In our primary classroom, my students blog and comment on the writing of other students a world away. We skype with kids from Down Under, talk with experts about the subjects we’re studying, and used wikis to “crowd-source” all kinds of interesting information. We are fearless. We never say, “Oh, we can’t possibly do that — we’re just first grade.”
A small pK-12 Catholic school, founded in 1859, is discovering the power of eCollaboration among its faculty, and most of all, its students. “Students publish stories they write online,” writes Sister Geralyn Schmidt, “they produce animations; create book trailers; use SMART response systems to share knowledge about specific topics within the curriculum; construct new planets within far off solar systems and describe their features; view on online surgery videos; and edit and upload their multimedia and still images for parents and other students to see.”
Last week I received this question in email: “Do we have any model schools in Norway that could inspire ministers of education and help them promote the use of ICT in their own countries? The examples given are expected to be ‘world class’.” My answer is, regretfully, no.Although Norway has world class equipment, both hardware and software, the way we use what we have is not world class. Traditional classrooms with traditional teachers and students are the norm. But I accept the challenge to create this model in my school.
I have never had students work so hard to solve a problem and fail so badly. And that’s not unusual in science. For the first time in my teaching, I had meaningful conversations with my students about the high failure rate of real scientific experiments and the tenacity it takes to do scientific research. Failing isn’t a bad thing. It’s one experiment closer to finding the answer.
The Ning has connected our faculty in ways we never imagined. We wanted our teachers to connect and share, and share they did! As we got to know each other better, we began to feel a greater sense of community and common purpose. Our faculty can now easily collaborate on lesson plans and community service projects across divisions. They readily share ideas and resources. We now have a virtual community that parallels our physical community, and its powerful anytime-from-anywhere communications capabilities make us feel closer together than ever.
In an era when teaching as a profession is disparaged, even vilified, I say let there be more leaders who know the power of “Woot.” I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember a time I experienced a standing ovation with hoots and hollers for a central office meeting. Let’s have some of that Woot to lighten the psychological load of tightened budgets, restricted resources, and political heat. Joy, says a teacher on our staff who’s a certified Laughter Yoga instructor, is extremely therapeutic.