Read an excerpt from Kathy Cassidy’s new book about global learning in the primary grades

 

PLP-cfts_cover2-040313In her new book Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades, primary teacher Kathy Cassidy makes a compelling case for connecting our youngest students to the world, using the transformative power of Internet tools and technologies. (Watch a video and read an excerpt from Chapter 1 below.)

The 120-page eBook — published today — is the first in a series of solo-author works developed by Powerful Learning Press to support teachers and school leaders as they make the shift to digitally infused, inquiry-driven teaching and learning, fueled by students’ own passions and creative interests.

Kathy’s well-balanced text presents both the rationale for connecting students “from the start” and the how-to details and examples teachers need to involve children in grades K-3 in using blogs, Twitter, Skype and other social media to become true global learners. The digital book is highly interactive and features dozens of color photos, 10 short videos, and hundreds of live links to helpful downloads and outside resources.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dean Shareski

Introduction: If I Can Do It, So Can You

Chapter 1. Why Connect?

Chapter 2. Connecting with Skype

Chapter 3. Why We Use Blogs to Connect

Chapter 4. How to Blog with Primary Students

Chapter 5. Using Blogs as Digital Portfolios

Chapter 6. Connecting with Twitter

Chapter 7. Other Ways to Connect

Chapter 8. Open Your Classroom to the World

Connected From the Start is available from the PLPress bookstore for $16.95 in a PDF format suitable for desktop, laptop and tablet computers. To celebrate the release of its first solo-authored book, Powerful Learning Press is offering a $2 discount through April 23. Use the coupon code CONNECTEDKIDS.

Download here!

 

 Excerpt from Chapter 1: “Why Connect?”

 

I’ll never forget my students’ first online connection with another classroom. It was a time before Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook were household words. YouTube, Google and Skype were still new, interesting ideas, and most of the other social networking tools that have now made connecting with others a routine part of our lives were yet to be invented. I had started our first classroom blog but hadn’t seen anyone else who was blogging with primary-aged students.

Finally, in late 2005, I found Jody Hayes, a Year One (what educators in Canada and the United States would call kindergarten) teacher in New Zealand and her class of Voyagers. We connected our students using our classroom blogs.

As part of our whole group reading, my class would regularly read what her class had posted on their blog. Together, we would compose comments for their classroom blog and for the blogs of her individual students. The Voyagers did the same on our blogs.

Sharks and Volcanoes, Oh My!

One day, when we checked their blog, we found a picture with a group of children pinching their noses as they gazed at the body of a dead shark. Perhaps plugging your nose at an odious smell is universal because my students immediately understood what was happening in the picture.

stinky-shark

There was excitement at the idea of a real shark in a schoolyard. There was a clear understanding that the odor of this particular shark was not something pleasant. Then, after a pause, my students looked at me and asked, “Where did they get the shark?” To my land-locked prairie children, many of whom had never been outside of our small city, finding a shark was an entirely unlikely experience (albeit one they all wanted to have). That image led us to discover that our blogging buddies’ school was near the ocean.

I watched as the students processed this foreign sounding information. Their eyes showed the same sense of wonder when we discovered the International Date Line and the difference in times between our two classrooms. They were fond of saying “The kids in New Zealand are sleeping now, right?” at random times throughout our day.

When we were learning about volcanoes (another unlikely landmark on the prairies) and posted our new knowledge on our blogs, Jody’s class told us they had a volcano near their school. When my students realized that this volcano sometimes actually spewed ash, they were beside themselves with excitement.

volcano

Jody and I discovered that the last half hour of our school day in Moose Jaw corresponded with the first half hour of school (on the following day) in their city of Palmerston North. Because of this, we had a small but precious window of time to connect our classrooms “live” using Skype.

My students’ reactions to the first Skype call were a surprise to me. When they heard the Kiwi-accented voices of Jody and her students, they looked at me blankly. “Are they speaking French?” they asked. For the first while, I had to “translate” what the New Zealand students said so that my students would understand.

We chatted with the Voyagers about what they liked to do after school, what their classroom looked like, and books each group enjoyed. After the end of the call, my students had a lot more questions for me. They wanted to know why all of the Voyagers were wearing the same clothes. Did all kids in New Zealand wear those clothes? Why is it tomorrow there? How can it be summer there when it is winter here?

The Power of Connection

Our connection with the five-year-old children in New Zealand was a unique and authentic learning experience for all the students. Together we discovered so many things we had in common and so many interesting differences.

MARMITEBoth classes were learning to read and to write. We all liked to play with our friends after school, but the sports we played were not the same as those they enjoyed. Some of our foods were the same, but what on earth was Marmite? My students wondered what their New Zealand friends did at Christmas, at Halloween and at every other occasion.

Having the opportunity to converse with and peek into the lives of children with whom they had so much in common, but who lived in such a different setting, was an experience I had never before been able to give my students. It was a chance to make my classroom more culturally diverse than it could ever be without this global window. My students’ concept of the world was richer and more authentic than it had ever been. I was hooked. The learning that took place thanks to this powerful connection was an experience that I wanted my students to have every school year.

Today, I don’t just hope that my current students will have experiences similar to the one I’ve just described. I look for opportunities to bring the world into my classroom through online connections. As new social media tools become available, it is getting easier all the time to seek out teachers and groups of students in distant lands and learn together.

More and more, teachers are discovering the value of a connected classroom. You, too, can bring the world into your classroom.

Why This Global Learning Matters

Some teachers I talk to say they do not have time to connect with other classrooms because they are too busy covering their curriculum. In fact, connecting with others is not an addition to our curriculum. It is not something we do after we have finished our reading and math for the day. It is the way we do our curriculum. From practicing counting by fives or comparing similarities and differences via Skype, to writing for a worldwide audience, to making and sharing videos of social studies concepts on our blogs, we connect and invite the world to learn with us and to help us learn.

Although learning from others is a key reason why I continue to connect my classroom online, there are many other reasons as well.

In the conclusion of Chapter 1, Kathy explores five reasons why global learning matters to our youngest students. © Kathy Cassidy 2013

grade-one-world

Buy the book

Tweet about Connected From the Start!

Join Kathy and Powerful Learning Practice CEO Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach for a one-hour Twitter chat on Sunday, April 14 at 7pm EDT. Use the hashtag #plpnetwork to follow along and participate!

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We believe the best way to experience this book is digitally, because of all the rich multimedia content, but if you are interested in a print version of the book, you can let us know here.

 

About the author
John Norton is Coordinator of Content and Capacity Building with Powerful Learning Practice and Editorial Director of Powerful Learning Press. He's also editor of the PLP group blog Voices from the Learning Revolution. Learn more about John here.