Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Project Partners!

At the beginning of our school year, we formed a partnership with a senior class in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The partnership stemmed from my trip to the 2014 Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain.  During the forum, I worked with Jennifer Bevill and 2 other teachers to create a learning activity.  Our Grade 2 class first met Mrs. Bevill's seniors during a Mystery Skype game this fall.  By asking each other yes or no questions, we narrowed down the other group's location and eventually figured out which state our new friends were located in.  I was very impressed with my students' ability to generate useful yes/no questions based on:
  • continents (Do you live in Africa? North America?)
  • countries (Do you live in Canada?  Do you live in the United States?)
  • time zones (Is it _______ time there?)
  • directions (Is your state in the north part of the country?  In the east?)
  • mapping (Does your state touch water on the map?)  
  • state names (Does your state name begin with ____?)
We generated a lot of potential questions and students did a great job of selecting questions to ask to narrow down the map once we were actually on a live video call!

Once we figured out where Mrs. Bevill's class was located, we learned more about each other by asking questions.  It was interesting to learn about life, school and community features in another place.  (And a great opportunity to meet our social studies learning goals related to communities).  It was also a great experience for my students to understand differences - when we talked about things like"harvesting" and "snowmobiling", Mrs. Bevill's class had lots of questions for us since they aren't as familiar with these activities.  We also compared weather and discussed which months we could potentially have snow in Manitoba (we listed off a LOT of months....)  Our question, in turn, was "Does it even snow there?!?"

As a part of our partnership, we agreed to research the environmental issues in our area (since sustainability is a common concern in both areas).  With my help, students researched some environmental problems in Manitoba.  When we were discussing how to present/share our research, a student suggested the ChatterPix Kids tool we'd used for our 2D shapes & 3D objects video last year.  Our whole class worked together to write a script for the video, take/source relevant photographs, record our voices and finally, create the video. 

Our video link was sent to Louisiana this week.  Students were also eager for their video to be shared on our blog so they can watch it at home and share with their families. We hope you enjoy watching it:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making Connections Across the Globe!

Not only is my great group of "connected kids" making connections across the country, but they are also making connections across the globe.  This week, a visitor arrived from Ireland!    His name is Matt and he came in this envelope all the way from his home in Tramore.

Are you curious yet??

Matt, also known as "Flat Matt",  was sent to us by a 1st Class (six and seven year olds) at Glor na Mara Primary School who connected with our class on Twitter.  You can follow them here: @blognamara

We are so excited to look inside Matt's scrapbook and learn more about his home in Ireland!  The students at Glor na Mara have included photos and captions to show us and tell us all about their school and community.   As Matt travels the world, his twin brother, Jim, will be traveling around Ireland.  Their progress will be documented in their scrapbooks and online at the Adventures of Matthew and Jim blog.  We are feeling lucky to be included in this interesting project and we can't wait to show Matt around our school and community!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Making Connections Across the Country

Collaboration is very important in our classroom.  We work together within our classroom walls and also reach out to other classrooms around the world to learn together, share our work and find out more about other people and places!

There are some important reasons why I believe this kind of collaboration is so important for my young learners:
  • learning about other communities, traditions, cultures and lifestyles
  • generating good questions to find out more about others
  • active listening to learn about others and answer our questions
  • being able to understand a question and provide an answer as a part of oral or written communication
  • learning how to use technology to work with others (which is now common in our everyday lives and in many careers)
  • fostering teamwork
  • learning geography - we often use mapping to find out where our partner classrooms are located, how far away they are from our location and how long it would take to drive to them
  • meeting curricular outcomes - often our collaborative work leads to learning projects which give authentic contexts for teaching and learning in various subject areas

Last week, we had the opportunity to meet a new classroom of friends from Milton, Ontario.  Ms. Dorland put out a request through the Microsoft Canada Education group on Yammer asking for other Grade 2 classrooms who would be willing to help her and her class with a special project.  I sent a message asking for more details and eventually we set a date for our classes to meet.

We were really excited to help these new learning partners with their first video conference call and we could definitely tell how excited they were to meet us!  Ms. Dorland's Grade 2s had lots of interesting questions to ask us and we had some questions for them too.  We couldn't quite fit all of our questions in, so we've continued communicating using Twitter.  My students were able to use our classroom tablets to "show" Ms. Dorland's class our playground - something they were curious about on our call.  Students worked with a partner to photograph something on our playground and compose a short message to send from our class Twitter account. 

Our class is finding it very interesting to learn about the weather, community, stores and even the playground in Milton.  We have found that there are lots of things we have in common, but also some differences too.  We are glad to work with some new people and we look forward to continuing the connection!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why I'm Thankful to be a Microsoft Expert Educator

As the deadline to apply for the Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator (MIEE) Program quickly approaches, so does our Canadian Thanksgiving Day.  After reading Arianna Huffington's book Thrive this summer, colleague and friend Mrs. Devon Caldwell and I have been making an effort to express gratitude on a daily basis.  (You'll have to read the book to find out all the perks of being more grateful!)  With my "gratitude mission" in mind, I thought that a thankfulness approach was perhaps the best way to express my feelings about the MIEE program. I strongly encourage other teachers to check out this incredible program and to apply here before the upcoming October 15th deadline. (I'll even help you apply if you contact me!)

Five reasons I'm grateful to be a Microsoft Expert Educator:

(1) I'm grateful to participate in excellent professional development.
From monthly webinars to Global Forums, Microsoft offers a wide variety of useful, relevant P.D.  I received extensive professional development in preparation for the 2014 Global Forum, which included sessions focused on the 21st Century Learning Design rubrics.  I have also taken advantage of the EduCast webinars, Hot Topics blog and online courses available on the Microsoft Educator Network.  And hands-down, absolutely-for-certain the BEST professional development in my career has been attending Microsoft Global Forums

(2) I'm thankful for the many people I've met because of the MIEE program
Thanks to Microsoft, I have met amazing teachers and education stakeholders from all over the world.  We may not see each other face to face, but I have an extended circle of colleagues from around the world that I can reach out to.  

(3) My students and I are glad to have many collaborative opportunities.
Teachers working with other teachers.  Students working with other students.  Connected Classrooms.  I'm happy to have connections with many other teachers.  However, it is also exciting for my students to learn about other people and places while developing their knowledge and skills.  In the short six weeks that we've been back to school, we have already had the opportunity to work with students and teachers from five other classrooms, including both Canadian and international classrooms.  Most of these connections are with teachers that I've met through Microsoft. I strongly feel these connections are an asset for learning and teaching. 

(4) I truly appreciate the inspiration, enthusiasm and motivation to strive for better education.
Attending a Global Forum gives me an incredible "boost" of enthusiasm and inspiration to improve myself and to work towards improvements in our education systems.  There is just something about being surrounded by hundreds of other passionate people that really gets me excited about trying new things, improving my teaching and giving my students the best learning opportunities possible!  (And other events, webinars and collaborative projects are a mini-dose of this great energy!)

(5) I am fortunate to have traveled to many interesting places as an Expert Educator.
In addition to meeting people from around the world, I have also been very lucky to travel to other parts of the world for Microsoft Global Forum events.  On top of the phenomenal professional development and the incredible positive energy I've gained at these events, I have also traveled to countries I likely would have never seen otherwise.  Experiencing the scenic beauty, the culture and the traditions of new places has contributed to my personal and professional growth.

So, thanks Microsoft (and when I say Microsoft, I mean all of the great employees, consultants and educators involved with Microsoft).  Your MIEE program is incredible and I'm so glad that you choose to invest in teachers and in education and in me.  You have helped me and my students in so many ways.  I truly believe I am a better teacher because of the experiences I have had as an Expert Educator and I'm excited to continue learning and growing - I hope to meet a whole bunch of new MIEEs very soon!