Collaboration the ECE-Tech Way by Dr. Rena Shifflet

Rena Shifflet spent over thirty years in public education as a classroom teacher and district technology coordinator. As an assistant professor at Illinois State University, Rena works with preservice elementary education majors and practicing educators. Her research interests include preservice teacher education, professional development schools, and the use of technology for teaching and learning.

Much has been said about the rigor of the Common Core State Standards, especially at the early elementary levels. One of the K-12 anchor standards under the comprehension and collaboration strand, expects all students to “Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally” (CC.K-12. SL.2). In fact, Kindergarteners are expected to “participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about Kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups” (CC.K.SL.1). I’d like to give you some ideas of how technology can afford opportunities for your early elementary students to do just that.

One of the best tools to facilitate collaborative conversations is Skype, a free program that is downloaded to a computer equipped with a webcam. After signing up for an account and installing the program, you’re ready to go!  That sounds easy, but how do you find another class or experts to connect with? With close to 79,000 teachers participating from over 200 countries, Skype in the Classroom is the perfect place to make those connections!

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On the teacher’s page, you can search fop “Skype lessons” by subjects, topics, age groups, and language. This will connect you with guest speakers like Kelly Witherspoon from NASA or enable you to participate in collaborative gatherings like World Read Aloud Day.   You can even arrange to participate in Mystery Skype! There are many other resources available to help you use Skype in the classroom. Why not follow them on Twitter to get the latest update and read thoughts from other Skype in the Classroom participants.

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Other opportunities exist to participate in collaborative projects with students on a national and global level. People like Jen Wagner create projects and facilitate a way for other teachers to connect and simultaneously participate in an incredible project customized for early learners, like the Oreo Sculpture project.  Children in schools around the world will attempt to see how tall the can build a stack of Oreo cookies. After each student has had two chances to build their tallest tower, the group determines the class average.  In 2012, 20,416 students in 752 classrooms participated. What do you think was the average stack count? Think of all the prediction and estimating skills that could be built and honed doing a project like this!

There are projects that occur throughout the year. You can find a current list, as well as archived projects, on the Projects by Jen website.  Other organizations like GlobalSchoolNet, Kidlink, iEarn, and Around the Word with 80 Schools offer other ways for you to connect and collaborate with other early childhood educators.

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Vicki Davis, a teacher from Camilla, Georgia, and Julie Lindsey, a teacher from Bangladesh, created a series of collaborative projects for students.  A Week in the Life project was specially designed for students age eight to ten.  Participating students created a digital handshake to introduce themselves. Davis and Lindsey created global teams to compare and contrast a theme like school time, languages, clothing, housing, food, leisure time and others. Over ten weeks students collaborated to design and create a multimedia project to showcase the similarities and differences on their topic. What a great way to witness how culture and geography impact the concept of school for all children.

Building Bridges to Tomorrow is another Davis and Lindsey project designed for students in K-2. Again, global teams are formed to examine various topics: how we play, celebrating together; part of a family; making a meal; or sharing stories. Students can share and compare how other children live from different places in the world. Even a Pre-K class from a British International School took part!

These Flat Classroom projects start at various times during the year. You can find out about all the available projects here.

While the globe may be round, the world is flat. Oceans may separate continents physically, but nothing can separate your students from meeting and learning from children everywhere and anywhere. Celebrate collaboration the ECE-Tech way!

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One thought on “Collaboration the ECE-Tech Way by Dr. Rena Shifflet

  1. Cheri Toledo March 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm Reply

    Kathy Cassidy, a Canadian first grade teacher, has been doing some great things with her students: http://kathycassidy.com/. Also, the Global Classroom Project, started by Deb Frazier (Ohio, USA), and Michael Graffin (Perth, Western Australia) has ongoing opportunities for participation. More info – http://goo.gl/4bwSda. Their wiki: http://globalclassroom2013-14.wikispaces.com/.

    It is so exciting to see what happens when teachers connect their students using free online tools!

    Thanks, Dr. Shifflet!

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