As a kindergarten teacher, I have used many synchronous and asynchronous tools and platforms to connect my students globally. This past year, as a NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow, I have seen and experienced many examples of how important this idea of teaching through a global lens is, not just to me and my students, but also to the world. Through the use of a variety of digital tools and platforms, my students and their families have been able to explore how conversations can be had with others in regards to our learning.
It was inspiring to think about the fact that by “tweeting” an idea, teachers and students can begin to experience the value in using social media and other web tools. The immediacy of the connection made me think about how important it was to first model using this tool and to connect it to something my students already had experience with.
So I took my students outside with my laptop and as we sat under a tree I asked them to listen quietly to what they heard. After a moment my students shared a variety of sounds, one of which was a birdcall. I highlighted this and stated that birds have calls and tweets that they use to say hello. I shared that we were about to communicate using tweets, like a bird makes calls, but we would do so using Twitter as our platform, like a bird uses a tree as their platform. This was the beginning of how I modeled the explicit use of Twitter on a daily basis.
It is important to think about how and when you will use social media. For me, I have it available throughout the day because my intention is to be open to the learning and discoveries being made and give my students choices and opportunities to share what is important to them and have conversations about their ideas and thoughts. This is where they get time to reflect and rethink what they understand. Twitter is a nice way to bring these face-to-face conversations to an international level where young children can experience what it means to share globally.
This makes it easy for my students to begin to experience what it means to be a safe, kind, and responsible digital citizen. I am also providing an opportunity for my students and their families to learn alongside me as we explore how social media can connect and enhance our learning.
Here are guidelines that I follow and which you may want to consider as well:
Follow people who are sharing professional work and experiences that enhance and interact with student learning.
Have written permission from the parents of the children to use photographs and video.
Model safe, responsible, and positive discoveries that you wish to share with others in regards to learning.
When you tweet photographs and video leave off names or any identifying information about your students. This way your students will know and understand that when you use video, names are omitted. I thought it would be a difficult idea to comprehend, but the children understood this right away. This is a nice introduction to the importance of being a safe and responsible digital citizen.
Follow classrooms that are using Twitter with their students. This is where you’re able to tweet with other classrooms about your daily discoveries and what you find interesting.
Model correct spelling, no text typing here. I was reminded recently that we, as educators, need to model the correct use of our language for our students.
I encourage parents to follow us too! Parents can follow tweets even without joining Twitter. This is a great way to allow parents to share in this experience alongside you and your students.
Create a map of the world in your classroom where students can add connections they make globally. This helps children develop a sense of audience and place. They are experiencing where people are from and how they are connecting to them.
Use Twitter as a way to showcase what you are exploring and ask others in the world to contribute to your learning. All you have to do is ask a question. One additional tool I use is Padlet. Padlet is an easy way to globally crowd source answers around an essential question. We explored this idea through the question, “How are you keeping the world healthy?” People from four continents contributed.
- Think of a content area you are exploring and add an inquiry-based question to think about with your students. For instance, I wonder what others are doing in the world when they explore [Insert topic]. This was a nice way for my students to begin to see what others are doing to solve a common need. Click here to see our Padlet example.
Digital platforms have opened up the world to my students and have helped them become aware of a larger, authentic audience outside of our classroom walls. This audience is waiting to make connections, share, and collaborate with them. Through this experience we are making connections not only with kindergarten classes all over the world, but also with others in our school who are using Twitter.
As educators, we have endless opportunities to engage with social media and other web tools alongside our students, their families, and others. As we connect we can be inspired by the perspectives of others. Together, we are learning about the world by asking questions and looking for opportunities to connect and share.
Photo of the author, courtesy of the author.
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