Creating Connections in the Idea Hive Classroom

The collaborative project with Clarence Fisher’s class from J.H.Kerr Public School in Snow Lake, Manitoba, is heading into its 7th week.  The connections have begun.  During the first week of school, using Google Forms, both classes from the Idea Hive completed a survey about their personal interests.  Last year, I created this survey as a way of getting to know my students; this year the Idea Hive students used it for the same purpose.  Once the survey was complete, all students had access to the results once the spreadsheet was “shared”.  After reading the results, looking for similarities and differences, each student wrote their first blog post.  Even though we’re 2 700 km apart, they were surprised with the results.

I have more in common with the Idea Hive then I thought!  Alyssa H.

During the next-step Skype call, we had an Idea Hive class discussion about commenting, highlighting how to continue the conversation.  In order to make sure every student received a comment on their blog from the opposite school, we assigned everyone the names of at least two students. Students were also encouraged to connect to any and all student in the Idea Hive.

Relationships are stronger when you can put a face to a name, and so the Flickr photo contest began.  Wearing the Idea Hive button, students posted pictures of themselves on the Idea Hive Flickr site.  Not only did students now know what each other looked like, but they also could see students in their respective communities, hanging out at the beach, cleaning horse stalls, outside the mining museum or in the soybean field. Students loved checking out the site to see who had posted – “Hey, she has the same shoes on as me!”.  Everyday lives, creating more connections.  The kids were thrilled to get coverage of the story in the local newspaper.

In preparation for Meet-the-Teacher night, I created this bulletin board to inform parents about the Idea Hive, and introduce them to their child’s new classmates from Snow Lake.  Parents also got to learn who the “other” grade 7/8 teacher is!

During our planning in the days before school started, Clarence had introduced me to the online book, Small Pieces Loosely Joined.  I loved working through this book for many reasons.  Rather than being filled with stories of how dangerous the web can be, it paints a picture of a beautiful community.  The web is a place where humans can share common interests with others; a place showing humans at their best.  During the classroom activities, students provided insight into how they use the web.  Following the reading, Clarence suggested all students create a piece of art based on the book.  Visual art is not my strength, so there was some discomfort from my end, knowing I was likely not going to be able to provide much guidance for my students.  But the kids didn’t need me; most loved the  freedom given to create their interpretation of the book’s message.

The thing I liked about my art work is that it was fun to make because I usually don’t do this kind of art at home or at school. Justin S.

Once the was blogs were posted, it was clear that Clarence and I had directed our students slightly differently.  While Clarence’s students focused on key words and their use of the web, my kids wrote about the theme of the book, and how they demonstrated this in their art.  They reflected on their work – what they liked, what they would change.  Since report cards comments were due in two weeks, I needed some reflective feedback from my students.  Working collaboratively challenges teachers who face different deadlines to creatively adapt projects to meet reporting requirements.  From the students’ perspective, they weren’t concerned with the difference; they were excited to have another opportunity to continue learning more about their new friends.

I am happy that you get to see what we did and  I’m looking forward to what you guys did. I  hope you guys are excited to see our stuff.   Cassidy

As this second set of comments are being written, it’s clear from the students’ questions that the connections are firmly in place. “When can I do a project with one of them as my partner?” and “Can I ask them to friend me on Facebook?”

Clearly they’re ready for our next steps which include a shared read aloud and a collaborative mapping assignment.  They’re having fun, they’re growing as a community of learners.  One of the Idea Hive students said it best….

The Internet brings us together ….isn’t technology amazing?  We are really not that different.  We both go to school so why doesn’t every class do this?  Avery B.