Friday, 29 May 2015

Learning Beyond the Classroom Walls

When looking at the elearning planning framework review tool, you will find a dimension called Beyond the Class.  Many teachers think that this is restricted to ways in which schools can make connections to their parents, whanau, and local communities so that they become more richly involved in their child's education, but although it encompasses this concept, it is a lot more than this. It is also very much about learning outside the classroom walls.  One of the great things about using digital technologies in class is that learners can learn in authentic contexts without leaving the classroom.

There are a multitude of ways to connect and collaborate outside the school.  One of the most interesting ways I have heard about lately comes from Matt Miller (Ditch that Textbook) whose Spanish class in Indiana (US) connected with students from Valencia in Spain,  using Skype on ipads and sharing using Google docs.  Groups of about 4 students on each side were able to have conversations with each other, getting to know each other and answering verbal questions about their lifestyle as well as answering written questions on a google doc which the opposite group would comment on and edit to correct the language.  Learn more in this Youtube video from Matt Miller shown below. What an awesome way to use the technology to have an authentic language experience using peer assessment while building relationships and connections.

At the VPLD (virtual professional learning and development) hui in Auckland this week I learned more about Over the Back Fence project through Skype which is the brainchild of Geoff Woods (and I think Anne Kenneally had more than a casual hand in the development of the concept).  It links students who teach others from a range of countries - up to 40 classes from 10 countries.

Skype also offers Mystery Skypes in which your class can connect with another and guess where the class is limiting themselves to questions that can only be replied by yes or no answers.   You can also connect to a mystery guest through this same medium.  There is plenty of help available through the Skype site, even telling you the correct skype etiquette to use.   Google Hangouts can also be used in the same way through the Mystery Location Community.

Google also offers Connected Classrooms which are Hangouts on Air - a recorded field trip like this one to the White House vegetable gardens.  Google's Cultural Institiute offers a variety of experiences beyond the classroom walls as well.   There is the Art Institute, Historic Moments and also Wonders of the World available through a variety of Google tools

Here in NZ, we are lucky enough to be able to take our classes on a Learnz field trip.  This site offers a variety of opportunities to explore previously unreachable places for most NZ students including one coming up in November to the Antarctic or the recent High Country Hi Tech trip to the MacKenzie country using drones and moible maps. Watch a video which summarizes what the high country field trip covered.  The LEARNZ trips are extremely well organised with activities and resources to support the learning.  These must surely be at the redefinition end of the SAMR scale.

This blog on Ditch That Textbook  lists 10 ways to connect globally and includes Quadblogging which offers the opportunity to connect with classes all over the world through their blogs.  The New Zealand version Quadblogging Aotearoa is very successful for making connections throughout New Zealand and takes new enrolments twice a year.  Students have the opportunity to comment on other student or class blogs, learn a lot about the others and their lifestyles, plus it is an ideal opportunity to teach digital citizenship to our online learners.

The VLN - primary also offers students in rural schools, the opportunity to connect with others wanting to study subjects outside of their own schools.  It is a great way to connect with others that you would not normally have the opportunity for.

Using Twitter as a medium for learning has become increasingly popular in New Zealand and across the world.  Here in NZ we have Kidsedchat for the younger students, which operates every Wednesday between 2 and 3pm using the Twitter medium.

School in the Cloud offers the opportunity for students to connect globally in a self organised learning environment (SOLE) and supported by Grannies in the Granny Cloud.  The students work on answering "big questions" that may not necessarily have discrete answers but the learning is more about what processes, skills and methods are needed to pursue the answer.

What other ways are student learning beyond the classroom using digital technologies?  If you and your class have learned in this way, I would love to hear more about what you are doing.