it was going to be a great experience for my students.  I knew it was going to open their eyes to a world of learning outside of our classroom.  What I didn't know was that it was going to do the same for me!