November 15, 2013
The Connected Classroom with Kristen Wideen – from Beth Holland
Kristen started out by having 2 iPads with her elementary students. She focused on sight words and did a formalized research study to prove their value for teaching and learning. Her classroom is based on the idea of “open concept” – there are no walls. Two combined grades work together and collide into the library. While at first glance, her room may look similar to others, there are key differences.
Difference #1 – students choose their morning activityWhen students enter in the morning, they can read, blog, or Tweet. They work independently or in groups wherever they like.
Difference #2 – Community ReadOn Tuesdays and Thursdays, the parents are invited in for community read. This time also now includes “let’s teach our parents” opportunities for bringing parents into the connected classroom. In doing this, it has eliminated much of the pushback about what is happening with iPads and technology because the parents have been brought on board to understand the value of devices as an extension of learning.
Difference #3 – less than 20 apps on iPads at all timesAlmost all apps on student iPads are for content creation. The students have developed some fluency with them, and can then choose the creation app to best meet their need.
Difference #4 – curiosityStudents are encouraged to wonder, ask, question, and then blog, write, draw, or come up with any other way to express their interests. Creatures are always in the classroom – worms, slugs, frogs, bug catchers, etc – to be able to explore. The wonder is what provides the platform to connect.
Connecting in LiteracyTechnology is never pushed onto the students. Some of them choose not to use iPads and others bring their own device. Currently, in making connections with literature, students scan a QR code from a bookmark to go to a TodaysMeet room in order to express their ideas.
Video Conferencing with SkypeParents are invited in to see Skypes in action. This allows the class to connect with authors or other experts from around the world. Oftentimes, guests are invited in because of connections made on Twitter. Students can grab an iPad at any time and tweet from the class account – as long as an adult proofs it first. For example, recently, they spoke to author, Ame Dyckman.
Twitter in the ClassroomTwitter really serves as the linchpin in Kristen’s classroom and has completely changed the dynamic of her classroom. They aren’t using Twitter to announce what they are doing. They are using it to teach other students. All tweets are authentic from the students. There are “Twitter Norms” for the class that are posted on the walls in the classroom, but Kristen does not edit. Options for using Twitter in the classroom:
- Wonder Questions – before searching content, students are learning to search people and use it as their information engine.
- Tweet an Author – students make deeper connections with books by tweeting to and with authors.
- Investigations – last year, the students became tadpole experts as they tweeted about their tadpoles and other students began asking questions. In the process, a class from Singapore saw the tweets and had the same thing happening in their room. However, since their tadpoles were a stage ahead, the classes collaborated to teach each other.
- Experiments – do pumpkins float or sink? Students create experiments and connect to other classes to find out. This was a project idea from Projects By Jen. From there, they did an estimation of the number of seeds as well as an exploration of pumpkin or gourd. Real life problems happen within the context of a broader learning community of kids asking kids.