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Earlier this year, I volunteered my class to present at our school’s monthly Parent Council Meeting. Students were loving the few Chromebooks we had, and we hoped we might be able to sway the decisions being made about fundraising money to purchase enough for a class set. My kids were very keen on the idea, to say the least! As a class, we brainstormed lists of all the ways we were using Chromebooks, discussed details and then started creating a shared Google Presentation. It was a fabulous opportunity to think about persuasive writing, and students even staged a photo shoot when we realized we needed some additional pictures. Not everyone could come but a group made arrangements to be at the meeting to present the ideas on behalf of all. They were very excited about having a chance to not only contribute to the discussion, but also to impact our school decision making.
Imagine my dismay when I opened my email the day before the meeting to see that the Council had firmly decided that no further money would be put into technology, and would only consider requests for other areas. It was tough to break the news to my class, but we focused on the positive aspects of having the opportunity to present what we’d been doing.
We were first on the agenda, and although a little nervous, the kids were also excited. They took turns explaining each slide and answered questions like pros. My heart was full of pride and joy as I watched the reactions of the adults move from amusement (aren’t they cute?) to amazement, not just at what we had been able to accomplish this year but at the polished, thoughtful speaking abilities of the students. The powerful impact of our connected learning was obvious.
There were so many questions that we went slightly over our time limit, and then the meeting moved from our room back to the library. After the kids went home, I rejoined the meeting in time for the fundraising discussion. As I waited, I mentally rehearsed my (hopefully) convincing argument to consider putting technology items back on our wish list.
It wasn’t needed. The chairperson looked at our principal and simply asked, “How many Chromebooks do you want?”
It was a dramatic shift, and one that reinforced several key ideas for me. First, never underestimate the power of a child’s voice. When given the opportunity and support to share their ideas, they can create powerful change. I know that I could have presented the information they shared but it would not have come close to having the same effect. Hearing the kids describe our projects, and seeing their confidence, skills and abilities sent a powerful message. It said that what we do in our classroom is real, it is relevant, it makes a difference and it is all about the learning for kids.
Secondly, I was reminded of the importance of teamwork. We created the presentation as a team, and we delivered it as a team. Although not every student in the class was there, they did contribute to the shared presentation and add ideas during the rehearsal. The presenters very clearly stated that they were representatives of the larger group. All those voices combined together to create one very powerful message. One student shared the following reflection:
What did I learn? The power of words and teamwork! Words are powerful enough to change people’s minds if you use them right. Words can change your emotion or can change your mind. Sometimes working in a team helps with making words even more powerful.
Through my teaching, I have a lot of practice facilitating this process with students. What was reinforced for me that night is that our parents and community want to be part of that team as well. All it takes is for us to share what is happening with our classes for the support to be there. All of the adults in the room were so enthusiastic about the experience. They wanted to support our connected learning, and they wanted to know more about how to do so.
This year, I want to focus on ensuring that I give my parents and school community an invitation to see and be part of our connected learning. As the year begins, I want my parents to understand and appreciate the full extent to which our class is connected, and the powerful learning, connections and benefits that brings.
One way I plan to do that is to invite parents in at the beginning of the year to provide an overview of our online activities, and show them that signing the technology usage form gives students more than just permission to use technology devices in school – in our class it is the ticket to connecting with the world. As a connected class, each and every day we learn with and because of others. Our learning happens through the use of a number of tools including blogs, Twitter, back channels, video chats and other Web 2.0 tools.
As I create a presentation to share with our families, I thought I would use a series of blog posts to organize my thoughts. Stay tuned for more!