Whenever I’m talking to teachers about the importance of global connections for our students, I often have elementary and primary teachers assume that they couldn’t do these types of activities with their students because of their age level. I always think sure you could, but then I remember that my background is secondary, and maybe I’m being too liberal or ambitious in my thinking for K-5 students. I was really happy that Cary Harrod (her blog here) told me about Kathy Cassidy’s Connected From The Start, a book about global connections in the primary grades.
Cassidy’s book not only gave a number of excellent examples to implement with our youngest kiddos, but these examples can translate and scale up for any grade level. She talks about using social media (mainly Twitter) with her students, blogging as a class, each of her students “owning” their own blog as a place for regular reflection and e-portfolios, students creating videos of their in-class work to reflect about it on the blog, and so much more. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in investigating global connection opportunities for your students, especially those of primary and elementary students. Some of the technology examples she gives are a bit outdated since it was published in 2013, however, Cassidy notes that she knows this will happen and encourages readers not to get focused on the tools she provides in her examples anyway.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book are below. I read the book on my Kindle, so the locations cited are for the Kindle.
“Some people worry that young children should not be online because they cannot be safe. Instead, I worry that young children who are isolated from social technologies will not learn HOW to be safe online.” (loc. 251) This quote is extremely powerful to me and speaks to the heart about how I feel. So many teachers are nervous about getting kids online for this very reason, and hey- I totally get it! But, we really need to push past this fear, so we can teach them what is safe and appropriate while we are there alongside them. See next quote.
“When my own children were too young to cross the street on their own, I took their hand and crossed with them. As they grew, I let go of their hand and walked beside them. When they were ready I watched as they crossed the street on their own. Finally, they were ready to do it entirely without me.” (loc. 269) Again, this speaks to the baby step approach we must take with our students- starting when they are young- to prepare them for the real world.
“If I did not let my pre-writer students post on their blogs, but instead waited until they could write prose correctly using writing conventions such as capital letters, periods, spaces between words and acceptable spelling, they would not be able to post for many months. Their parents would miss out the opportunity to watch and be a part of the incredible growth that takes place as children are learning to write. The students would be denied a global audience for their work and they would miss some encouraging early feedback in the form of comments.” (loc. 1098) I think this is a really powerful outlook for teachers of any age, not just pre-readers and writers. If we wait until our students are 100% ready to show what they’ve learned so far, will they ever get the chance? I mean, aren’t we still learning as we go? If we had waited until we were 100% ready to start our jobs as educators before we did it, schools may have a serious staffing crisis on their hands. As a note for those primary readers of this post, Cassidy would allow her students to write and comment, and then she would leave a comment as the teacher to clarify what the student was trying to type if it was not clear to the untrained eye.
“If you are just beginning to consider connection as part of your regular teaching and learning experience, try thinking about how you could enhance just one lesson by connecting to the online world.” (loc. 1769) Great advice!
“In any connected classroom, flexibility is paramount.” (loc. 1775) Yes! As you know in your own classroom, you don’t stay on the exact schedule you intend to all the time. Add in different time zones and other school schedules, and things are bound to get a little hairy at times. That’s okay!
Below is a video of Cassidy’s grade one students talking about their blogs. So cute… and proof that anyone can do it!
What has your experience with global connections in the classroom been? I’d love to hear your stories below in the comments!
Tech To You Later!