Last week I worked with two groups of 8th grade students: one group at a middle school in my district; the other, at a small parochial school “across the tracks.” The project was to help students at both school sites take poetry they had created as part of the I’m American Too project and to catapult their voices beyond the walls of their classrooms and onto the Digital ID wiki, a collaborative project that strives to connect core curriculum with issues of (digital) citizenship.
Right off the bat, the common thread was two outstanding teachers, both teaching at sites that provide rich, nurturing learning environments. But since the two had never met, nor even heard of each other’s schools, I assumed there would be no student connections. I was wrong. While at Pinkerton (my district), when I mentioned I would also be working with 8th graders at St. Patrick’s Succeed Academy, several students immediately called out that they had friends there. And when, two days later, I walked into an 8th grade classroom St. Pat’s, a student enthusiastically waved his hand, wanting to know if I had worked with his friends over at Pinkerton and when could he see their work.
And once again, another common thread became very visible: when students know their projects will be seen by a real audience, including friends at other schools, they are eager to get to work! Pinkerton’s “found poetry” is now posted on the Stepping Up page of the Digital ID wiki. St. Pat’s “poetry in two voices” is there too, although not quite finished – an online work in progress.
It has been my experience that students thrive from connected learning opportunities. Fortunately, making meaningful connections just gets easier as new – and free – technologies become available. I think the A Day in the Life of a Connected Educator: Using Social Media in 21st Century Classrooms infographic below, which came through my Twitter feed this morning, sums it up . The infographic is from Powerful Learning Practice, an online community focused on “turning educators into 21st Century educators.”
Thank you, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, for the the great infographic – and a reminder in the next school year to spend more of the school day supporting teachers in creating connected learning environments.