These are precarious and turbulent times.
In a normal world, educators can go into their respective working spaces, collaborate with colleagues in person, share stories, visit some neighboring schools in their area, and even attend a conference face-to-face. However, many of these ideas seem foreign at present.
Social media can be pervasive and detrimental if left unchecked. However, with discipline and focus, pandemic or not, it allows us to connect with other educators around the globe, imbibe in our niche passions, learn alongside each other, enhance our perspectives and more. These connections pay dividends in our professional and personal growth, allow us to feel more connected to a community, and can help us in times of need for feedback, mentoring, ideas, resources, student mentor experiences, future employment and more.
In sum, I think the pandemic has highlighted how important it is to stay globally connected when more local and face-to-face connections become impossible at times.
Below, I aim to illuminate how I stay professionally connected to my COETAIL colleagues and beyond.
One of the easiest ways that I stay connected to my COETAIL colleagues is through Twitter. Sharing my posts/reflections of my learning through the #COETAIL and #COETAIL13 hashtags has helped me connect with not only my fellow Online 13 tribe further, but also past and future cohort members. Being part of the COETAIL Online 13 Twitter list makes it easy to see what others in my "13" tribe are posting, too!
Another way that I've stayed connected and collaborated with my COETAIL crew beyond our respective blogs, is through backchanneling on WhatsApp. In courses two and three, I had the privilege to work on collaborative group projects with three other awesome educators in this cohort (Check them out on Twitter: Megan, Danielle and David). To read more about what we collaborated on, check out this blog post on our course two project, and this one for our course three project.
WhatsApp allowed us to determine times to video conference together, quickly check in with each other for feedback and more. This casual backchannel platform carried on beyond this project, further strengthening our bonds. We would check in on each other during heated times through the pandemic, share educational resources, and even reach out for support other group members with regards to the unfolding war in the Ukraine.
Presenting at Conferences
Global conference presentations are yet another way that I stay connected and collaborate with others. Not only is this a nice way to give back to the community, but, as an added plus, presenters often get free all access passes to these events. This, "give a little, receive a lot in return", strategy fills my bucket tenfold as I can learn from and connect with so many wonderful educators across the globe.
My school is owned by a bigger organization that owns many schools around the world. Each year, they host a united professional learning event called "CogCon". This year, I put my hand up to present in the educational technology strand. This collaborative opportunity allowed me to build closer connections within two other great educators in my organizational professional network (Check them out on Twitter: Tim and Adam), as well as empower many other educators attending the conference globally who attended our session. Click here to see the reach our presentation had! I also documented some of the journey of how Tim and I collaborated on this presentation, here.
My relationships with Tim and Adam continued to grow throughout the year as we collaborated further on other projects such as guest speakers for inquiry projects with students and action team inquiries on developing and strengthening aspects of our digital citizenship curriculum.
21CLHK & Toddle TIES
Two other international conferences that I presented at this year that allowed me to share my knowledge on various topics, as well as learn from other great educators around the globe, were 21CLHK (21st Century Learning Hong Kong) and, more recently, Toddle's "The Inquiry Educator's Summit" (TIES). Both of these experiences gave me further opportunities to stretch my perspective, develop my professional growth and grow my professional learning network (PLN).
Here are two Twitter feeds for both, showing the greater extent of my interactions: #21CLHK & #ToddleTIES. Attached below are some images from these events that I participated in:
As an International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) educator, #PYPchat on Twitter gives me the opportunity to learn from and share with others innovative ideas regularly. When I have the time, I do like to participate in the synchronous chats, too. This hashtag has helped forge many of great professional friendships and collaborations over the years.
One way I gave back through this community recently was being asked to be a guest speaker for a "Making the PYP Happen Workshop" in the region, offering a mini-workshop of what agency could look like.
If interested, here is a link to show my Twitter engagement through this hashtag. I've attached a couple of photos below as well:
#PubPdAsia & #AppleEDUchat
Two other hashtags and communities that run regular chats on education and that I've grown tremendously from are #PubPdAsia and #AppleEDUchat. Being honest, I haven't participated in either as much as I'd normally like to, but it's been a busy and trying year. For balance, I couldn't juggle them all and something needed to give a little.
I'm particularly looking forward to when we can move to more face-to-face gatherings, which is one of the things I really like about #PubPdAsia. You get to network and meet up with educators in your area having chats on various educational topics over liquid refreshments in a pub in your area!
How about you?
How do you stay connected? What experiences have helped you grow your PLN over the past year that stretch your perspective, get you collaborating with others and add value to growth as an educator? I'm not sure about you, but I'm really looking forward to a day when face-to-face professional learning conferences are more of the norm again!
This post wraps up a series of posts that describe a "Sharing the planet" unit of inquiry. You can view the entire thread of posts here. This unit was also the focus for injecting over a year of COETAIL course learning, which is the gist of what COETAIL course five's final project is all about.
"Expert" Explanation Texts
To communicate their research of their personally meaningful climate change inquiry projects, students created explanation texts. The texts would serve as catalysts to sharing this knowledge with their peers, giving them an authentic audience (more on that below).
After co-constructing success criteria, looking at and modelling countless exemplars, and matching the writing to the lines of inquiry for the unit, the majority of our students drafted or published their research.
In sum, the summative text pieces offered a rich demonstration of the learning and knowledge that children inquired into, offered them a choice in what they were interested in learning about, and students were given a lot of flexibility in terms of medium and style in which they were to present their work.
Here are a few examples of the texts created:
Learning from Others - Part One
COETAIL courses focus deeply about how to embed technology authentically and with purpose. In addition, several COETAIL courses concentrate heavily on the power of collaboration.
Given that our grade four context was still online, we wanted to provide children with a way to publish their work across all classrooms. We also wanted children to imbibe in the experience of learning from their peers in jigsaw style, but also provide opportunities for tons of choice in what they wanted to learn about.
Since the previous Padlet we used for purposes of curation of resources and modelling research was met with great success, my team and I concluded that, "If it is not broken, then why fix it?"! Being the more tech savvy individual on my team, I created another Padlet where each student in each class could publish their research, which they could then use to learn off each other. I showed the Padlet to the team, added them as collaborators and we demonstrated how it would work to the students.
Below is a visual of the results of our "Published Research" Padlet:
Learning from Others - Part Two
To make the jigsaw learning experience more powerful, we decided to construct a graphic organizer with some carefully crafted reflection questions to guide and document student learning.
The rules were simple - students had to choose two topics other than their own and each student's research that they learnt from had to be from a different classroom.
Below are two completed graphic organizers from this experience:
If all of the above didn't best capture the depth of knowledge that unfolded for the students, we also wanted to provide another opportunity for students to reflect on the key aspects of this unit to give it some sense of closure.
Note that no unit officially ends - in fact, we're always looking for those opportunities to make connections, show ACTION and make meaningful transfer of knowledge. Put simply, we do focus our time on other inquiries, but it's not like we close this chapter of learning and put it away under lock and key.
Since COETAIL provided opportunities to look at protocols and visual thinking routines to unleash deep learning, I suggested we use a visual thinking routine or two in our reflection questions. You can see what my team and I collaboratively decided on in the example below.
We also wanted to bring back the initial unit provocation infographic that we introduced to the students to capture their prior knowledge. It was great to come back to this and see what kind of detail the children could now provide.
Below is an excellent visual example of one student's growth as a result of this unit of inquiry:
Thank You - Dear Reader!
If you've been following this whole series of posts on this unit, I just want to take the time to thank you for your commitment.
I hope that there was something that sparked your thinking or perhaps there was one takeaway that ignited a spark to try something new or differently in your context.
Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, comments or wonderings.
Lastly, I just also want to express my thanks for the rich learning experiences that COETAIL provided. The learning that has transpired and transferred has benefitted myself, those who I teach, and likely many colleagues whom I collaborate with regularly.