Any observer can see the vast amount of student collaboration transpiring online from teachers sharing their classroom practices via Twitter chats, class blogs or websites, Instagram, Periscope and more. Likewise, we see the rich discussion educators are having about their pedagogical practices on weekly Twitter chats, Facebook groups, blog post comments, and more. However, what happens next? Granted, we (as educators) are pushing each other’s thinking and offering ideas, but how are we taking our practice a step further and truly connecting with those who we collaborate with online?
I recently shared about a great [New] resource to find content. In my recent post titled, “Google + Pinterest + Dropbox – a Lesson Planning Dream,” I share how users can find engaging resources, save them online, and share them openly. In a follow up post, I share how you can use it for students and parents, too! This resource is appoLearning.
appoLearning is about better teaching through digital resources. It can support teaching and learning in a variety of ways (many of which you will see in action below). appoLearning helps teachers prepare for class lessons by quickly searching through thousands of previously submitted lessons and collections (I’ll talk more about collections in a moment) and enables teachers for the very first time to move into a next generation of real world collaboration through use of their platform. The best part of appoLearning though it allows me to not only share resources but to also have conversations around those specific resources as I collaborate with others in more meaningful ways.
Think for a moment about how this could truly change teaching and learning and break us out of previous habits and ways of practice.
Lesson Planning No Longer in Isolation
Traditionally speaking, preparing to teach a skill, concept, or idea begins with a teacher’s lesson plan. I remember in my undergraduate program having to develop comprehensive plans in the Madeline Hunter Lesson Plan Format. This process typically involved me working alone to develop a lesson for students. Often these lessons were ones I’d later teach to a group of students as I was being evaluated by some university advisor or district administrator. Because this method of planning was the system in which I was taught, like most educators, this became the “norm” as I started planning lessons in my everyday practice as a classroom teacher.
Beginning to Reach Out for Ideas
Over the years, my planning habits changed. I became more comfortable teaching, and I was more familiar with the content. The need for such detailed lesson plans was no longer my focus. Instead, my time was more centered on enhancing each lesson by finding “a better mentor text” to use for a writing lesson or finding “a more engaging game” for a math lesson. I found these ideas by countless hours of Google searching, attending conferences, listening to webinars, planning with my team at school, or chatting with fellow educators online.
Questioning my “Collaborative Ideas”
I began thinking about how getting resources from others online has really shaped teaching and learning in my classroom. Sure I’m growing as a professional by gaining new ideas, and my students are growing by engaging with better resources and activities. However, how am I really connecting with other professionals to collaborate, share, and think more deeply about my instructional practices?
Continuing the Conversation Beyond Conferences and Twitter:
I mentioned above how it’s important for me to move beyond curating great resources and ideas from conferences or Twitter chats. In order to really become reflective in my practice, I want to move to a point where I am taking actual lessons and discussing not only my instructional delivery and lesson planning but also how my students engage and perform. We ask our students to collaborate and share online, and we should lead by that example. After all, if “the collective room is the smartest person in the room,” why aren’t we harnessing that knowledge to move beyond chats where we curate ideas and push one another’s thinking but actually start to collaborate on actual pedagogical practices and develop plans to put those ideas into action.
Though my professional network online is large, I have different educators I connect with for different reasons. For example, to see how my friend Steven Anderson and I connect and collaborate, I encourage you to see the recent appoLearning Collection (this is recently launched feature the ability for individuals to collaborate with one another on specific Collections) that we created to discuss the upcoming Connected Educator Month.
Collaborating with Steven to create this Connected Educators Collection was not only easy… the experience was fun. I enjoyed the live discussion feature on the side to collaborate with one another regarding the comments and questions we had as we searched for content to add. Additionally, it was especially beneficial to be able to comment on each resource we added. The resources could easily be reordered simply by dragging them where you’d like to move them. This made organizing the content a breeze. Each piece of content could easily be tagged, too. To see our collection – click here!
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However, as a second grade teacher, I have fellow grade two teachers I often connect with across the country to learn from and share ideas. One such teacher is Kayla Delzer. After reading a recent post titled, “The Problem with Formative Assessment Tools” by Ross Cooper, Supervisor for Instructional Practice K-12 in PA, I immediately started thinking differently about how I was using digital resources in my elementary classroom. I reached out to Kayla and Ross to help me think differently about how our class was using digital resources to support our learning. What I especially appreciate with appoLearning Collections is that collaborators can comment on each resource to discuss the content, how it can be used, and share ideas moving forward. I couldn’t wait to connect with Ross and Kayla to help me plan lessons!
After reading Ross’s post on formative assessment, I knew I had to do something different regarding how I was using digital resources in our class. So, I invited two members of my PLN, personal learning network, to collaborate on a lesson with me. This way, I could share the exact resources from our lesson and get specific feedback on each resource.
How Educators from North Dakota and Pennsylvania Helped Students in Michigan:
Last year our students partnered up to read the latest issue of our Scholastic News magazine. As they were reading together, they were to generate questions based on their reading. During our share time towards the end of the lesson, we came together to take our questions and create a Kahoot Quiz based on our ideas. Kahoot is a free website that allows users to enter questions and make a quiz. After the questions are entered, individuals can login to the quiz via a unique game pin and answer each question. The quiz feels like a game, and students enjoy answering questions. Our goal was to share the quiz with the other second grade classrooms so they could take the Kahoot Quiz after reading the magazine article.
Ross suggested I take this lesson a step further by having students think more deeply about the types of questions they were asking. He shared how it was great that students were doing more than using Kahoot to answer questions I created based on the reading. He liked how I had students actually generate their own questions based on the article. However, he challenged me to encourage the students to begin to evaluate the quality of questions in which they were asking. Furthermore, Kayla shared a Top Teaching Scholastic resource from fellow Michigan teacher, Beth Newingham. The resource Kayla shared will be a great supplement to help those students who many need additional support in generating those higher level questions. After all, like Ross stated in his article on formative assessment, “…what takes places after the digital resources are used – the differentiated instruction – is what matters the most.”
After inviting Kayla and Ross to help me think smarter about my lesson, I can already tell how I can take their ideas and apply them to other lessons. I’m thankful to have tools like appoLearning that allow me to have opportunities to connect and collaborate with teachers anytime, anywhere. You can also stay connected with Kayla and Ross by following their blogs (just click their names to connect).
Please be sure to check out Steven Anderson’s recent post on how he and I collaborated together to collect amazing resources for October’s Connected Educator Month! You don’t want to miss these great educational resources! You can also follow Steven on Twitter for incredible educational content and ideas shared daily, and of course follow appoLearning on Twitter as well!