This year, the first week back to school has been filled with many “firsts” as my classroom in southwestern Ontario begins a year-long collaboration with Clarence Fisher’s (@glassbeed) class in Snow Lake, Manitoba. While Clarence and I have collaborated with other schools before, they were for short-term projects. In his recent post, Clarence clearly explains the value of a year-long collaboration versus the usual “sprints” as he calls them. Idea Hive is the name of the community our students will meet and work in over the next year. As our students develop their online communication skills, they’ll meet new friends and acquire the learning skills needed to become responsible digital citizens – skills that are essential in today’s global world.
As Clarence and I began our discussion, we looked for shared visions, curriculum and tools. From there, we developed a number of specific projects that will take us into the first three or four months of school. Other projects are percolating; we’ll revisit them as we move through each month. Most importantly however, we planned to hit the ground running.
During the first day of school, my grade 8’s, who I’d taught last year, helped my grade 7’s as they were introduced to their Google Apps account. Within a few days, our Idea Hive students completed an interest survey using Google Forms. Through an introductory Skype session on day three, students got a chance to meet and ask questions as they briefly got to know each other. Towards the end of the call, Clarence presented our Flickr photo competition. Students are challenged to submit pictures of themselves taken in unique places, wearing the Idea Hive buttons. Clarence had previously sent these buttons and magnets to me so we could distribute them to all students at the same time. We were now connected. Because of our very differing geographical locations, there are a lot of opportunities for picture settings unique to both classes. This is a great way for students to begin to learn about each other in their daily worlds.
Connecting the Idea Hive
Over a two day period, I felt like an orchestra conductor as I guided my students through the process of setting up their own WordPress blog. Although I use WordPress, I’d never tried this feat with twenty-three 12- and 13-year-olds at once. With patience on all our parts, we completed the task. The students’ blogs will be an important communication tool throughout the year as students comment on each other’s posts. This interaction begins next week, after students analyze the results of the interest survey to find similarities and differences with their Idea Hive peers.
There’s been a lot of “first” this week. Showing our students we’re not afraid to take risks is an important part of the modeling process in our teaching practice. We hope our students model our code of conduct when kinks and wrinkles occur in our plans (we know they will!) as they develop their problem-solving skills.
On a personal note, this weekend I thought about the importance of modeling this very same viewpoint as I experienced another exciting “first”. My 17-year-old son is a new pilot, a recent graduate from the Air Cadet program, and he intended on flying his plane to an airstrip closer to home. I had the opportunity to go with him as his first passenger. His mentors, both in their 70’s, knew he was ready for the flight home, and therefore so was I. At the same time, I was nervous, realizing my child could not rely on me for help, but thrilled seeing that he has the confidence to know he doesn’t need it.
Learning with, and from our students and children sends a strong message. We have confidence in them. Taking risks inspires those around us to do the same, as they develop into life-long learners.
On the runway, full power – take-off! It’s going to be an amazing flight.