Connecting the classroom to the wider community.
A major aspect of 21st Century Learning is connecting the classroom to the wider community. It is about flattening the classroom walls to allow authentic meaning learning take place.
Some ways my class connects to the wider school community include:
- Class Blog
- Class Twitter Account
- Google Hangout
Every 21st Century classroom should have a class blog to share and showcase their learning. I began blogging with my Year 4 class blog last year and have continued this year with in Year 6. Blogs are a powerful tool to motivate students and gives their learning a purpose and real audience.
Blogs open up the classroom to the wider community. This includes families, friends and other schools around the world being able to see the work and leave feedback for the students in the form of comments.
I have noticed a vast change in students work since starting blogging. Students are putting more effort into their work and editing it as they know it can be published on the class Blog.
An example of how meaningful comments students receive on a Blog have been;
One student that I remind time and time again to use capital letters for proper nouns would still not add capital letters in their work. Last year when I published his 100WC on our class blog a teacher from the UK commented and reminded him about his capital letters for proper nouns. From that day on he has always remembered to use capital letters for proper nouns. It is amazing the impact another teacher or student can have on a student and their work.
Students in my class participate in a range of activities showcasing their learning with the wider community on their blog. These include:
- Student Blogging Challenge
- eBuddies – Linking to other classes around the world
- Cyber Safety
- Genius Hour
- Literacy Skills – commenting, reflecting and questioning – developing effective
We use Twitter as the tool to inform others about the learning occurring in our classroom. Twitter is a platform that I have only begun using with my class this year. It is a great way to share student learning at the time the learning is occurring. Many parents from my class follow our Twitter handle to get live updates throughout the day on what the students are learning. The great thing about using Twitter in the classroom is that it has a restriction of 140 characters. This forces students to structure their thoughts and words into short effective sentences.
We follow a number of other classes from around the world and have loved seeing and interacting with them.
A great aspect of Twitter is students can connect with authors, events, foundations and others that are linked to our learning. On a recent excursion to Healesville Sanctuary, my class Tweeted about our experiences. Zoos Victoria (@ZoozVictoria) responded by asking the students a question and providing the teacher with resources for when they returned to school. This tweet was given a purpose and was linked to the students own learning.
Twitter allows us as educators to model the correct use of Social Media, and how it can be an effective tool to support student learning.
Skype is a great way to share work, learn about what other students are learning in other schools and developing effective questioning. We have had numerous Skype sessions where we are connecting with our eBuddies from around Australia. When we have used Skype we have got an insight into what they are doing in their own classroom. These sessions are allowing the students to ask and answer questions on a set topic with other students from around the world.
Skype further develops the positive relationship started with Class blogs and Twitter. This allows students to see and acknowledge the other classes they connect with.
This term I used a Google Hangout to allow students to present their Genius Hour projects beyond the classroom. The Google Hangout was set on private to comply with the school’s policy. Parents, teachers, other classes and schools needed to be invited to the event to view it.
As my students were presenting, students at another primary school were posing questions on a shared Google Doc. At the end of the presentations the students answered these questions.
This was such a valuable learning experience for the students to see how their learning was being viewed and acknowledged by others.
I hope I have given you some ideas on ways you can link your classroom to the wider community.
Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 Teacher and Leader of Curriculum & Innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms.