Step 3: Get Connected

The local arcade in Kati, Mali (West Africa)

It’s not possible to type this fast enough to keep up with the new technologies that are coming out. There are so many resources out there for teachers and students, but it’s not enough to just invest money in hardware. Invest in learning how to use technology to connect students beyond their own communities.  Here are some places to start:

Create a Community: Use technological resources to connect students with each other, other classrooms around the world, parents, other teachers, and more.  I chose a blog as a forum to do this work, but there are many other options. I gave a presentation on my work using social media to engage a wider audience.  These are the main components:

Evaluate your Digital Learning Environment: In the fall of 2011, I did a Digital Learning Environment Inventory for Innovation Academy.  It’s a great place to start looking at how to incorporate more technology into your classroom and school.

Students in Zaporizhya, Ukraine explore the iPhone of a visiting American teacher.

Connect With Classrooms Abroad: There are many sites that provide a safe platform for students to write to each other.  One example is ePals, which allows for penpal relationships as well as collaborative, project-based learning between partner classrooms that may be thousands of miles away. It has a searchable database to look for classes in specific countries, of different ages, or with a unique learning focus.

I saw better access to internet than clean water in this Guatemalan town.

Create a Class Website: Students love to go online, and they’ll even catch themselves reading and writing online for fun. They’ll do homework that’s not required!  It’s independent and exciting. Putting class resources online is easy, but it’s even more interesting to create thematic webpages.  Using sites like weebly and google sites makes it easy for everyone.

Share Student Work Online: Students are very motivated to see their work shown online. You can include all work or exemplars to motivate others.  Here’s an English class in France sharing their language skills in some very unique videos.  Their teacher featured the students reading stories, songs, and original rap.

A student project about Islam

Blog, Blog, Blog: A blog is a great way to share news, or encourage students to write for a wider audience.  There are many easy blog sites to start your own blog (check out blogger and wordpress, for example). Edublogs is a site that is specifically designed for students to use, so it has additional security features. Students are also interested to read teacher blogs.  Many regularly followed my blog while I traveled in China, Ukraine, and Turkey.

Learn Web 2.0 Tools: Web 2.0 refers to online tools that allow for user-generated content. Web 1.0 was about watching and clicking, but now internet users are creating, inventing, and making their own platforms. Discovery Education has a fantastic resource kit to help you learn how to get more interactive in creating your own web content.

Little girl crying over cell phone time in Beijing, China

Bring Social Networking to School: Students are connecting online at home, but we are stifling these connections at school when we ban social networking sites. There are ways to do social networking safely in the context of school.  My students are loving edmodo, a site which allows for online discussion, posting work, and more. Even more exciting is that edmodo can be used as an app on both iPhones and Droids.

Lead Online Discussions: Some students have trouble speaking up in class, but they are much more comfortable in online forums. Sites like collaborize allow students to discuss topics with their classmates in a safe and secure forum. These sites often offer templates for letters to parents and online codes of conduct, tips for online discussions, etc.

Want to learn more? Click here for more websites and technological tools that you should consider checking out.

Have a resource to share? Fill out the form below to share your idea so that we can expand this list!

Go on to STEP 4: Get Abroad.

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