So we are in the middle of a unit on change.
About how the world changes. How and why maps change to reflect such change. Change is such a dynamic concept. It is a concept our children will see so much in their lives possibly more so than any other time in human history. So the grade 1′s decided that it would be cool talk to someone that makes maps. Unfortunately I have no map-making friends. So I went on a quest, well my fingers went on a 140 character or less quest on Twitter to try to find a cartographer. Together the grade 1 class and I with great excitement sent those 140 characters hurling through cyberspace in hopes that someone, anyone (well hopefully a cartographer) would answer.
It took about an hour or so when we hit pay dirt. Enter Tyler Amidon, or @mramidon if you know him on Twitter. Now @mramidon is not a cartographer. He is a middle school Maths teacher from Colorado. BUT, his friend IS a cartographer. So lets stop and reflect for a second on the concept of CHANGE. How has technology changed the way we communicate and learn over the past 5,10,20 years? Don’t answer that yet. So to continue, @mramidon and I engage in a battle of 140′s or less and he agrees to get his cartographer friend Dale the cartographer in on the action. Great! Now what?
So I go back to school the next day and tell my grade 1 class- Good news: I FOUND a mapmaker! Bad News: He is halfway across the world. We brainstormed the idea of how we might connect with this cartographer. I loved some of the ideas which included an excursion to the Rocky Mountains that sounded awesome, a long distance telephone call- not sure my school would appreciate the long distance charges, Snail mail? Well if we want to follow up with the inquiry next year in grade 2 perhaps – too long. We needed a tool that was so convenient, so easy to use and free. One grade 1 shouted out ‘I skype my grandparents on the weekend, lets use that’! I saw the eyes of few junior ‘skypers’ out there lift their little heads. A few whispers from the unsure. Then yes skype was it. (@mramidon and myself had already exchanged our skype handles prior to this in anticipation of such revelation). Yes its amazing what a grade 1 teacher and a mathematics teacher can do when they put their heads together!
Now the fun part. The call:
My kids were SO excited. On the day, Tyler and I got to have a 30 minute chat session while the kids were at PE, this was the first time either of us had talked to each other, other than Twitter a week or so ago. So the kids come back and get organised. We did alot of front loading the first week of the unit about maps and change. Kids had recorded their questions. We invited other staff members to come and join, our Librarian was keen, such a risk taker. So the skype lasted over 30 minutes. Kids peering into another world across the globe. Tyler and Dale had their kids with them floating around in the background which kept my kids interested too. Dale was so knowledgeable and the kids really enjoyed hearing all about maps an change. Hands down their favorite was the map of the stars that he showed us.The cool thing about the whole skype chat other than the information, connecting and sharing that was taking place was that means by which we were doing this. Dale and Tyler were also live streaming the skype chat through their school website and recording it. So we were watching our skype chat and their live video stream at the same time! That’s kinda cool.
So after we finished, a few hours later, Dale and Tyler uploaded the live stream recorded session onto YouTube. We used this recording to reflect on and revisit parts of the conversation that took place. Everyone of course wanted to see themselves ask a question, or get up close and personal with the camera. But that wasn’t enough for me. I thought okay, I can send the link to the parents via our class blog and they click on it- ok that’s alright. I wanted to somehow make deeper connections. Then staring up at me was the children’s reflections we did earlier in the day. These were simple drawings of 1 thing they learned from the skype chat that they did not know before about maps and change. QR Codes came to mind, so using a QR Code generator I was able to use the YouTube link to create a QR code of the skype call., print out the QR code and glue it on their reflections.
So essentially this was a link from the physical world to the virtual.
So lets recap the technology we used to enhance learning and make it more convenient and interesting: Twitter, Skype, Livestreaming, YouTube and QR Codes. All integrated into a unit of inquiry learning engagement that took all of say 1 hour.
My new challenge: Get QR Code readers on parents mobile devices so they can join our class in our connected, reflective journey.
Thanks Dale & Tyler!