Collaboration Benefits Everyone!

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On June 13, 2013 I was fortunate enough to be part of a collaborative web session with four educators from various location around Canada. Diana Williams a third grade teacher from Surrey, B.C., Kathy Cassidy a 1/2 grade teacher from Moose Jaw, S.K., Heather Durnin a grade 7/8 teacher from Ontario and Darren Kuropatwa from Winnipeg, M.B. These professional educators examined and discussed how they incorporated technology into their classrooms and in the subjects they teach. The educators shared technology tools that they find useful in their classrooms and that are compatible with students and other professionals from around the world. I send out a big THANK-YOU to each and every one of you, I really enjoyed learning from you, about you and your students, and hearing your stories and accomplishments!

Heather Durnin spoke about technology integration in the classroom and she made some really important points:

1. Send home information and ask parents for permission regarding their son/daughter’s participation in using technology to learn.

2.Technology can be used in any subject area.

3. Any type of learner can benefit from the use of technology!

Heather discussed a few of the technology tools she uses in her classroom such as: Google Docs, WordPress, Skype, TodaysMeet, and Heather and students on D6101 collaborated together to form a radio station called 105theHive for K-12 students. Something that I wasn’t aware prior to the presentation, is the province of Ontario encourages students to have an account on Google Docs by grade seven. I think this is such a wonderful idea; it teaches students how to utilize technology in a safe environment and it also enables students with skills in  utilizing professional resources in a meaningful and engaging way! Heather’s students create their own blog and engage in posts throughout the school year. This is an excellent way for students to learn to collaborate and to share with their parents and the world what and how they are learning. Heather went in to depth about how each technology tool is utilized in her classroom and the benefits from each resource. Heather and a teacher from Winnipeg engaged in class collaboration, they participated in lots of neat activities together. Some of the things the classes participated in via Skype was reading and literacy; Heather would read out loud to her class and another educators class in Winnipeg through Skype. How neat is that!? Technology can be useful for students with exceptionalities as well, Heather mentioned that one of the students she works with uses a tablet to learn math! Students in Heather’s class use technology to communicate with people from around the world such as professionals and students in classrooms from various locations. What an interesting way to explore the world, in your classroom!

Kathy Cassidy spoke about different technology tools she uses in her classroom and had a real emphasis on literacy. Kathy incorporates literacy in everything she does in her classroom. I applaud you Kathy, you have so many creative ideas in how to incorporate literacy and you are willing to connect with students in ways they are familiar with. Three tools that Kathy uses in her classroom are: Class Blog, Skype and Twitter. One thing Kathy said is sticking with me, “It doesn’t depend on the type of technology you have in the classroom, it depends on the flexibility and how you can get technology to work in your classroom”. Any type of technology can enhance students’ learning and will provide you with numerous tools and you can develop connections with anyone in the world. Kathy uses a classroom blog to communicate with parents, invite people from around the world into her classroom and to engage in collaboration. I thought it was pretty cool that the students had a map of the world in the classroom and on the map Kathy marks where people are from who have communicated with her classroom! Finally another great idea Kathy mentioned was digital portfolios. Digital portfolios allow you as an educator to collect samples of students work in different subject areas. The neat thing about a digital portfolio is that it shows student’s progress the entire way through the year, which means this is a great idea for assessment for learning and assessment as learning. Kathy even pulls up the individual student’s digital portfolio at conference time. Since parents are able to see their child’s blog they know what the student completed in terms of work, this means time can be saved for parent’s questions about what their child did well on and where they need to grow. Students are allowed to compose their own tweets as long as Kathy has looked them over an approved before they hit enter. I think this is a smart idea for safety purposes and it also teaches self regulation. Kathy uses Skype to connect with other classes and experts and it has even been used to conduct reader’s theatre! Technology provides opportunities for students to become accountable for their learning, while being guided by the appropriate supports.

Diana Williams teaches a very diverse classroom with an inclusive approach. Diana mentioned that technology wasn’t just provided easily in her school to anyone, they work hard to utilize technology in meaningful ways. Now, I know what you may be thinking: “How can we get students to learn to use technology in meaningful ways?” We must establish guidelines and norms with students for utilizing technology. Diana discussed how important it is to build the classroom climate before introducing technology to the classroom. It is necessary to spend time, LOTS of time on teaching students to understand your expectations, the guidelines and the norms for using technology. It doesn’t just happen over night, you must be insistent and patient. In Diana’s classroom there is a large focus on project based learning. Students and Diana work together as a team, no one is competing. Diana encourages teachers to get to know their students, student’s cultural preferences, and students’ families. One of the awesome projects Diana’s class engages in is called KIVA. KIVA enables people to develop microloans for persons in developing countries to start business’s which will boost the economy in the country they live. Diana’s class conducted fundraising to make microloans available to people who were living in poverty in developing countries. I was grinning ear to ear when I heard this, really, what a great experience for Diana and her students. I believe that it is fundamental to engage our youth in social justice issues and guide them on how they can make a difference. It also emphasizes good citizenship and global awareness.

Darren Kuropatwa is a high school math teacher. In Darren’s class the students engage in Scribe blogging. Darren began to utilize Scribe blogging because many students he was teaching weren’t reading the textbook. Darren has made math fun, interactive, and meaningful to his students and students around the world. Each day, a different student writes about what they learned today on the blog and then select another student to blog the next day. Scribe blogging engages students and it enables them to really reflect about what they learned. Darren also conducts a workshop class during math class, learning occurs online and in class. One thing I really valued about Darren’s presentation was his idea of BOB: Reflect on what you are learning (Blogging on Blog). BOB occurs three days before a test. Each student in Darren’s class must blog about what they are struggling with in math class. This practice is also helpful for Darren because he can monitor his teaching, learn about the concepts he may need to re-teach, and identify any students who are struggling prior to a test.

All of the presenters are amazing folks who have such great ideas about technology integration in education. I am so thrilled I was able to participate in conversations, asking questions and getting to know these individuals. I hope one day to work with these individuals with my students in a classroom and demonstrate what I have learned from their presentations. Finally, I hope that each one of you utilize some of these resources I have mentioned: remember it is good to share!

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2 responses »

  1. So looking forward to listening to this session. Its on my todo list for tomorrow! 🙂 I follow Kathy Cassidy’s blog, and you are totally right, the amount of technology that she incorporates into her classes are amazing!!!! Thanks for sharing Shan!!! Can’t wait to hear all of the conversation that went on!

  2. Pingback: Social Learning Review | Shandra Nelson

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