Making Global Connections

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” -Albert Einstein

Don’t you love when people say to you, “Must be nice to have your whole summer off!” I don’t know many educators who have the summer “off”.  Most of us are involved in professional activities and learning during the summer.  In fact, if you think about it, professional athletes continue to train in the off-season to maintain their athletic skills. So too, do we need to continue to hone our skills…to fill our own buckets and re-charge our batteries.

IMG_3340I had the privilege of being chosen to attend the Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute in San Diego.  Last week,  global educators from 30 different countries came together to focus on bringing learning to life with the iPad.  We became citizen scientists in a variety of off-site excursions.  We explored many different topics relevant to sustaining life on Earth from the eyes of a student. We utilized a variety of apps to test water samples, track a forest-destroying beetle, examine plankton, and adopt a tree.  We used our iPads to record sounds, images, and create videos to document our weeklong journey.  We reflected on our own classrooms and how we can bring science curriculum to life in a real, hands-on way.

While these off-site excursions were amazing and illuminating, one of the most lasting legacies of this institute for me will be the global connections I made with brilliant educators.  A few of us who teach young students formed a lasting group and immediately began conversations  around a global project involving our students.  We combined resources to create a book in iBooks Author of our experiences as citizen scientists at Rancho Cuyamaca.  We also developed an iTunes U Course where our students will come together as global peers and work together throughout this next school year.  We will join together with kindergarten students in the UK, Italy and Ireland as well as students from Kansas and Maine.  There will be language learning opportunities and cultural exchanges.  The possibilities are endless!

 

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So, I encourage you to create or re-connect with your PLN on Twitter, Facebook or other social media.  Have conversations, share ideas, create, and re-charge.  Summer is nearing an end and we will be hearing the school bell ring before you know it!  And…when your non-educator friends quip that it’s nice to have the summer off, thank them for the good laugh! “Whatever, man…”

 

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Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

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Technology for Today and Tomorrow

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. -John Dewey

new technologyMy husband decided he needed an iPad for work.  This decision seems fairly innocuous considering the prevalence of this tool in the modern workplace.  What makes this decision remarkable to me, is that he is a reluctant technology adopter.  He doesn’t have an ATM card, he only recently got a smart phone and he isn’t overly interested in trying new technological things.  He has never used an Apple product nor has he used any touch screen device.  And he is just fine with that.  He leaves those things to me.  I was thrilled with his decision and we immediately went to the Apple store and bought him an iPad.

After it was all set up, I was ready to spend the afternoon with him showing him all of the amazing things the iPad can do.  He puttered with it for about 15 minutes and said he was done for the day.  WHAT?  We barely go past turning it on and off, navigating a few apps and he was done.  Baby steps.

Unlike our students, many adults tread cautiously into the world of technology.  My 5 year old kindergarten students watch me demonstrate (just once) a complex set of instructions requiring multiple apps to complete an assignment and they are on it.  Solo.  To my tiny digital natives, I am speaking their language.  To many digital immigrants, I may as well be orbiting Jupiter and speaking Juptonion.

Could this be part of the reluctance of many adults who are in charge of making technology decisions for schools?  A friend of mine posits that perhaps the simplicity is confusing.  Unless we see the value of technology in our own daily lives, it is difficult to find value in it for our students.  “Why do we need to spend all of that money on iPads?”  We have to move beyond being just fine with the way things were.   We speak about 21st century skills and 21st century classrooms as if they are something out of the Jetsons.  We are 13 years into the 21st century people.  If not now, when will be the right time?

By establishing our classrooms as a global learning communities, students and teachers learn together from each other and from a world of other learners.  Teachers no longer need to have all of the answers.  This revelation frees us up and takes the pressure off…we can explore and learn from our students.  I learn from my kindergarten students almost daily. We don’t need to employ the “no pain, no gain” axiom in teaching and learning.

Here is a video compiled by a colleague showcasing some great things at my school…no adults were harmed in the creation of this video…. 🙂

Today, we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!