Saturday, May 31, 2008

Can Personal Connections Exist via the Internet?

As you may know, or have guessed from the name, I have been teaching in a virtual classroom this year. I am in Quebec, Canada while my students in grades 1-4 are in Tokyo, Japan.

I have had several conversations recently in which someone has asked whether I miss being with the kids in the classroom. These people often question the idea that it is possible for me to have a close, connected relationship with my students via the Internet. They can only see the machine in front of me.

I point to the drawing full of hearts with my name written by a beginning writer. It was sent to me by a first grade girl in the fall – just because she wanted to. It is very much like the drawings one receives from grade one students in a classroom. It is very special to me and I keep it posted on the wall beside my desk. It reminds me of the real little person halfway around the world who cares about me as I care about her.

I try to explain to doubters that the exchanges online are different, but in many ways more personal and more honest. We share little bits of ourselves each day. I am always very conscious that my voice is a vehicle that can carry encouragement, disappointment, frustration, elation, determination, and any number of other messages to my students. We cannot always rely on facial cues and body language, so we become energetic speakers and very careful listeners.

So what is your opinion? Do you believe that you can’t have real person-to-person connections without sharing physical space, or do you have your own wonderful personal connections with people around the world?

As for me, I care deeply about the young people in my class who never fail to wish me sweet dreams each night as we sign off. Maybe because there is no hug as they leave the classroom, I am more tuned in to the tone of their voices and the caring that makes it’s way back to me through my headset.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Looking for project collaborators gr1-5

Wow, has it really been that long since my last post? This job has crazy hours. I can’t even come close to keeping up with reading all my favourite blogs.

My students (gr1-4) and I have been reading and talking about Fairy Tales – both traditional and fractured for a couple of weeks. An idea has been slowly forming in the back of my head, and I think it is time to let it out. A Fairy Tale newspaper.

Of course, this is not a particularly new idea. My students could certainly write articles about Fairy Tale events from various points of view. We could make sure to include sports pages and comic strips. I’m sure that would be fun, and the parents might enjoy downloading the finished product from our class site.

What I have been thinking about is how to kick this project up to the next level. What if our newspaper had international correspondents writing articles? My students could choose the best work sent to them and work on the page layouts in addition to writing their own articles. There might even be room for some peer discussion between the correspondents and the publishers! Finally, our newspaper would have an international audience with friends and parents of correspondents from around the world downloading and reading it.

This could be a great enrichment project for a couple of kids or you could have your whole class prepare something. Writers could work individually, or in teams. If your class creates a large number of pieces, please have a selection process and forward the best for submission, I only have 4 students to read them all!

If you read this and you or someone you know would like to get involved, please email me (meacherteacherATgmailDOTcom).

The end of the year is a great time to do a special project!