Lead the Way

I think student empowerment begins with teacher empowerment. It is up to mentors, teachers, and parents to expose children to the transformational power of online communities. As Derek Muller explains in his new clip called Learned Helplessness, school has become something kids have to endure and therefore kids develop a learned helplessness around learning. Many students do not see learning and achieving their passions as something that they can do for themselves. Watch the clip below:

I’ve always been energized by collaborating on projects and working off each others’ ideas to create better ones. However, all of my experience until now has been face to face. Global collaboration is new to me and I’m wondering How’d I not think of this before?!

There are several projects and professional learning happening this year at my school that has shown teachers the power of connecting to a greater community using the web:

  • Our 1st and 4th graders participated in the If You Learned Here global collaborative project. It was an exciting experience connecting and contributing to a project housed in the cloud between participants. Our students enjoyed sharing about their school, as well as learning about other schools around the world. Recently the 1st and 4th graders met up to peruse the collaborative ebook that served as the project’s final product, and the prideful buzz in the room was contagious.
  • Our 4th graders are in the middle of a project called Together in the GCC and it has led to making connections with teachers and students from Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The kids eagerly gather research each week in preparation to create videos and share their finding with the GCC community. Equally enthusiastic are the teachers, who collaborate each week to share ideas and tips. When first starting the project, I found participants through Twitter, as well as emailing schools and asking that they forward the project description to their 4th grade teachers. We began communicating via email and Google Hangouts, but now easily converse about the project using Google Chat. We have formed a powerful partnership and hope to continue the project and make it better each year.
  • I recently helped plan a unit with Jodee Junge for her 3rd grade class to learn about human migration. We will use Flipgrid to gather migration stories from teachers, parents, and Jodee’s and my PLN. By hearing of others’ migration experiences, we think it will evoke empathy within her students and enable them to better internalize the concepts and causes behind migration.
  • This year I have taken on the roll of New Faculty Coordinator and am utilizing my new skills and ideas for online collaboration. I am using Google Classroom to facilitate discussion, share tutorials, and even create assignments such as Make a Twitter account, connect with each other,  and follow your new school.  I shared Jeff’s Twitter tutorial, as well as a clip of him talking about how the internet is a mass of communities.  I also shared the recent Where There’s Smoke Podcast about Communities that included Jeff as the guest speaker. It gave many of the teachers, most of whom are beginning their first international teaching post, a sense of calm in knowing that the pulse of the community is not where it was created, but in the hearts of the members and that the community can still flourish even if it is apart. I also surveyed the teachers to get an idea of their experience with the Google Education Tools, which you can’t live without at our school. Knowing what they need, I have been creating and sharing short screencasts showing them how to effectively use Gmail, Calendars, and Drive. The best part was that a few of the teachers responded with other tricks and tips and agreed to create a screencast of their own. Little by little, these new teachers have ‘friended’ me on facebook and are sending me emails and opening up with their fears, anticipation, and excitement. I am getting lots of great feedback and am confident that we are creating strong, supportive bonds without ever having met.
Photo Courtesy of Mike via Flickr
Photo Courtesy of Mike via Flickr

These projects and learning experiences have opened me and many others at my school, to new ways of creating student centered approaches to learning. It is important to show teachers and students the possibilities of connecting to other learners around the world. Once we allow our learners to be back in the ‘driver’s seat’ of their learning process and goals, we can leave Learned Helplessness behind.



2 thoughts on “Lead the Way”

  1. Hi Randi,

    You have some really great ideas above. I feel like ever since COETAIL started I have felt really inspired by what other teachers are doing around the globe. It really makes the world seem so much smaller than I once thought. Students and teachers CAN really collaborate with one another from across oceans and never actually meet. One thing I would really like to try is the idea you have of Together in the GCC. I saw a similar idea from Global Classroom called Week Without Walls (http://globalclassroom2014-15.wikispaces.com/Week+Without+Walls) I want to use it for the Who We Are unit with my grade 3’s next year. What better way to have students learn about other cultures than from those living within them.


  2. Hi Randi,

    I agree with Tanya – COETAIL is very inspiring and it’s wonderful to see what other international teachers are up to. Your post was one of these inspirations.

    You write about teachers joining communities to essentially model and guide this process for students. When I think about it, it is simply practicing what you preach. And communities are powerful. One issue we have with upper primary student blogs at my school is that there is not enough traffic to the sites and as a result, neither teachers or students see the value of blogs. Within our Early Years class sites, their sites (each student has a page on the class site and they use Easy Blog Jr. to post) receive a ton of visitors – because they have built a community of learning and sharing. Next year, one of my goals is guide the upper grade students and teachers to create sites with content that creates communities, a place that people want to visit and share ideas. I am not quite sure how this will go down (I know I will be talking to the Early Years teachers) but I still have some things to work out.

    Also, I found the ‘learned helplessness’ part of your post also very thought provoking. When you wrote, ‘…students do not see learning and achieving their passions as something that they can do for themselves’ this made me a little sad because I think it’s true in many schools. And then the idea within the video where he says something to the extent of someone giving him the opportunity, not him making it for himself. I find that I struggle with that myself sometimes, still as an adult. I sometimes have to remind myself that I am the person who must kick down the door as no one is going to open that for me. But when I think about this, I learned this from my parents, not from my teachers.

    Do you think that teachers are just too easy on the students or is this more of a lesson for parents to give their children? I tend to think that it would be great if it would come from both, but why isn’t this happening now in schools? Do we do too much hand holding to make sure every student is successful? Is it okay for students to fail? Communities might be a very nice supplement to help with these lessons.

    Thanks for an inspiring post and it looks like you are doing some great work at your school.



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