As I look back on what I have done this week, the Skype sessions I have helped coordinate with Van Meter, Iowa classes and Merton, Wisconsin classes stand out above anything else I have done. Yes, I have really tried to create some engaging, thought provoking, 21st Century lessons for my classes this week, but what is more 21st Century then connecting with other people in our world!
I have made these connections on many levels. Working with Shannon Miller is an amazing experience. Her knowledge and enthusiasm are spurring me on to be a better teacher. Working more closely with the grade level teachers in my own school has been a great lesson for me. I get to see them relate to their students in a whole new way and learn by watching them. Listening to teachers at Van Meter, and their passion for their students, brings out my own enthusiasm. Most importantly, I get to see our students connect with students almost 400 miles away, and get really excited about it!
Our second grade students were so excited at the end of the Skype call to have met their new friends in Iowa! I knew they couldn’t wait to do it again. Our third graders were so involved in questions for their partner class they didn’t want to stop! Our Kindergarten class couldn’t stop looking at the class on the Smartboard. I don’t think they even looked at the book we read very much!
So what does this boil down to? The content we covered (reading “Where the Wild Things Are”) took second place to the relationships we were establishing. Building global relationships is a 21st Century skill. The students were engaged in their new friends and the ability to communicate with them. Human beings have a need to communicate. We now have the technology to communicate beyond the classroom and establish relationships that help us learn, grow and become global citizens in a way never possible before.
Yes, we will continue to incorporate the curriculum into our connections. But it is the connection that is making the curriculum more meaningful and engaging. I am really proud of all our teachers who are involved in the Van Meter – Merton Connection. I am even more proud of our students for their interest, enthusiasm and desire to continue our new relationships.