Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community
Expanding beyond the walls of one’s classroom, or even one’s school, is sometimes a scary venture. Many see this type of collaboration as a situation that would be nice, but not a feasible endeavor. In my experience, exploring and meeting this standard has been one of the most beneficial learning opportunities for my students as they prepare for the future. It has also been one of the most rewarding and engaging as a teacher.
Practicing Social Media Skills in the Classroom
Teaching students to communicate and collaborate in digital ways can be done in variety of ways, starting with low approach methods that stay within the walls of one’s own classroom. For example, learning management systems such as Edmodo or Google Classroom, or student blogging platforms, such as Weebly or Edublogs, can provide opportunities for students to practice appropriate communication with one another in a safe environment. This is an important skill to practice, especially when so many students are likely to make harmful and lasting missteps in the real world of social media. I wrote the blog post, ISTE Teaching Standard 4: Engaging in the Practice of Social Media at School, to explore this idea further. If desired, these platforms also give students the opportunity to share their work publicly for peers, parents or those outside of school. Knowing this, students often have an increased ownership over the quality of their work.
Cross Continent Comparisons
The larger goal is to provide students the opportunity to practice communicating and collaborating with others within in larger communities, even on a global scale. My experience with this standard has led to a number of different opportunities. Last year, my west coast students worked with a school on the east coast to create a project in which our students were paired up to digitally collaborate to complete a class project. Students had to problem solve to navigate the challenges of protecting their privacy, communicating across three time zones and working with someone they had never met. Many astutely commented on the fact that many of their parents have to engage in practices like this at work regularly. Ultimately, students were positively affected by the relationships they created and felt proud of their ability to troubleshoot and project manage this assignment. My write-up for this project and the lesson materials I created are available below.
Global Connections with LumenEd
This year, I took my work with this standard to a global scale by working with an organization called LumenEd to connect my students with a school in New Delhi, India. We have spent the school year sending videos back and forth that allow our students to learn form one another, experience another part of the world, and gain a cultural understanding of what students and schools are like in another place, all while being surprised by how much we all have in common.
Using Skype to Connect to Other Classrooms in the District
I also returned to a more local approach recently to work with my creative writing students to Skype with a 1st grade class in our district. While the activity kept our communication and collaboration within our own community, this technology allowed my middle schoolers to connect with much younger students, who had a very different perspective on the world and the assignment. This experience taught my students about tailoring communication styles to a specific audience. They had to adjust and improvise quickly when their initial plans didn’t work. They also appreciated the opportunity to lead these calls on their own without too much intervention from me.