Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Global, Collaborative Classroom Project

Okay, this one's a little on the longer side. We were asked to find and evaluate a resource for our Social Studies course. I've chosen Food and Culture: A Global, Collaborative Classrooms Project and here's why:

An educator who is dedicated to providing their students with an authentic, global experience will surely see what this project has to offer.
This real-world project allows classrooms from across the world to collaborate and develop knowledge regarding health, responsible citizenship (both locally and globally) in an engaging way. As I have had little experience in Geography and History in classroom settings, I have not seen this in action and had little to draw from regarding a resource. That being said, there is thorough step by step instructions that take a teacher through how to implement such a project and this valuable resource was not be passed up.
Canada and World connections are emphasized heavily throughout the curriculum in every grade. In Grade 6 students are asked to explain the relevance to Canada of current global issues under their overall expectations for Canada’s Link to the World. While looking at McDonaldization, the evolution of the supermarket and culturally similarities and differences, students can collaborate with another culture to share information. Where does food come from? What is the cost of food (consider transportation and storage)? These questions can help guide the unit and are even advised to be displayed to help focus the students. Similar themes are also explored in the Grade 7 Natural Resources unit. Through wikis classes can be paired to explore and exchange information about food, where it is found, how it is used and access to the Food and Culture cookbook can bring the experience to their table. The Food and Culture project provides a teacher with many resources, from lesson plans, to activities and research projects that are aligned with the United Nations Millennium Goals. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, it’s just a matter of outlining what your class’ focus will be.
This project has many strengths. To begin, it caters to the 21st century learner. To the students who have been raised with the internet and want to be engaged through interaction. Using all sorts of technology students can communicate and learn together through Project-Based Learning in a virtual classroom. The project offers plenty of ideas to be used in your unit, and explanations on where to start planning. The project is aligned with many big ideas that we’ve discussed, from backwards design, authentic culminating tasks with a significant audience, students teaching students to name a few.
On the other hand, this is a new, developing project. This means that not all the wrinkles have been ironed out and there’s not quite as many classes on board as you may have wished. There’s no single pdf giving you a day to day schedule as to what should be done or a list of handouts to dish out. It will require time to sort through the abundant resources and it will take effort to organize such a project. It’s not meant for everyone, but it’s a project I would certainly like to be a part of.
For those who prioritize the environment, cross-cultural studies and technology this opportunity is not to be missed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tweet, Tweet

Okay, I must admit, I was pretty skeptical about the whole twitter thing before starting my Teaching & Learning with Technology course. Without having an actual educator's perspective on it, I figured it was just another way to keep tabs on what Justin Bieber was doing at all times. But @zbpipe (our professor's professional twitter username) has truly unlocked some magical educational doors for me, something I greatly appreciate.

I've already networked with dozens and dozens of educators I surely never would have without twitter. All of them posting regularly with insightful comments, links to even more thought provoking blogs, and the resources just never end!

But this weekend is what really has me writing. Without twitter I would have never heard about the 2011 Reform Symposium Virtual Conference. On Saturday morning I couldn't help but noticed multiple educators that I follow tweeting like crazy about " #rscon11 " and I had to figure out what it was all about. Turns out it was an online conference with teachers and professionals around the world (okay so it ended up being mainly from North America, but I saw a couple from South America too!) conversing about various educational topics. From learning about Glogs with Mike Olcott and Jim Dachos to having almost 100 people sit in on a session with David Ginsburg discussing effective classroom management strategies (one of, if not the, main concern of new teachers!) I really couldn't even believe that I was actively participating in such an amazing community of passionate educators from my bed! We could raise our hand, applaud and speak with the microphone to ask questions directly to the speakers! They shared their desktops to show us exactly how to navigate resources or left the whiteboard open for us, the audience, to collaboratively share our stories (like in the "One Thing I've Learned" session).

I have a short attention span and start skimming an article when it gets to be about this length, so I'm going to try to keep my posts concise. Moral of the story, Twitter is one of the best PD steps a teacher in the 21st Century can take.