Saturday, October 15, 2011

Global Connections

This coming week brings an exciting new event to my students' learning. We are going to Skype with the Traveling Teacher, a member of our community, who is currently traveling the world as a global liasion between our school and schools all over the world. In anticipation of this exciting opportunity, I spent the past week preparing my students. We first looked at her blog. The girls were in awe of the 360 degree photos of the Moscow shopping mall and beautiful Red Square, created using the Kogeto Dot camera. They were fascinated by the videos of street scenes and school scenes in Moscow. We also looked at her travels using Google Maps and Google Earth. They used the zoom feature to closly look at the various geographical features of this part of the world.

My goal was to help them gain a sense of where she is in the world. We looked at how far New York City is from our home in Maryland, and then we compared that to how far Russia and Mongolia are from our home in Maryland. They decided that even though New York is far from Maryland, in a global sense, it is very close. We talked about the difference in time and the difference in climate between these other countries and our part of the world.

As we explored and read more, the girls began to think of insightful questions to ask the Traveling Teacher during our Skype session next week. They wondered what the people in these countries are like, the wondered what languages are spoken, they wondered what the food tastes like. I am proud of the girls for their inquisitiveness...and I am certain that the Traveling Teacher will be as well.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Power of the Network

This past Friday night, I attended Art for Land's Sake, an art exhibition and sale, which benefits the Valleys Planning Council, a land trust and conservation association in Northwest Baltimore. The event, held at Halcyon Farm, was lovely, full of good friends, great food, and fabulous art. I volunteered to help out at the Preview Party since I like supporting a good cause, and this gathering always proves to be a lot of fun. My post was the main entrance, collecting tickets -- the perfect place to meet and greet friends, both old and new. My true good fortune, however, was in my introduction to Bob, the man who shared my duty that evening. As I would soon discover, he would become the newest member of my Personal Learning Network or PLN. Behold the power of the network.

As Bob and I began chatting at our post, I soon discovered that he, formerly of The Baltimore Sun, is now a faculty member of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is currently teaching a class in layout. Here is where my good fortune comes in. A colleague and I, both teachers at Garrison Forest School, have undertaken the start-up of a first-time-ever Lower School newspaper. While we are very excited about this new endeavor, we are equally nervous about the challenges that lay ahead...namely, what is the best way to get the stories that our students write into a publishable format. As I told Bob about our newspaper, The Livingston Ledger, I explained that we were thinking of using Adobe InDesign. Again, my good fortune -- Bob is currently teaching InDesign to his students. Had my story ended here, with some tips and pointers from Bob on the how-to's of layout and publishing, I would have been happy enough. But as I mentioned, the network is powerful. Bob asked me if I would like a copy of the instructions that he uses to teach InDesign! So today, in my email inbox, I found an email from the newest member of my network.

I can't say thank you enough to Bob for generously sharing his hard work with someone he had just met. But this is how a PLN works. It is all around you. You simply put the request out there, and you can be fairly certain someone will answer the call. Interestingly enough, for me, on Friday night, the answer preceded the call.

By the way, stayed tuned for more updates on The Livingston Ledger, as we discover the joys of writing and publishing with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.