(Disclaimer: this is not a post about how @Twitter can change your career, altho it does consistently and reliably)
If you are not following this hashtag, you really should. There is a lot of dynamic and uniquely designed learning connected to #XcontinentalKinders. And it is a result of a simple tweet followed by a response that has become an evolving learning journey and a cluster of professional (quickly becoming personal) relationships.
Since this is not a journey I am on alone and one in which could not happen without teams of dynamic teachers on two different continents, I don’t feel like this is only my story to tell. For this reason, this blog entry is co-authored with me by Leonie Marshman (@Leobeth), the woman who shares my views about the power of a unique PLN and who had a monumental role in designing this experience’s launch.
I could actually fill this blog up with all kinds of teaching standards and teacher evaluation goals (because there are many) about what happened next, but the truth is, I don’t intend for this blog post to become an artifact for me or one that is too technical for readers to stay with. I have my Google Team drive for archiving the collaborative planning happening between teachers separated by land and oceans and a 14 hour time difference.
This experience is valuable and authentic and meaningful in so many ways that I just want to share, in no fancy terms, what is happening.
Rewind: #20Time Project 2016-2017 School Year
Last school year, two kindergarten classes from two elementary schools in Raleigh, NC (Underwood GT Magnet ES and Washington GT Magnet ES) joined together to learn about community by developing ways that their students could get to know each other, establish empathy, and to participate in a collaborative community service project. This was in response to a challenge presented by Kevin Brookhouser (@brookhouser) during the 4th year of a Wake County Public School System cohort called the Teacher Leader Corp (TLC).
This whole amazing experience is detailed in an earlier blog post which I encourage you to read.
The two classes used Google Hangouts to meet in real time and Google Earth to see each other’s schools. Each student had their picture taken and placed on a craft stick to be sent to the other school’s class. Their “Flat Self” was given to one student in the buddy class. Each child carried their new flat buddy around the community as they continued their daily routines and documented their experiences with photos. The photos of their adventures were shared in a collaborative Google Slide presentation. At the end of many months, the students got to meet their “flat buddy” in real life. They exchanged gifts to fulfil their community improvement wishes. The children also got to play, eat lunch and complete a community service project together before saying a (tearful for some) farewell.
Fast Forward. That tweet from kindergarten teachers at Rosehill Public School in Sydney. Australia….
And the reply that changed everything!
That suggestion to connect via Google Hangout was instead met by a direct message to me by the Kindergarten AP, Leonie Marshman (@Leobeth) at Rosehill Public School in Sydney, Australia….
Our Backstory – Rosehill (Leonie)
I suppose I should give some background to our side of this story. Rosehill Public School is in Western Sydney, Australia.It is a growing school with 90% of our students coming from non English speaking backgrounds.
2018, saw a big change in my Early Stage 1 team and with a new stage of teachers to work with, I decided to combine our seven Kinder classes together to create a shared Twitter account to share our stage work and connect with a global audience. So we started Rosehill Kinders @KindersRosehill in late January, 2018.
Now I personally had felt that as educators we were really missing an opportunity with Twitter. Here we had all these classes sharing amazing learning with their global audience, but the most interaction would be an occasional ‘like’ from an interested colleague or teacher. In our classrooms we were promoting student voice, setting goals, giving feedback, reflecting and learning from our peers. But I felt we (my team) were really only using Twitter as a showcase of work and being quite linear and one dimensional in nature. I felt we were missing a great learning opportunity.
We set up our @KindersRosehill Twitter account with the initial aim to connect with 100 followers in our first 100 days of school Purely a number activity for our little people to count and work with a ten frame. We tracked our followers on TENs frame and added the count to our morning routine. A simple number activity while building our students’ understanding of our growing number of followers.Twitter had become a teaching and learning tool. We reached our 100 followers by the 14th February.
Our next goal was to track where our followers came from using Google Earth. I put a message out and started to get the replies. Now we were using twitter to look at where in the world our followers came from (Early Stage 1 Geography). At the start, a couple classes started playing around with this. But what followed surprised all of us!! Suddenly we were asking our global audience to communicate with us, we had a follower leaving a joke, another regularly sharing videos and pictures and asking for our wonderings. Suddenly our twitter feed had become more than a showcase it became a source of inspiration for discussion and discovery. This is when we received the message ‘Raleigh, NC’. Where??
I personally had never heard of Raleigh, but enjoyed discovering and learning with the children about this beautiful city on the other side of the world. It was at this time I shared with a colleague, my real goal was to connect with a class and ‘put the students in the driver’s seat’. Get the students communicating and learning from each other.
It was about a week later that we received the message from Star (@sanndavis) and Tanya (@tanya_churchill) inviting us to connect.
Tanya spoke of GoogleHangouts, Flat Buddies, Flipgrid; lots of things I’d never used or even heard of. But of course I said we’d love to connect. I could see that the students weren’t going to be the only ones learning new things!! It was after I pressed send on my message to accept this exciting adventure I thought ‘hmmm maybe I better check with my team!!’
Tanya: Considering the 14 hour time difference (which was 15 prior to daylight savings time that ended for them Easter weekend), a Google Hangout seemed unlikely. But I was quick to propose a “Flat Buddy” experience much like the one we had the year prior with Washington ES. In my excitement about the possibility of this connection, I made the impulsive proposal to Leonie BEFORE asking my own Kindergarten teacher, Star Davis (@sanndavis) if she was willing to do it again but on a global scale. Still not knowing if Star wanted to play along, Leonie inquired about finding THREE kinder teachers for her. Underwood only HAS 3 kinder teachers. ALL of them had to say yes….and in the end there was unanimous eagerness! Two of them, Ceil O’Loughlin (@ceilbel) and Rhonda Miller (@MsMillersK), didn’t quite know what this would look like or what was expected of them. And abstract ambiguity is really difficult to dive into. But dive they did and I am still so proud of them for this!
Leonie: So I suppose my reaction to this connection was similar to Tanya’s. I immediately said yes, and then thought, perhaps I just better check I have a teacher on board. So I met with my team. We had been regularly sharing our Twitter adventures in stage meetings and when I asked who would like to be a part of the buddy project, three teachers immediately volunteered. (phew!!) Netania Josephs @MissJosephsAU Mallika Chandel @Mallika_Cl and Katherine McCune @KatherineMcCune1. I was so relieved to hear, Tanya had 3 teachers at Raleigh, so all our volunteers had a buddy class. The rest of my team were interested, but wanted to see what it was going to be like. We’d still all be involved in the learning experiences. Everyone could be a part of it. Over the next few weeks the collaboration and connection through Twitter started to develop and I could see my other 4 team members watching on and wanting to be involved too. This is where we sent this tweet.
Thanks to the support from our new global colleagues we were able to make a connection with Natalie (@LudwigsBusyBees) at Washington Elementary School; the school that Underwood had connected with the previous year. We now have 14 kinder classes connecting across the continents.
Watch this space!!
Our Hilights So Far:
I feel like we have only just begun this learning experience and I cannot even project where it will go or when or how it will end. But the beginning looks like this:
- Teachers from three schools (Rosehill PS, Underwood GT Magnet and Washington GT Magnet) use @Flipgrid to introduce themselves, where they live and their learning space.
- Flipgrid topics (https://flipgrid.com) are set up for each pair of buddy classes so students can introduce themselves and respond to each other. As close to real conversations as we can get given that they are sleeping while we are learning.
- Flat Buddies are created and sent to each other’s countries with student created passports
- Collaborative planning/programming documents are created and placed in a shared Team Drive in Google Suites for Education.
- Google Earth and Google MyMaps are used to teach kinders about community, mapping skills with Sydney and Raleigh in the forefront of these lessons
- A #hashtag is created for following and tracking this journey #XcontinentalKinders…follow this hashtag!!
- Teachers from each country actually DO use Google Meet to introduce themselves to each other and do some collaborating in real time despite the time differences
- Kinders in Sydney (9am Wednesday their time) become an extended audience as they watch a livestream evening performance (6pm Tuesday evening) by Raleigh Kinders using Google Meet
- Sharing work on twitter and getting information, photos and immediate feedback from their American buddy teacher.
- Students posting question during their lessons to their cross continent teacher or expert using GoogleSlides
- Students from a non English speaking background have a motivating and authentic purpose to use the English language
- Kinders from Underwood in Raleigh illicit inclusion in a whole-school theme project inspired by the book Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds (@peterhreynolds). Each participating kinder class at Rosehill was sent a copy of Happy Dreamer signed by all students from their Underwood kinder buddies along with a paper circle for each student. Rosehill kinders will write what kind of dreamer they are on a circle and return it to Underwood to be hung together with the school’s 500+ other dream circles.
- A Google Site is being developed to document and archive collaborative work and projects
- A strong international PLN is established as professional learning articles perceived to be of interest are being shared, reflected on and discussed via @twitter between teachers at Underwood (@underwoodgtm) and Rosehill PS (@rosehillps) https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/tag/education-3-0/
- Four more of Rosehill’s kindergarten teachers (the remainder of their team) jumps aboard wanting to share this experience. Washington GT Magnet ES (@GTWizards1) in Raleigh also hops aboard to buddy with the rest of @KIndersRosehill. No kinder class is left behind!
- Other staff members get involved in the collaboration
- #XcontinentalKinders on twitter tells more of the story, much of which is yet unwritten.
- Community sources are invited to correspond and answer wonders from Kinders.
Rosehill Kinders, Rosehill PS (Leonie)
When I share with colleagues about what we are doing with our #XcontinentalKinders often the first reaction is – how did you connect with 7 classes? I suppose the simple answer is, just ask. I feel as teachers we can often be reluctant to open our doors and share with the colleague next door, the idea of sharing with your global colleagues can be something that people find quite daunting. But by just putting it our there and going into this project with a positive mindset and a ‘let’s see where it can take us’ type of attitude, I feel that’s all we needed to get started.
I entered into this project with the goal of creating more authentic connections for my students, and we have definitely achieved that. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much my team and I have learnt. Flipgrid, GoogleHangouts, comparisons between our two syllabi, facts and information about another country – really exciting stuff. Tools that we will continue to use in our classrooms in the future.
For our students at Rosehill, I couldn’t predict the amazing learning that has come out of this experience. In my role, I have the opportunity to work in all the classes on our stage. Drafting a piece of writing, sharing it on twitter and googleslides and receiving feedback and facts is priceless. I have to laugh…students will ask me to refresh the Twitter feed so they can see what our buddy teachers have said about their work, sometimes instantly if they are watching from their homes in their evening hours. For our students in particular from a non English Speaking background, using flipgrid to talk and share is so powerful. They are able to listen and respond, share their ideas and then reflect on what they have said. I am excited to see what Term 2 is going to bring, even though I’m not quite sure what that will be!
Underwood Kinders, Underwood GT Magnet ES (Tanya)
So where does this leave us? I guess, in a really good place to make great things happen. This is the journey’s beginning but I cannot answer about what next. There is so much more to figure out and undoubtedly so much more that will “just happen”. I will say that as we close out the school year in Raleigh with just one more quarter to go, I feel rejuvenated in my work when most are growing weary and riddled with stress. I have some visions forming for the upcoming school year. When we leave kindergarten behind and return as 1st graders, our Rosehill buddies will still be in kindergarten (their school year begins in January…ours in August) and I can’t imaging leaving them behind. I am hoping that by trailblazing this journey, the path forward will be so well established that our strong 1st grade team will embrace Rosehill just as our terrific kinder trio did so we can continue to learn and grow from this PLN. This group has so much vision for the importance and all the benefits of global awareness. So far, I have learned to appreciate new perspectives, have built new schema and have grown more and more curious as I am truly learning through the inquiry model that I teach to my students.
On my “Happy Dreamer” dream circle for Underwood’s “Dream Big” Artspleasure wall, I wrote that I am a collaborative dreamer. That was well before we partnered with Rosehill. And my dream has come true as my heart feels full and my spirit is happy. And right in line, I am already dreaming that other classes around the world will want to join the #XcontinentalKinders movement too. There is no better way to model just how big the world is….and how small. There is no better way to model how different the world is….and how similar. There is no better way to begin making a positive difference in relationships around the globe than to bring this experience to these small people who are already doing big things!
So what kind of dreamer are you? We accept all kinds in #XcontinentalKinders. Send us a tweet and let’s see where our response will lead YOU!
In the mean time, look up #XcontinentalKinders to see what has come next since the blog has been posted. I guarantee the story will continue to grow and grow!