Our ability to think and work creatively is heavily influenced by our workplace….the size of the container. District size doesn’t matter. What matters is group norms and culture. We can’t always control that in our work environments, but we can expand our container by connecting with expansive thinkers.
Intentionally choosing expansive thinkers as thought partners has been the defining element in my professional life. One way I’ve expanded my container is through work with a global team of educators. We only know what we know, and if we limit ourselves to our own district, we are often just reaffirming what we already think. Our global team was asked to keynote at the recent Global Education Conference.
How big is your container? Mine is as big as the world.
Having read the dreaded “I am going to tell you about” 5-paragraph essay until my eyes glaze over and I fall into a comatose state, I have spent years scouring the earth for engaging approaches to writing. My quest has taken me to the promising lands of writing clubs, writer’s notebooks, and writer’s workshops, Four-square, and Six Traits, mystery bags, photo prompts, guided imagery, peer review, passed around team writing, speed writing, personal journals, and Morning Pages. Some were more engaging than others, but nothing too impressive…until….blogging.
So, why is blogging so cool? Here we go!
- An authentic audience.
- Revising! Without begging…and sometimes even student initiated.
- Reading of each other’s writing…ON THEIR OWN! And making positive comments!
- Full control over what gets published…without tons of paper piles.
- Interactions between my students and 5 other schools around the world in Australia, Ireland, Taiwan, Canada, New York, Iowa, and The Netherlands
- Writing…more writing than I could imagine….in every curricular area….long and short, formal and scientific, researched and opinion, argument, informational, narrative…every single day…WITHOUT COMPLAINTS!
- Creativity to make it more fun by adding visual appeal with pictures, drawings and designs.
- Collaboration in all kinds of ways, and in all kinds of projects.
- Interactions and questions and investigation, not only on their own work, but on other students’ work.
- Possibilities of meaningful homework (although I haven’t used that much)
- Even a student initiated, organized, and implemented disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
And I saved the best for last. There is a student that is so quiet…so inside of himself…that I didn’t hear his voice for almost a week after school started. He says almost nothing to anyone all day. When I read his writing the first time, I cried. Even now, months later, to see how perceptive, intelligent, and introspective he is…and to see how the other kids respond to him in writing, and to see how caring he is to other students….well, it is absolutely amazing. This was an opportunity for all us to see him in a different light. His classmates treat him differently now. They actually see him. They include him and invite him…and in response, he has opened up more to them.
That miracle was worth the whole ride itself, but to see the overall transformation of a process that I used to dread and now look forward to with great anticipation….that is amazing.
I use kidblog.org. Here are some step-by-step directions to set up student blogs, as well as some projects to start you out. Blogging in the Classroom
I just have to share this amazing video by our partner school, Mr. Matt McGuire’s Grade 2 class at Kingsclear Consolidated School in New Brunswick, Canada. This song was written, performed and recorded by the class as a culmination of our Eagle Eye to the World Project. It will make your day!
Integrating technology with classroom practice can be a great way to strengthen engagement by linking students to a global audience, turning them into creators of digital media, and helping them practice collaboration skills that will prepare them for the future. Read a short introductory article.