Webinars, Skype chats, Twitter for educators, e-coaching, sleek new online tools for collaboration, MOOCs. Every time you pick up an educational journal, or log onto an “ed-tech” website, you can’t help but read breathless accounts by techno-enthusiasts (like us, in fact!) about the benefits of becoming a “global citizen”.
But to what extent are you, as teachers and school leaders, actually incorporating these digital resources into your practice? What does this lofty goal look like on the ground? How will it work with new curricula?
Is it only the technology-loving front-runners who are on the vanguard of change? Or can other educators of children – perhaps those who are slightly more cautious, a bit more tentative – join in if given a boost from colleagues (some of whom one may only know virtually)?
In this article, we (Nic in the UK and Jules in the US) share five ideas for harnessing the power of digital media in teaching young children, from tweens to toddlers. We will draw from our years of experience as teachers, writers, e-coaches, parents and appreciators of all those who want to step up their practice.
Who knows? We may even persuade you to participate in, or even create your own, global community of educators. And of course share your ideas with your colleagues – both the parts that went well and those forehead-slapping moments when things did not go according to plan!
TedTalks on global citizenship
In today’s world we are nothing if not global citizens. Think of the World Cup and Commonwealth games. Think of YouTube videos you’ve enjoyed from all over the world. Think of how we wrote our book, TechnoTeaching without ever having met each other beyond Skype.
Learn more about what it means to be a global citizen, digital literacy, and redefining citizenship. You’ll also have a chance to reflect on your own practice. Visit: www.edudemic.com/ted-talk-global-citizenship-21st-century-skill/
Idea 1: Skype for Teachers
There are a range of ways you can use Skype. It might be, to begin with, as you would with friends and family – merely using it for a “chat” or discussion. This type of exchange can start with a teacher/class from across the corridor, and move on quickly to #MysterySkypes.
The latter is when one teacher links up with another like-minded soul, and the classes go online at the same time, maps and globes ready, and then attempt to work out where the other class on the screen might be.
Many primary teachers are already big fans of this as you can imagine. But there are other inventive approaches that you can integrate into a lesson too. If you want the students to speak with an “expert”, you could arrange for a museum expert or perhaps a parent to speak with your class. Sometimes “hot-seating” a character or another teacher in another room in costume can really make a module come alive for a student, even sceptical adolescents.
Other ideas could be a “virtual trip”, where you use online resources like 360 degree tours, to visit other places (without the airline ticket). There are a wealth of resources on Skype Classroom, so have a look: https://education.skype.com/mysteryskype and http://vimeo.com/84676799
Idea 2: E-coaching
We are now both e-coaches. Given the fact that we met on LinkedIn two years ago and have since managed to write a book, TechnoTeaching: Taking Practice to the Next Level in a Digital World, using email and Skype, we wondered what we could do next.
Our idea is that we can help teachers to “goal-set and goal-get” using webcams for one-to-one coaching and mentoring sessions and email for liaison purposes. And of course there are no geographical boundaries when you use wi-fi.
We know that teachers do not have time in the day to even eat a sandwich. We know that many educators flock to social media for inspiration and support. We knew that this kind of help had helped us in the past and wanted to be able to reach out and help others. As a result we are currently discussing conferences in China and webinars in Texas.
We don’t know anyone else doing this (at present) and we hope it is a new way of supporting individuals and groups, rather like MOOCs, but more customised. Visit: www.technoteachers.com
Idea 3: Participating in a MOOC
What does MOOC even mean? MOOC is the acronym for Massive Open Online Courses. Several top-notch universities have made many of their online courses freely available. People anywhere in the world can take a course, as long as they have an internet connection.
MOOCs are not just a free resource, they represent a revolutionary way of learning. They are disrupting the world of the brick and mortar universities.
It is easy to get started with a MOOC. Whether you want to take that poetry class you have been meaning to, or learn about solar energy, or big ideas of the 20th Century, a MOOC might be for you. All you need is an open mind, a passion for finding the connections between ideas, a love of independent (lifelong) learning, and a strong interest in exploring different points of view. If you’re reading this article, you probably have all those characteristics in spades.
The MOOC we are currently taking is called “Leaders of Learning”. Available through Harvard’s edX, the course is taught by Professor Richard Elmore, a leader in the school reform movement.
Over a six-week period we will identify and develop our “personal theory of learning and how it fits into the shifting landscape of learning”. Through videos of Prof Elmore teaching, discussions, readings, interactive activities – combined with social media, we will think hard about “how we learn, what we learn, where we learn, and why we learn”.
More on MOOCs
Other websites offering MOOCs:
Idea 4: Twitter chats
Are you on Twitter? If you are, you have probably heard of #ukedchat and how Twitter “chats” can work. It is not silly chatter – it is focused, thematic and supportive. Teachers log-on to a “chat”. The chat can be live at scheduled times, normally post-school, or archived.
You log-on to Twitter. Search the #chat and watch and then contribute as you like. You will hear how other educators feel about a topic and they will normally add links to illustrate their arguments. This evidenced-based theory is currently how education is moving on, as we learn more about learning.
Twitter chats can be a great use of your time as an educator, because in terms of CPD you will be able to “follow” those who inspire you, see that others might agree with you, and even find some food for thought on a Thursday night, after EastEnders, from the comfort of your sofa.
Getting started on Twitter
Idea 5: Radio Stations focusing on EdTalk
If you have not heard of BAM! Radio before, now is the time! Founded in 2007, BAM Radio (it stands for Body and Mind) is the largest education radio network in the world, with interviews from top leaders, advocates, and educational journalists who have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in the field.
So, the next time you are taking a long walk or drive, tune into BAM!’s K-12 Greatest Hits, (for an American audience but with lots of potential for inspiring UK educators too), for example, or How is Globalization Changing How and What You Teach? Or, specifically for your age group, Surprising Benefits of Video Games for Teens and Parents and Positive Failure: Persuading Teens and Parents that Failure is Good and Necessary.
Elsewhere, if you are innovation-minded, visit RadioActive! 101, a pan-European site focused on promoting inclusion, informal learning, employability, and active citizenship. Try out some of their live broadcasts of young people performing music (for example, students from the School of Performing Arts at the University of East London).
You might become such a fan of internet broadcasts that you decide to have your students create their own podcasts to deepen their understanding of a particular curricular unit. If so, EdTech Teacher, a free site that provides tools for teachers, explains what tools you will need and shows how to upload your podcasts to the web. Go for it!
EdTalk Radio Stations
We both hope that you have now been able to consider ways in which you can be a global citizen, be it through Skyping, online radio or being a participant in a MOOC, and that you see that there is personalised and forward-thinking CPD available to you and your school right now through e-coaching and Twitter.
Our experience in education has been that you take one (digital) step at a time. Start in the familiar or with what you are most curious about. Look at what support is there for you – and then have a “play”. Throw the rulebook out of the window, look over the fence at what others are doing, and get involved. You never know where in the world it might lead. We didn’t.
Dr Nicole Ponsford and Julie Wood are the authors of TechnoTeaching: Taking Practice to the Next Level in a Digital World (ISBN:978-161250679 1, price?£18.95,?published by Harvard Education Press, distributed outside of the US by Eurospan Ltd, London.