Inspired by Angela Dopp, I am beginning my weekly blogs for our new course EDCI 569 promptly. Our new course is titled “The Distributed, Blended and Open Classroom”. This is an area of interest for me long term, as I hope to shrink the walls in my own classroom. I believe in breaking down the divide between the learning that happens outside of the classroom walls and the learning that happens during formal class time.
Six years ago, I established a wiki for my learners. At that time, I admit that I was not fully informed about FOIPPA, but did establish some routines and expectations to keep my learning community safe online. For the first few years the wiki was driven and managed by me. Two years later, my students completely owned the wiki, authoring Khan Academy-style videos extending lessons on everything from the math being taught that day to novice lessons in Japanese. I became a learner in my own class as the students curated resources and connections for their peers and shared their expertise in other areas of interest. This wiki was profoundly exciting for me, but admittedly limited in its openness. Last year, my class began connecting on Twitter (@MrsJamesFamily) and individual blogs. That was when the walls of our classroom became more transparent! We experienced a humorous moment when we found out that a classroom thousands of miles away was more familiar with what was happening during our day than the teacher in the next-door classroom. Connecting on public blogs has given my students far more opportunities than I could ever offer as an individual teacher. My students have been more receptive to feedback from other sources, and eager to apply their new learning. My students discussed favourite novels with students in Italy. One of my students was asked to write a guest blog post on a teacher’s blog site. Blogging has opened a window to the world, shrinking distances and offering a perspective into a day in the life of students in other countries.
Using Twitter allows my students the freedom to participate in global micro-blog projects and receive the gratification of fairly immediate feedback. We find active hashtags to connect with, and share out our learning frequently. Twitter provides a window into the events, discoveries and learning in our classroom, and invites others to provide feedback, encouragement and conversation.
This year I am working with several teachers who are interested in having their students blog as part of their work on their #geniushour projects. They are starting with closed blogs where only the linked classrooms can read, post, comment or provide feedback. I am looking forward to seeing how writing for a larger audience impacts these students and their writing process.
I am still taking initial steps in my journey towards exploring alternate methods for my learners to connect, reflect and share. I really appreciate it when my students suggest alternate ways to share their learning. I hope that this course gives me new ideas to invite my learners to connect, share their voices and develop their own learning networks.