Sunday, October 16, 2016

Connecting with other Classrooms

This school year I am part of a core group of educators working to connect classrooms in order to improve teacher practise and student learning. The goal is to break down the classroom walls and use a variety of tools/techniques to bring teachers and students together to learn and share.

Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to connect with other teachers using google hangouts and social media but it has never been as planned and strategic as it will be this year.

With these thoughts in my head I decided to email a couple of my colleagues to see if they wanted to connect today for a short time. One of the teachers is relatively new to the use of technology for things of this nature and the other is a seasoned veteran. They both agreed to connect via hangout as an "introduction" to this school year and for my class to share their learning in math at the current time.

The first hangout didn't go as planned. My colleague's camera didn't work, she didn't have a mic, and after few minutes my mic stopped working. Technology is great, isn't it? Thankfully, we used the chat feature to communicate with each other and I used my camera to show her class what we were talking about. 

This 'failure' was great for a couple of reasons. First, my colleague, her students, and my students got to see what things look like when things don't go right. This is an important experience as it provides an understanding of all the little things that need to come together to make something like this happen. My students saw me preparing for the hangout and they knew that I wasn't purposely trying to fail. Second, everyone involved got to see my reaction when things stopped working. I know that glitches like this happen from time to time  so it was important for me to remain calm and go with the flow as much as I can. Although things didn't go as planned, failure (issues that are unexpected) is part of the process. 

Having some fun and showing my students the options that Hangouts provide before connecting with another class.

The second hangout was a lot more successful than the first. For starters, I got myself a new mic to make sure that I would be heard on the other end. The teacher I connected with has experience with hangouts and has experienced difficulties along the way - between the two of us we could trouble shoot out way through a hangout to make sure it worked. 

With audio and video working on both ends, we talked about our learning in Math, with a focus on Math representations and 3D technology. It was neat to present our work (grade 4/5) to a grade 7 class. The hangout was about 5-10 minutes long and served its purpose. 

The students were pretty happy to have experienced seeing and speaking with people outside of our classroom. We are already looking forward to connecting with other classes in our system, and beyond, to share our learning and to experience the learning process with others.

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