Learning becomes far more meaningful when we can learn with others outside of the classroom. Students get excited about learning when they can learn alongside other students in our country and from other countries around the world. Students come to understand why we do what we do at school, and that has value!
Over these past few weeks, I've really come to see what a "flat classroom" means. At the end of November, I saw a tweet from Karen Lirenman (@lirenmanlearns) that she did an art lesson with her Grade 1 class that I blogged about weeks before. A former student taught this lesson to my class, and I recorded his instructions using both video and the Livescribe Pen. Karen was able to use these recordings to instruct her group of Grade 1's in British Columbia. Wow! Amazing! It occurred to me that with the use of social media, teachers no longer need to be the experts in all subjects. We can use the lessons shared by others to help teach our own students. We can learn alongside other educators that can help make us better teachers. I know that this is what I'm experiencing right now!
As we learn from other teachers, our students can learn from each other too. Right now, my students are working on descriptive writing, including learning how to spell the colour words correctly in their writing. On Tuesday and Thursday, my students helped practice their skills through a Twitter chat called #namethattoy. Students tweeted descriptive clues about toys to other students from Canada and the United States, and they responded with their guesses. Then the other classes tweeted their clues too, and we responded as well. Students were reading and writing with a purpose, and from our room, they were connecting to others from miles away. Look at this video shared by Karen Mensing's class (@msmensing) in Phoenix Arizona:
The real impact of this Twitter chat came to me on Friday afternoon when one of my Grade 2 boys said to me after nutrition break, "Miss Dunsiger, on the weekends I think to myself, I wish that we came to school all week long. Wouldn't that be fun?" Then he started talking about the colour writing activities from this week (featured in the Animoto slideshow below), and he asked me, "What do you have planned for next week? Who can we connect with then?"
And this is why I now see value in the "flat classroom." Before I started using social media in the classroom, students never got as excited about learning as they do now. This excitement helps motivate all of my students to learn. I see success. As the quote at the bottom of my email says, "If they don't learn the way you teach, teach the way they learn." I think that I'm finally doing that!