Using the power of connection to transform education.

April 28, 2012

I was sitting at Singapore airport waiting 10 hours for a connecting flight, making the best use possible of the free wifi when a tweet came from my friend, Row. She knows I am doing research for university about how educators can use Web 2.0 to build PLN. Here’s the tweet below.

The link Row sent enabled me to find a book, “Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connection to transform education.” By Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli. I downloaded it to my Kindle. After the first couple of chapters I was inspired to think about what I am doing in my classroom to build the PLN of my Year 6 students.

Richardson and Mancabelli (2011) write, “Our schools need to harness each student’s natural propensity for participating in online spaces and funnel that energy into building powerful networks for learning that are used in every class almost every day” (p.7). This quote reminded me of an exciting initiative I took part in last year with my Kindergarten class. As a Kindergarten teacher I was a regular visitor to #kinderchat last year. I made a connection with Heidi Echternacht and Amy Murray who had the aim of connecting Kindergarten classes and their teachers around the globe. It was phenomenal! Heidi introduced me to Patty Johnson and for the last month of the Australian school year my class and Patty’s class exchanged Tweets.

I sent a message to Patty, (who you can follow on twitter @tori1074) asking if she would reflect on this experience.

This is what she wrote:

We started the Kindergarten Around the World Project back in November 2011.  This project came from a founding member of Kinderchat, a PLN formed by two K teachers wanting to reach out to other K teachers.   I remember signing up and waiting to see who my global partner In crime would be.   When the matchups were made, my K partner was Clare Froggatt who at that time was teaching in a K class in Australia.  I remember being super excited and pulling up a Google Map for my Kinders to see where our friends would be.   We discussed questions to ask and came up with things such as what kind of things they learned, what their favorite toys were, how old were they, etc.   When we started tweeting, my class and I were super excited to learn more about Australia and our friends.   We learned that when we were at school, it was night time for them.  We learned that our friends were all girls and went to an all girl school.  We also learned that they called their grades things like Year 1, Year 2, etc. which differed from our terms of First Grade, Second Grade, etc.  Our class learned that we had similar things in common such as a love of certain activities such as playing with dolls, riding bikes, and Recess time.

We enjoyed learning about our friends and really loved looking at a map.  We discussed how our friends wore uniforms like we did.  How our friends attended a private school as we did.  The Kinders figured out that if we wanted to visit our Twitter friends, they would have to go in a plane that would take a long time.  When we learned that our friends’ school year was ending in December, the Kinders were sad.  This led to conversations about the differences in seasons between Rochester, NY and Sydney, Australia.  It took some time, but they accepted that not all things were the same for all kids in our global world.  We said goodbye.

As I look back on this experience, I am amazed at how much we learned about our friends in Australia as well as how much I learned about Clare.  I learned that she has some amazing children who have been through a lot.  I learned more about Leukemia and about bone marrow (its importance).  I learned that she is a dedicated mother who is willing to do anything for her children.  I learned that Clare loves teaching and facilitates learning for her students.   I learned that we tend to have similar views on how children should learn (basically step back, and let them lead you).   I also learned about Audioboo and how to use it thanks to Clare.  It along with Twitter was a great way to write and “hear” our friends and also provided great conversations about the differences in how people talk/sound.

I enjoyed seeing how my Kinders would discuss what questions they wanted to ask their Twitter friends, as well as how much learning took place with just a simple tweet.  I think this experience showed me how not only adults should have a PLN or some sort of global pen-pal, but how it helps kids as well.  It’s important for them to connect with other children their age in different parts of the world so they can learn more about the world around them.  But, it should be done in a concrete way that they can understand and Twitter was an easy, meaningful way to do this.

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R., (2011). Personal learning networks: Using the power of connection to transform education. United States: Solution Tree Press.


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