Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Connected Learning

The beginning of a new school year is a great time to explore new and exciting learning opportunities for our students. For example, have you considered how you could break down the four walls of your classroom or learning space to invite in the world? Connected learning can facilitate and encourage important 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The following are some ways that you can start to welcome the outside world into your class(es):

Connecting with Experts via Google Hangouts
Is there an author your students could ask first-hand about their writing process or character development? What about a scientist working on real-life experiments or a politician engaging in current events? It is easy to invite guests to connect with your class via video conferencing - all you need is their email! Through Google Hangouts, students can interview experts, participate in virtual book clubs, and extend their learning beyond the classroom. For additional information on how to connect via Google Hangouts (aka Hangouts Meet), visit the G Suite Learning Center. 

We have a very special opportunity coming up to connect with an astronaut in space! Jack Fischer, a Centaurus High School graduate, is currently a part of the Expedition 51/52 crew that launched to the International Space Station in April 2017. Please check out his biography and follow him on Twitter (@Astro2fish). On August 31st, he will be answering questions from Centaurus High School students in real-time via a NASA downlink. You can watch the downlink in real-time on NASA TV or view a recording at a later date. This is a perfect follow-up opportunity after the historic solar eclipse that took place on August 21st!

Mystery Hangouts
Mystery Hangouts is a fun, engaging activity similar to Twenty Questions. Two classrooms video-chat with each other but do not reveal their individual locations. Before meeting online, both classes research facts about their own state and create clues about their location. Then, each class takes turns asking “yes” or “no”-type questions in a race to solve the mystery. To start connecting with other educators and set up a mystery hangout, visit the Mystery Hangout Google+ Community page.

Virtual Field Trips
There are many institutions and organizations that offer learning experiences to students for free or at a very low cost. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science offers distance learning opportunities for students of all ages through on-demand classes (Virtual Science Academy) and monthly Q&A sessions with a scientist (Scientists in Action).
Google Arts & Culture
Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips can take students all over the world, from the NBA headquarters to the tundra to the White House. Students can examine famous artwork and concert halls through Google Arts & Culture, and the Smithsonian Virtual Tour offers students the chance to experience the museums without paying hundreds of dollars for airline tickets. All of these field trips are compatible on standard devices, but Google Cardboard can really take it to the next level by immersing students in a virtual environment!

Is Twitter appropriate for classroom instruction? When used effectively, absolutely! One example: through Twitter and other social media, world language & bilingual classes can connect with in the target language countries instantaneously! In Lena Carroll’s Spanish class at Broomfield High School, students used Twitter to connect on a personal level with a famous Nobel Prize winner from Guatemala. Students can also develop virtual pen pals, honing their communication skills with an authentic audience. Interacting on social media also offers the perfect opportunity to engage students in conversations about digital citizenship and online safety.

Professional Development
Connected learning is also very powerful for professional development and collaboration among teachers. For example, there are many groups where teachers can share ideas, connect their classes, and continue their lifelong learning. Schoology houses many different groups separated by interest, content area, school, etc. This is a great way to connect and find new ideas! Similarly, Google+ communities and Voxer groups act as virtual meeting grounds for connected educators. A variety of education chats are hosted on Twitter, giving you the chance to chat in real time with educators around the globe! If you are interested in taking your professional development to the next level, check out our Online Collaboration and Connected Learning (OCCL) blended course that starts in January. Stay tuned for more information about how to enroll in MyPassport in the upcoming months.

With all of the options out there, students and teachers are able to connect like never before! How are you inviting the world into your learning space? Share your ideas below!

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