"Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades”
Author and educator Kathy Cassidy discusses her new book and how primary teachers can integrate technology into the classroom. “Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades”, makes a compelling case for connecting our youngest students to the world, using the transformative power of Internet tools and technologies. Cassidy 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.
Those interested in connecting with Cassidy should check out “Connected from the Start” book club for Connected Educator Month in the #ce15 community. Join her there to read, learn and think together on connecting primary students from the start!
Rod Berger: What was missing from K-3 classrooms that started you down the path to this book?
I wanted my students to be able to create and writing on a blog seemed to be a way to accomplish this. Once we began posting online, I realized the tremendous potential that blogs and other web tools had to give my students an authentic audience, to help them understand and begin to practice the importance of digital citizenship and to give my students a perspective of life and learning beyond our classroom and community.
RB: Common sense might say that if we want our students to be successful innovators, in high school and beyond, that we should make sure to create a learning path early on without leaving it to chance or to Facebook and/or Twitter. Was this a part of your thinking or was it that the tools were available and could be reconfigured to be age appropriate learning tools?
KC: My first concern is always what is best for my students now. How can I help them to learn the concepts that are age-appropriate and part of our curriculum? I began to use social media tools myself and began to see it being used unwisely by some older students, I began to see the potential for what I was doing to have an impact on their later use of these tools.
We talk a lot about how we want others to see us in our online spaces and use our mistakes as learning moments. Tools and social networks change quickly and I can’t possibly predict what media my students will be using in high school, but I hope what we are doing will have an impact on how they use whatever online spaces they are part of later in life.
RB: How has the integration of technology impacted your students’ creativity and confidence?
KC: Because I have been connecting and using technology in my classroom for over ten years, it’s honestly hard to remember what it was like in the classroom without these tools. I would say that the technology now available in my classroom allows my students to be creative in sharing their learning in a way that was formerly impossible.
At my school, we do student-led conferences. The students put artifacts of their learning, including photos, screencasts and videos onto their digital portfolio (their blog) and then choose what they would like to showcase at their conference.
The pride that shines in their eyes (and those of their parents) as they show these artifacts is a wonderful thing to see. They are not just creating on paper; they are creating digital artifacts that are viewable by the world. They see themselves as part of an online conversation about learning.
RB: What advice would you have for other primary teachers who are beginning a similar journey and need a plan to discuss “connecting” with their student’s parents?
KC: When schools began to use ink and paper instead of slates and chalk, people protested that there was nothing wrong with the way things had always been and that there was no need to do things differently. But society had changed, and schools needed to change as well.
I think the best way to show parents what is possible now is to show what other classes are doing. There are now many classes who have Twitter accounts and who showcase student learning via a blog. Teachers need to share these examples with parents to demonstrate what is now possible. At the same time, teachers should have a solid plan for protecting the students’ identity to go along with those possibilities. This plan will vary depending on the culture of the community and the school district. I share my particular plan in Connected From the Start.
Kathy Cassidy is a primary school teacher, author and class blogger who has won several awards, including the Canadian Innovative Teacher Award from Microsoft, the Canadian Regional Award for Reading and Technology from the International Reading Association and the Kay L. Bitter Award from ISTE. Cassidy is also an Apple Distinguished Educator.