Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Beyond the Bricks: connecting your students with the rest of the world

      "The teacher makes meaningful and relevant connections between lesson content and other disciplines and real-world experiences and careers as well as prepares opportunities for students to apply learning from different content areas to solve problems." -  OTES Rubric, Prior Content Knowledge/Sequence/Connections

    Teachers who are formatively instructing in the classroom today recognize the benefits that come with peer feedback, student self-reflection, project-based learning, student motivation, and connecting their classrooms to a larger learning audience. They understand that others have the means to help grow the learning of their students. 
     Traditional field trips are always good, as long as they are within a reasonable driving distance and you have a little extra in the budget to finance it. Face to face with a local expert is really good, too. What to do though if you want to talk to an author? Or watch a family member enlisted in the air force refuel an airplane in mid-air? Or visit a missionary classroom in Africa? 

    If you have access to Google Hangouts (or Skype, or Facetime) you can begin to make in-roads into helping students make learning connections of high interest to help them think through problems presented in class. Relevance and real world have a way of keeping the attention of our students and making sense out of the abstract.

If you are thinking about connecting online, please consider the following:

Prior to connecting:
 Determine the experience level of everyone involved in regards to the technology to be used. Do they need some training beforehand? The technology should never get in the way of a good online interview/visit because someone is trying to figure it out at the last minute. Get the "novelty stage" out on a practice session. Try a test connection before the real one. Sometimes you have to "mirror image" connect if you are showing a document or book.  Discuss the connection protocols. Who is initiating the call, you or them? Establish a dialogue to test the audio and video and let everyone know that you will take a couple of minutes at the beginning to do that. Who has the job of turning the mic on and off if needed? If someone far from the mic needs to speak, where is the designated spot in the classroom to speak from? Planning ahead and practicing will ensure that your guest is respected and your classroom time is effective. Let everyone know the purpose and goal of the event and make sure you know if it is going to be recorded or it is a one time event. 

During the connection: 
If you are connecting with multiple guests, have everyone leave their microphones turned off and turned on only when needed. Background noise is very disruptive. 

Ask for feedback on the experience and act on it. Provide everyone with a follow up time so they can process, ask questions, or make comments that you may not have had time to ask during the event. 

    I am encouraging and supporting our staff as they take the small steps towards reaching out to the college and career real world experiences that are out there. From whole classroom events that broaden student horizons, to one on one colleague collaboration, and eventually student group to student group, the world is definitely getting flatter at Conesville ES.