Colin Hill (Linwood Ave), Tim Kunowski (Bromley) and Kate Bodger (Bamford)all teach year 5/6 in the Linwood Cluster.
We all knew each other previously, but connected through our E-learning LeadersCluster meetings. Through these meetings we were able to share our ideas about teaching and learning.We all started following each other through Twitter and kept up with each other's class blogs. We found that our children had very similar backgrounds and are often associated with each other outside of school through sporting and cultural activities.Collaborating online through blogging and Twitter was a great way to work collaboratively with each other. We would all share new ideas, sites and apps that had been successful for our learners. The success of our own collaboration made us want to explore opportunities for our children to connect with each other. We liked the Kids Chat NZ Twitter model but wanted to keep it specific to our community. Instead of using Twitter we decided to use a back channel - the website"Today's meet" as we found it was more secure for when we were just getting started. We created a hashtag #linwoodkidschat so we could have a live feed on Twitter of photos of the children to make it more interactive. We were able to set topics that were relevant to our community.
The first chat was sharing about our classroom and what we like about our schools.We used it as a chance for the children to get to know each other. The second wasthe highlights of the term where we reflected on the learning that had occurred andshared some of the children's work. We wanted to promote student voice and havean audience for the children to share their learning.Children got to know each other as well as the teachers of each classroom. In oneinstance outside of the classroom some of the children recognised Colin saying“there’s Mr Hill, there’s Mr Hill!! The Linwood Ave teacher!” It was great that they feltcomfortable approaching Colin as they felt like they knew him already.
Working together wasn’t without its challenges; Colin co-teaches in a class with 50children and found it difficult getting everyone to share their opinion without flooding the chat with too many comments. Trying to get three classes together to havediscussions in a live chat is a logistical challenge (nightmare). Kate’s class finishedearly and we all had different lunch times to work around. We also had to work with 3different class programmes in 3 different schools making arranging times to meet online difficult.
Working within any collaborative classroom there are always different approaches to delivering content. This was no different for our chat, as we were all approaching it indifferent ways with varied levels of interpretation and what we wanted to get out of it.We had to revisit the purpose of why we were doing this. It was important that if we were setting aside time out of our weekly programmes we needed to see the benefits for our learners. Our main goals were for student connection, giving the students avoice, a forum for evaluation and feedback, sharing and celebrating success andengaging in conversations about our learning. So when we revisited the purpose wefound it was important that we could make this work sustainably, providing moreflexibility for all involved. We are now in the process of refining how we willcollaborate and move forward.
For this term we have created a blog for sharing our learning and providing thechildren with an audience who can provide constructive feedback from across ourwider community. We are also going to provide tasks and other challenges throughthe blog to encourage meaningful participation across our schools. This will mean thechildren will be working on similar projects using the same language and getting arange of formative feedback on their work.As all of our learners have their own Google accounts, a blog seemed to makesense. Learners can access it anytime, anywhere. We also have more optionsregarding the adding of different media types (as opposed to Twitter and Today’sMeet). We can see an opportunity for our children to be independently responding to,and interacting with, their community in many ways. We are still exploring this format,but are all genuinely interested in the possibilities that may present themselvesmoving forward.