Saturday, January 14, 2012

Keeping Kids Connected

Digital reading and writing has changed me as a learner. On June 24, 2007, I started my journey into blogging and for months before that I was glued to the screen of my computer inspired how other teachers, book lovers and writers could alter my thinking, energize me to begin more self-reflection and connect me with endless learning.

A Year of Reading and Amick's Articles were some of my first mentors as I began to reflect and blog on my own. The writers behind these blogs (Franki, Mary Lee and Sarah) helped model for me how to create my own voice and share ideas and books that meant something to me. They helped me feel apart of the reading and writing club. And then when I connected with them and others I began to feel like there were people out there who might even read what I have to say. I was gifted some identity. Then, I began connecting to others by linking to their thoughts, responding to other's posts and collaborating in events and now this series.

My point in all this is that digital reading and writing has kept me connected as a learner. So, knowing the excitement and energy I receive from the digital world, I think we owe it to our students to think about how we can keep kids connected as well. In my previous posts on digital reading and writing, I shared how embedding mentors into our best practice and using mentors authentically in digital writing deepens learning and invites risk taking. Today, I want to end this series of posts with how we can invite kids into playing with the possibilities of connecting school learning to home, providing access to digital mentors and inviting sharing with each other.

After all of the embedded work I have being experimenting with digital mentors in the classroom, I have been anxious to find a way to keep kids coming back to these. Knowing how kids need us to come back to the paper anchors we create in the classroom, these digital anchors need to be at kids fingertips as well. So, I played with a resource called Weebly that has allowed me to create a place that we access at school and home. Weebly has allowed me to customize a webpage that holds the learning we experience at school, the digital places we visit and easily embed video, pictures, and documents that are accessible to kids at home. So, in short, here are the top 3 reasons Weebly is working for us:

1. Weebly is allowing us to connect the learning we share at school to children's own homes.
Last year, I posted about the need for connected learning vs. homework. I shared my strategies as a parent for keeping connected with my own children as well as opportunities I provide my students for connecting school to home. Weebly has allowed me to open up our classroom to not only my students but to our parents as well. I have organized pages according to themes and subjects with each page reflecting the big messages kids are learning about through pictures, video and links. Just this week we read an e-book on Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears as well as sang a rhyming song (just the first verse ) about the states of matter on the scholastic site. My students began asking me immediately to please add them to the web page. I know they will come back to the link at home or during their computer choice at school.

2. Weebly has allowed me to scaffold for students. I am specifically thinking here about how the blog page feature. Helping first graders understand blogging has been much easier this year as we all have participated in commenting and posting once on a whole class blog page that is embedded on our webpage. It has allowed me to teach commenting with scaffolding and ease with one posting page instead of multiple pages that will appear later when kids are on their own kidblog page. We can study a comments made, make observations about what kids are writing, and note when a comment may need some depth. I also use the webpage as a scaffold for introducing digital sites (when I am organized) especially math games I embed during our choice time. I have the games organized on a symbaloo linked to our math page. So, when I am ready to study a new math concept and find a game that compliments some of our thinking, I add it to it and navigate kids through our webpage as I introduce it.

3. Weebly encourages sharing. Again, the blog page comes to mind when I think about the sharing kids are experiencing at home and school. This fall I introduced my students to creating stories using pixie software. As students created these digital stories, I have uploaded them to the blog for everyone to comment. What I like about the weebly blog page is that anyone can comment. Kids, parents, grandparents, and anyone with our password can log in and comment using a first name. It has been encouraging to see many family members get on and support our learning community. Weebly also allows me to share the videos and pictures of learning in action. The images allows parents and readers to feel apart of the our community and better understand our work.

My hope is that I can help guide even our youngest readers and writers to experience the excitement of connecting to learning outside the classroom. I know that using digital tools will support the 21st century skills and prepare them for their future. Maybe these little steps will help kids to see the importance of sharing, connecting and collaborating. Every little bit helps:)


Mary Lee said...

Sounds like a resource I need to check out!

olga said...

Wow I can't believe first graders are blogging. Amazing! I congratulate the teacher that stretched her imagination beyond the classroom. :)

Sarah said...

Katie - I'm thrilled to read this post. As a second grade teacher, I often feel alone in my quest to integrate digital literacy tools into my classroom. Connecting school to home through weebly is also another project I am working on. I can't wait to read more!!!

Julie said...

OK...I need to look into Weebly. You've piqued my interest. :)

Miss Foote said...

You know it is a great day when you find a fabulous blog!

Chickadee Jubilee