Connecting Beyond Our Four Walls
Posted by: Edmodo
Student PLNs with Liz Castillo!
One of my goals this year was to meet the 21st century challenge to connect my students to others beyond the four walls of our classroom. I believe that the ability to communicate, collaborate, and connect globally with others is probably one of the most powerful ways we can use technology to help our students prepare for their future. I’ve always wanted to connect my students outside of our classroom, school, and state, however, I never really knew how to do it. This year I decided that the easiest way to begin this process was to start by connecting with teachers from other states that I had already met in-person at conferences and workshops. I realized that planning a lesson at a distance would take a lot more coordination and time in comparison to planning with teachers in-person. Starting with teachers who I already had a relationship with made this process a lot easier and helped us to persevere when overcoming differences in time zones and schedules.
One of the projects I was involved in was called Our Footprints. With the help of 3 other science teachers from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, we were able to effectively connect our students. The goal of this project was to have our students look at the unique features of their environment and the negative impact that humans have made on these environments. We wanted our students to value the environment that they lived in and then compare the similarities and differences with the other students and schools. Our hope was that the students would realize that despite our differences, we all share similar challenges and have the same responsibility to care about our global environment. We tried to model the use of technology by introducing ourselves through a Glog posted on Edmodo. One of the schools also created a video to introduce themselves and their project ideas to the rest of us. After completing their research, the students used a variety of tools for explaining their research. The student products ranged from videos and Glogs to PowerPoint presentations.
Edmodo became the tool that we used to connect our students with one another and extend the students’ PLN. We talked about a variety of options but agreed that Edmodo would be the easiest for our students. Our students varied in grade level, ability, and access to technology. The students involved were between 6th and 12th grade and the technology access ranged from 1:1 to limited use of a computer lab. Edmodo was the perfect tool because our students easily adapted to the interface and they could instantly start posting their projects and making comments to one another. In addition, most students had access to the Internet at home even if their access at school was limited. After being introduced to the project group on Edmodo, the students immediately began introducing themselves and shared about their projects. The students were genuinely interested in what each other had to say and many of the comments and questions extended beyond the projects. For example, the other students asked questions about Hawaii or the meaning of Hawaiian words and my students asked about snow and cold weather. In the end, they learned more than just about the projects.
My students truly benefited from the experience of connecting virtually with others. It provided an authentic audience for them to share their learning with and allowed them to focus on their communication skills. Because they were sharing with students outside of Hawaii, they took extra time in making sure they produced their highest quality of work, double-checked their facts, and presented their ideas in a clear and concise manner. They also had to think about how to communicate with others who may have differences in perspectives, backgrounds, values, cultures, and knowledge. This type of sharing is the true value of connecting beyond our four walls. In their project reflections, many of my students said that this experience was one of the highlights of the year.
If you haven’t had the chance to connect your students outside of your classroom, I would highly encourage you try it. My suggestion is to start with teachers who you’ve met in-person or those who you’ve connected with online. The planning does take time and coordination, but with tools like Edmodo, it has never been easier. My goal is to continue connecting my students and extending my PLN to include new opportunities for collaboration and communication.
I’d love to hear about ways you’ve extended your classroom beyond your four walls. I’d also love to connect with anyone who would be interested in future collaboration opportunities with our students.
Until next time…Aloha!