(Communities Online Networking Nationwide to Engage in Common Teachings for Success)
I am so excited to share some exciting news with the online teaching community, as well as give you an opportunity to join my school on our new adventure. While attending the iPDX technology conference this past winter for the second time, I met up with a few other teachers from my district to discuss an innovative and engaging way to integrate technology into our classrooms and allow our students to collaborate together. Our district is lucky enough to have a Google account for each student, which is an amazing opportunity with endless possibilities. Through this cross district initiative, we decided to start a Google Classroom between our classes to start. All students were given an access code and joined the classroom so we could hold weekly discussions online. We started by using CNN Student News as background knowledge, so all students would be on the same page, and we then created a discussion question from the news that week. The teachers posted the question, and then all students responded with their answer. Through this format we were able to work on CCSS W.1, as students needed to clearly create an opinion and then supported it with evidence from the video, research, or their background knowledge. We then had a rule that all students needed to response to at least two other classmates, which attended a different school, and either agree or disagree with their response. This allowed students to thoughtfully consider others’ ideas and then respond respectfully with their opinions and give evidence to support. Students were also encouraged to pose more questions in order to dig deeper into the issues. With just this simple connection, students were highly engaged in discussions and more carefully analyzing their responses, as the stakes were higher with students they didn’t know.
After much success with this format, we decided we would like to try and expand our collaboration by using Google Docs to work on larger pieces of writing. For this activity the classes paired up and both worked on the same writing assignment. For our first run, both classes worked on my Climate Change Performance Task. Students spent time analyzing and taking notes from the resources and then wrote their full length composition. The teachers then matched up the students, and had them share their papers with each other through Google Docs. Then the real fun began. We all logged onto our documents at the same time and began simultaneously editing each other’s papers, utilizing the chat and editing features. Students were able to read, edit, and then discuss changes with each other through their document. The two schools that were working together were demographically very different, with one class being about 45% SPED and 50% English Language Learners. This opportunity was beneficial to both classes, and there was much to be learned on both sides of the experience. The students enjoyed this experience so much they requested to switch twice more with different partners. In the end, their papers had been edited multiple times and it was beneficial for all the students to experience other examples of writing and styles from students who they are not used to working with, or may have other techniques they could learn from.
After many months of online communication, the students began to become extremely interested in who their new classmates were, especially after talking with them so often (plus they are 6th graders). To solve this problem we decided to enlist the help of Google Hangouts. Each teacher gave a quick lesson on Google Hangouts and the kids did the rest from there. They were able to video chat with their editing partners from before. We were only able to try this once (great engagement for the last week of school), but it is definitely an activity that I will be incorporating into my practices as more often.
Now, this is where you come in! I am currently writing a grant that could potentially give our school 1:1 Chromebook access. The goal of my grant is to connect our students with other students, businesses, community leaders, and role models nationwide through this same type of interaction. If you are interested in joining our online learning community, please fill out the Google Form and let me know to what capacity you are interested in joining up. I look forward to seeing the community we can grow and the impact this will have on our students. So what are you waiting for? Let’s CONNECT!
Link to Google Form: Click Here