With increased interest in models of learning that emphasize learner-centered instruction and the construction of deep understandings of the world, teachers and students are seeking out practices that move learning past walls of classrooms and that harness the power of the global experience. Digital age technologies not only are allowing for students to develop an awareness of global issues, but they are actually enabling students to access the world and work together to address and solve problems of local and global significance. By developing these cultural frameworks, global-ready students are able to investigate communities and participate as world citizens--developing key soft skills of grit, empathy, problem solving, and perspective taking. More, our students empowered as global collaborators are finding authentic ways to create, question, and communicate in multiple formats and for multiple purposes.
As part of a three-part series on empowering students in the process of learning, pathways to connect students to the world were discovered and explored through a collection of three digital stories as shared through Nearpod and Sway technologies. From a virtual handshake to the development of work to impact our world through social good, you are invited to add to these classroom stories and empower our world of students as global collaborators.
The start of any relationship can begin with a handshake. For Technology Coach Billy Spicer, Mystery Skype’s are the perfect type of virtual introductions. Currently working with teachers and students in the Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 in suburban Chicago, Billy finds that opportunities like Mystery Skype calls are great ways to help teachers to get started on becoming globally connected classrooms. With Mystery Skypes, students use multiple forms of communication, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and are able to apply geography knowledge, map skills, and questioning techniques to locate partner classrooms. After the initial calls, his classrooms keep the learning going by participating in shared writing experiences, collaborative science investigations, and social media messaging on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. By moving beyond textbook understandings of our world, teachers and students like in Billy’s schools can reimagine the definition of “classmate” with new friends of the world.
Once students form connections with classmates of the world, they can leverage technologies to connect in shared experiences and inspired discussions. Courtney Kofeldt, a Supervisor of Educational Technology at PA Leadership Charter School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, works with students in cyber and blended learning environments. Her teachers and students work to make connections with international audiences through a process of searching for and sharing in knowledge. Courtney’s students connect as part of global teams in activities such as collaborative literacy projects. As “ePals,” students in global groups study short stories, work on collaborative writings, and apply digital citizenship skills. Through these real-world experiences, Courtney finds that her students are able to discover their passions and find their voices. And, by hearing how others from around the world respond to stories, her students are able to better understand new perspectives and see life through additional lenses. Following her experiences as a global and digital educator, Courtney believes teachers should model the importance of being a global collaborator by stepping out of comfort zones and creating connections themselves.
With growing availability of sophisticated digital tools in education, teachers today have access to cutting edge resources for bringing students to the world and bringing the world to students. Virtual explorations and rich multimedia features can allow students to be a part of immersive worlds that before were not easily accessible. Nearpod VR Field Trips allow students to go on virtual reality adventures to world destinations. Students can “dive” into underwater coral reefs, can become museum docents at The Louvre, or can brave the aboriginal Jenolan caves in Australia—with Nearpod VR, the world is literally wide open. The newly releasedNearpod 3D objects also extends the interactive experience of Nearpod lessons giving students access to 360º views of amazing locations in our world today and in worlds of the past. Through these modern forms of learning, teachers can create opportunities for students for meaning making and narrative construction through shared perspective and shared experience.
With developing understandings of our world and access to stories of distant communities, students can move beyond passive participation to actively contribute through projects of purpose and passion. Charged to make a positive impact in our world, students can interact and work together to examine ways to give back and make a difference in the lives of others—and the difference is without a doubt not determined by age. Seven-year-old Mia Clayton is dedicated to carrying out her dream to “change the world.” Mia, a second grade student in Victorville, CA at the Endeavor School of Exploration, is the founder of Mia’s Boxes of Love charity where she raises funds and collects toys and other items for homeless families. Mia was first inspired to make a difference after seeing a homeless child in her neighborhood several years ago. Soon after, she saw Kid President speak about his Socktober Program, and knew she needed to be involved. Over the past two years, Mia and her organization have collected almost 10,000 pairs of socks, and for this year’s campaign, she is hoping to collect over 12,000 pairs. Though little in size, she is big in impact. Her advice to anyone who wants to help people—just go do it!
Work for Social Good
As students begin to connect to distant areas and diverse global cultures, issues of our world will quickly become real in oftentimes very personal and powerful ways. As teachers, we have an extraordinary responsibility to create pathways for our students to engage in work for social good. Classrooms offer spaces for conversation of equity, access, awareness, and equality through the eyes of our students. Inspired discussions can progress into dedicated efforts to bring peace through education with students empowered as knowledge constructors, innovative designers, and global collaborators. With shared stories of our world as the start, our students can inspire the needed change and good to spark a "future of great!”
For more information on how to donate socks to Mia’s Boxes of Love and support her efforts to collect 12,000 pairs of socks, please visit: https://miasboxesoflove.org.
Educators seeking projects for social good can explore topics as offered by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.
Please join the conversation and share your classroom stories and Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.
This is the second post in a three part series on shared stories of pedagogical practice. Storytelling in the form of Nearpod+Sway is combined with reflections and discussion on empowering students as innovative designers in the classroom.
Three shared stories. Three powerful messages. One common theme.
Let's meet our storytellers.
Jennifer Casa-Todd is the Teacher-Librarian at Cardinal Carter, an IB World School in Aurora, Ontario. Prior to this role, she was the Literacy Consultant for the York Catholic District School Board and one of the lead learners in a district-wide initiative to build 21st century competencies using technology. Jennifer is currently writing a book, set to be released in Spring 2017 by Dave Burgess Consulting, which builds upon the idea of empowering students to become Digital Leaders using social media. She is passionate about connecting students to each other and to the world. She is also a student and most importantly a wife and a mom to two amazing teens!
Kolsten Keene is a 7th grade student with a passion for gaming and designing his own learning. When he isn’t building worlds in Minecraft or creating YouTube videos in his home production studio, Kolsten can be found playing with his pets or playing drums. He often creates, builds, and explores with his awesome dad, his super-techie mom, Dr. Katrina Keene, and his fun-loving sister, Kaleena. He dreams of working one day for Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, and a highlight for him this year was presenting at ISTE 2016 and then meeting Vu Boi, COO of Mojang. How cool!
Joe Young is a Math and STEAM Coach/ Teacher on Special Assignment in Palo Alto Unified School District in Palo Alto, California. His many roles in education prior to this position have included teaching first, second, and fifth grades and serving as a grade level team lead, math lead teacher, technology lead teacher, and STEAM Inquiry Team member. Joe is passionate about empowering students, promoting student voice, and fostering life skills in children. With all of these experiences, he has found that education is his true passion, and each day for him is an opportunity to encourage wonder, discovery, and exploration of thought.
Now, time for some questions! Joe and Jennifer join me as we think about practice as educators and ways to best support our students as innovative designers.
Jen: Joe, with all your rich experiences in the classroom, how have you used digital storytelling to bring the stories of our world to life for your students?
Joe: The use of digital storytelling is a powerful and essential way for teachers to engage their students in this digital age. Communication is richer through storytelling and students definitely have instant buy-in and engagement when it's done in a digital form. The key part in this process is for purposeful and clear objectives and pedagogy in the teacher. No amount of digital tools can be as successful without the good teacher, the colleagues and coaches that support the good teacher, and the positive and supportive class and school culture of that good teacher.
Jen: Jennifer, you work with so many teachers and students to empower their voices through the sharing of stories of our world. What role does digital storytelling play in teaching and learning for you?
Jennifer Casa-Todd: Digital Storytelling provides a differentiated approach for students to demonstrate their learning. It is a way for students to demonstrate not just their understanding of concepts and ideas, but to be able to use creativity and critical thinking to relay that understanding in a way that is meaningful to them and transparent to the teacher. Best of all, unlike a test or essay, digital stories can be shared so that others might benefit as well.
Jen: Over the course of this blog series sharing about pedagogical practice and shared stories of the classroom, I have seen how combining digital tools can really enhance the quality and power of digital stories--totally loving Nearpod+Sway used together! What experiences have you had with these tools?
Jennifer Casa-Todd: This was my first Sway! Loved its simplicity and intuitiveness!
Joe: I've enjoyed using Nearpod in professional development sessions. I wish I had the opportunity to use Nearpod when I was in the classroom, however I am definitely enjoying the privilege of my position as an instructional coach sharing the features and benefits of Nearpod. My most recent experience with Nearpod was co-facilitating an EdtechTeacher summer workshop with Sabba Quidwai (@askMsQ) where she demonstrated features of Nearpod that I didn't know. It was incredible to receive professional development while delivering professional development.
Jen: As innovative designers in the classroom, I see students as architects of their learning--the definition of student extending to include inventor, maker, explorer. How do you find that we as teachers can best see our students as curious questioners?
Joe: Listen to student voice, focus on standards AND let go of "traditional units," be flexible, engage in professional development, make mistakes, fail and recover, reflect and celebrate, lean on your colleagues and PLN, ask for help, believe in yourself, and in difficult times, listen to your students.
Jennifer: Just try it! Think about what your learning goals are and ask yourself and your students, "Who might help us to learn this better?" and "How can we share this learning with others?" You don't have to be an expert; learning together is often the best way to begin your journey.
Students as knowledge constructors and as innovative designers. Teachers as facilitators and sharers of stories. Join us next week for Part 3: Students as Global Collaborators. Also, we welcome you to join the conversation and share your classroom stories and Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.
Through exploration and discovery, teachers are finding ways to use innovative digital pathways to share stories of practice and experience. As learners of today oftentimes visualize the world through nonlinear and hypertext frameworks, digital storytelling offers highly developed and multimodal forms of communication that allow students to reimagine learning and view shared stories as cohesive and interconnected constructions of expression. Literacies, aesthetics, and advanced practices associated with digital storytelling have the potential to positively impact the communicative landscape of our classrooms. With a focus on sharing the stories of pedagogy and of our world, we as educators can harness the power of digital narratives of practice to together transform learning and teaching in our classrooms. As the first post in a three part series of discovery and reflection, we are able to see into education of today through the lens of a teacher, a student, and an educational technology learning manager--all working to create pathways for the construction of knowledge for students.
Through the power of Nearpod and Sway digital storytelling, themes of practice emerge. In these stories of learning, immersive spaces, explored passions, and authentic connections were each drivers for change. Though the pathways were unique, each brought a story of students empowered as knowledge constructors.
Learning spaces of our modern classrooms have transformed to emphasize learner-centered instruction and seamless integrations of digital technologies. Immersed in supportive physical and virtual environments, students are encouraged to create and explore through processes of design thinking, inquiry, and investigation. As a 4th-6th grade special education teacher at Puesta del Sol Elementary in California, Nicholas Clayton structures his instruction around lessons and tools that promote knowledge construction. From Nearpod VRs Virtual Reality Field Trips to building of virtual worlds in Minecraft and Animal Jam to creating collaborative virtual spaces, Nicholas brings students on “educational adventures” to worlds they understand. For him, “students must have an outlet for their voices and be able to tell about their learning from a language they know.” In immersive spaces of the classroom, access and agency is within reach of the learner and the voices of all students can be inspired.
Teachers in classrooms of today are finding ways for students to become the storytellers and builders of their learning paths. Through project-based learning and practices of personalized inquiry, students are provided space and time to thoughtfully develop passions into actionable plans for implementation and execution. These students, engaged in the process of following in passion projects, are analyzing problems of global significance and finding solutions to impact local and world communities. As a middle years student, Karishma Bhagani was challenged to not only identify a question for exploring, but also a question on a subject for which she was personally connected. In her journey to developing a working low-cost water purification system, Karishma was faced with countless challenges and failures. However, with freedom to fail and grow and the encouragement of her teachers and parents, she found that with perseverance and grit and the fuel of passion, she was able to ultimately reach the point of having a viable prototype. Today, as a student at New York University, Karishma is continuing her mission to bring clean water to communities across the world through her Matone de Chiwit organization. As teachers, these are the stories that fuel us--stories of educational practices that support students to take risks and follow in their dreams. For us, these are those moments that can ignite true change, and in the words of Karishma, are the drops that can create a million ripples.
We as teachers are in a constant search for ways to support our students as constructors of knowledge. Supported in immersive environments and engaged in projects that follow in their passions, they have opportunities to develop sincere connections to content to ultimately deepen levels of learning. Meaningful contexts and authentic audiences can propel learning forward and add richness to the learning experience for students in our schools. As an advocate for student voice and integration of technology in instruction, Zac Leonard of Lecanto Middle School works to provide students with real world situations in learning. With purposeful uses of social media and access to global audiences, Zac connects students to the world through stories of literature, history, and technology. He believes that “digital storytelling is just the next iteration of humanity’s need to share stories.” In classrooms like Zac’s, new ideas can take flight and connections to learning can be realized.
Join us next week for Part 2: Students as Innovative Designers. Also, we welcome you to join the conversation and share your classroom stories and Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.