Saturday, December 29, 2012

Has My Class Over Connected?

This is a follow up to my previous post The Power of Using Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangout in an Early Primary Classroom.  If you haven't read that post yet, I'd suggest you read it first before continuing with this post.

Prior to writing that post I was asked if it was possible to have too many connections.

When I wrote the original blog post I talked about the different ways that we are connecting.  I talked about how we connect over a specific topic, or as a culminating activity after working on a collaborative project or over a specific period of time meeting regularly to discuss a specific topic.  I wrote about how sometimes my class connects with a specific class, over a variety of topics, regularly.   I went on to say that each type of connection has a purpose, and they are all meaningful in their own ways.

 If you asked me which connections are most authentic in terms of building relationships between my students and those students on the other side of our computer screen there is only one type of connecting that achieves that goal.  The connections we have with the same class, over a multiple number of times and a variety of topics is where we have true connections.  Those are the class blogs my students want to check out.  Those are the  student blogs my students want to read.  My class talks about them in other discussions. They ask about their teachers, and some times they even blog about and to their teachers.  Those are the students we feel we know. I believe you can only have a limited number of those types of connections.

It's a lot like my relationships on twitter.  I follow a lot of people.  I follow most people (not necessarily organizations) that follow me. As a side I apologize if you're following me and I'm not following you yet. I have fallen behind there.  But while I follow, or connect with a lot of different people my level of connectedness is different with each person. There are most definitely people I tweet with far more frequently. People I feel I know a lot better. But it is not to say that I have not learned from others.  All connections are of value to me for a variety of different reasons.

So back to having my class connected or over connected.  Like with Twitter,  I'm not willing to give up on the less "intense" connecting we are doing via Skype, Google Hang Out, or Face Time either. When my students blog (and it is something they chose to do, NOT something I tell them to do) they are writing for an authentic audience that goes beyond the eyes in our classroom. Like with blogging, I feel that when we connect through Skype, Google Hang Out, or Face Time they are also connecting with an authentic audience. They are improving their listening and speaking skills with an authentic audience that goes beyond our immediate classroom.  There is a lot of power in that.

Now please understand that I am NOT in any contest to have my class connecting with as many classes as we can this school year.  That is not, has not, and will NEVER be my goal.  My goal is to bring authentic learning opportunities to my students.  I can't stress enough about how much I have changed as a teacher because of the authentic learning experiences I've had with the people I interact with on Twitter.  And so when I chat with a teacher who either wants to learn from us (my class taught two classes about Hanukkah) or wants to learn with us (here's an example) and I can make it work with my learning objectives for my students, I find a way to make it work.

I'm hoping to take all this connecting even further through the #kinderchat Play Project.  If I can make this work, I am hoping that soon my students will be using Skype, Face Time or Google Hang Out individually or in small groups with out the entire class being part of the conversation.  They will be connecting with other students in other classes and they will share with them, with out me orchestrating the connection.  Of course there is some adult organizing being done, but once the structure is in place the kids will be in control.  I'm excited about this too, and hope we can make it work successfully in my room. The more authenticity in what we do the better.

So if you're someone that feels that if connections aren't deep and meaningful they aren't worth having, I challenge you to think about it in another way.  Shouldn't we be providing our students with as many authentic learning opportunities we can? Isn't using Skype or Google Hang Out or FaceTime another way we can do this?  I'm curious about your views.


  1. Karen, I did a bit of thinking and writing about this earlier in the fall. Sometimes my class has had quick one-time conversations and sometimes we have had repeated conversations and long-term relationships.
    I think there is a place for both. While I, too, love the long-term relationships we have been able to develop over the years, I can honestly say that some of the one time Skype calls we have had have contributed tremendously to our learning.
    I guess, like the relationships we have outside of social media, we should allow space for both.