To say I’m pretty jazzed about the possibilities of my classroom learning by connecting with other classrooms and people would be a bit of an understatement. My class regularly learns from and with students and others from across North America and in fact from around the world using social media tools such as Skype, Twitter and blogging.

PLP-cfts_cover2-040313It was exactly one year ago today that I published my first book, Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades. In that time, it has been my observation that more and more teachers are becoming interested in connecting their classroom. I frequently see teachers on Twitter asking if other classrooms would like to connect with theirs or I receive emails from teachers asking me how to get started with connecting.

I started the list below because, when I see these queries, my first reaction is usually “which curriculum outcomes or standards are you looking to teach?” followed closely by “what tool would you like to use to connect?”

Connecting just for the sake of connecting is a valuable activity as it exposes children to other places and cultures, helps to teach online safety and etiquette and helps to prepare them for the hyper-connected world they will eventually be living and working in.

But if you really want bang for your buck, try connecting around a curricular theme or outcome. Kids really do learn best from other kids.

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Keeping my students (meaningfully) connected

As the one-year anniversary of the publication of my book about connecting classrooms approached, I wondered about the ways I had connected my classroom over the past months. Was I still as actively involved with connecting as I had been before I published the book? Or was I content to let that slide?

I went back through my classroom and professional blog posts and photos and was relieved to discover that yes, connecting was still high on our classroom priority list! Because it has become such an integral and natural part of the way we learn, it just doesn’t stand out in my mind the way it did in the past.

Kathy-Cassidy-03I decided that in celebration of this anniversary, I would make a list of the ways I had connected my students in the past year as suggestions for teachers  just beginning their connected classroom journey. Initially, I was going to make a list of all the ways I had seen other teachers connecting, but by the time I had finished with my own list, I found it was quite long.

So I’ve stopped here. I hope you will forgive my self-centeredness and add your own suggestions and links for connecting in the comments. This list is by no means comprehensive.

A couple more notes before I get on with it. First, there are lots of great tools out there to help classrooms connect. The ones below are the ones I have found to be most effective in my classroom. Second, these suggestions are all primary-grades specific (my students are almost all six years old), but it takes very little imagination to think of a way to make them work with older students too.

And now, finally, my list of suggestions to get you started connecting your classroom…

Using Skype or Google Hangout

Using Twitter

Using Blogs

Video

So there you have it. All of the above ideas have helped me to meet an English Language Arts or Mathematics outcome in my classroom. I hope they help you as well.

About the author
Kathy Cassidy is an award-winning first grade teacher who incorporates technology into her classroom to give her students an authentic audience and a portal to the world. She blogs at Primary Preoccupation and with her students at Ms. Cassidy's Classroom Blog. Follow her on Twitter @kathycassidy. Her first book, from Powerful Learning Press, is Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.