Collaboration Station

Connecting classrooms is so important these days! We need students to see that there is more to the world than their classroom, school, city or state. By creating opportunities for students to collaborate with others, educators are building a classroom culture considerate of others. It is necessary for our future to understand, appreciate and have empathy for other cultures.

Here are 10 ways to connect your classroom with other classrooms around the world.

  1. Mystery Location – Where in the world are you? Guess the location of another class by asking yes/no questions.  Click here for a great question sheet to use to guide your students through the process of a Mystery Location.
  2. Guess a number – Reinforce number sense and place value by encouraging students to guess a number. I recommend using a 100-chart when doing a number guess.
  3. Mystery Animal – This fits perfectly with a unit on animal adaptions, habitats, zoo, etc. Encourage students to ask yes/no questions in order to guess the mystery animal.
  4. Shared book – Classes can read or even discuss a book together. They can ask each other questions.
  5. Foreign Language – Play Guess Who with another foreign language class. This practices basic words in the foreign language the students are studying. Click here for a sample guess who game board.
  6. Weather – Are you studying weather patterns or extreme weather? Connect with a classroom around the world that has weather completely different than yours.
  7. Setting – Are you reading about a location in a book? Are you studying a culture in social studies? Connect with a classroom in that area to extend your knowledge about that area.
  8. How to – Prior to connecting, teachers have students write a how-to to draw a picture. The classes exchange the writings or directions. Then, they try to draw based on the writing. If time allows, the classes can connect to discuss the experience.
  9. Blog – Share a blog with another class! The sky is the limit as far as the topic of the blog. It is just cool to know that there are other students around the world!
  10. Postcards – Collect postcards from around the world. This instantly starts to help students learn geography. This is also an easy thing to gather – make a graphic similar to this one encouraging people to mail your class postcards!

Some of you may be wondering how do you find a classroom in which to connect … I recommend joining  Google+ / Connected Classrooms. This is a great site for posting and locating classrooms that also desire to connect. It also sparks ideas for connection! You can also complete this form created by ISTE’s Global Collaboration PLN. They are working on a database that will be in the ISTE Global Collaboration forum.

What options are there for video connections? You can use Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. You will need a webcam or camera. It is important that you test prior to doing in front of your class. You want to make sure that you don’t have problems. Be sure to have a speaker handy so that your students can hear the other class!

Remember to start off small! We often get overwhelmed by trying too much at one time. In every opportunity, we learn something … it that is possibly what not to do next year! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. I am happy to share my experience and offer suggestions.

10 Tips for Starting a 1 to 1 Technology Program

It’s the new wave – schools are going one to one with technology. Meaning, every student and every teacher has a device. I have created a program at my current school – The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, La. I only wish that I would have had some tips from someone who had already traveled down this road. Please use the advice below as you see fit. My best advice comes from a friend – this will be a journey, but it will be well-worth it!

(1) Mission

What is the mission of your school? How does technology fit with that mission? The worse thing that can help is that the school’s mission is compromised due to technology. Be sure that you understand your mission and that your technology program compliments your mission. If something happens as a result of technology that doesn’t fit your mission, do something about it. Don’t wait until next year!

(2) Vision

What is it that you want to do? Where do you see the school in a year? three years? five years? Yes, small details of the program are very important. However, you must look at the program with a bird’s eye view. You need to see into the future and know what you want to happen. Be realistic – technology equals money and in schools those funds must be there in order to spend it!

(3) Strategic Planning Team

Just like anything else you start, you need a plan. It is best for this plan to be written by a team. The plan needs to include a current assessment and inventory of technology, major goals, action steps, benchmarks and evidence. The more time you spend planning on the front in, the more you will that yourself later.

(4) Professional Development

One of the biggest mistakes I notice with schools is that purchase equipment and do a brief initial training for teachers. Professional development is ongoing. It is individualized. People on staff with flexible schedules need to be dedicated to helping the teachers be successful with the technology.

(5) Instructional Practices

All students now have computers. How will this change instructional practices? What instructional practices does the administration want to encourage or discourage? Will all textbooks move to e-books. I strongly recommend against moving to e-books for the sake of moving. Teachers need to review the textbooks and the e-books and compare/contrast the benefits and pitfalls of each.

(6) Policies

What will be the expectations now that technology is in the hands of students? Schools that adopt a 1 to 1 program, usually write an Acceptable Use Policy. This policy is signed by students and parents at the beginning of each year. It is also reviewed with students. Click here for an example. Each year, the policies are revised to ensure that the technology program follows the mission of the school. Policies are also needed for employees. Just like students, they need to know what is acceptable and not acceptable.

It is also important to think about funding when discussing policies. The truth is that technology budgets will not decrease with a one to one program. In fact, they increase! Will you finance the purchase? Will students pay a fee for the technology? Will this fee be yearly or one-time? What will it include? Remember a value must be added when a fee is added. The value is not simply the computer – it is the instruction and learning that takes place as a result of the computer.

(7) Building a Culture

One to one technology changes the way a school looks – ultimately changing the culture. It is up to administrators and the strategic team to determine how the culture will look. Administrators must model the use of technology by USING it! I hear teachers complain – how can they expect me to do this and they don’t even know how to do it. Change will only be as successful as the people who are part of it want it to be.

(8) Support

You can create everything on paper,  and it looks great! However, how will your teachers and students get the support they need? Where will teachers go if something isn’t working or if they want something on the computers? I strongly recommend a support center that is open during school hours and is solely there to help people. Keep in mind that a college student is a prefect low paying person for this job! There needs to be a warm body that is always smiling! I like to remind help desk folks that they only have a job because we have computers – so be friendly, we want people to visit!

(9) Communication

How will you communicate the one to one to your community? You can NEVER communicate enough. Send home a note in mail, an email, and post on the website. Conduct meetings so parents feel informed about the new program. We want their minds at ease and their questions answered. Post pictures on social media outlets letting parents know that teachers are being trained on how to implement technology into the curriculum.  The ultimate goal of communication is to share the value of the program.

(10) Deployment

Now that you have written your strategic plan, purchased the equipment, create a tech center, and created a plan for communication, how are you going to get these computers in the hands of teachers and students? This part of the planning is very important because it can be the most time consuming. Depending on your infrastructure, all computers may need to be touched. One of the biggest nightmares that I didn’t plan for was the trash that comes along with new computers. My maintenance staff was not happy!  It is also recommended to create a timeline with details for the deployment process.