Transforming learning through global collaboration
This year I have been engaged in a personal inquiry into learning communities in an early childhood setting:
what might a learning community look like in a class of three year olds, and how is it the same and how is it different to a learning community for a class of five year olds; what kinds of connections do young children make; what schema do they construct to help them make sense of global collaboration; what does collaboration mean to a three year old. These are some of the questions I am pondering.
At the moment I have some tensions based on my experiences with formal global projects with young children. So far I have found that the connections that seem the most meaningful to the young children I work with are the informal connections we make though our class twitter feed. Through twitter, and through our class blog, we interact with other children of a similar age all around the world. The interactions spark spontaneous and authentic inquiries into all kinds of things that happen to be significant, relevant and engaging to a particular group of children at that particular time.
Last year our class was paired with a Kindergarten class in Canada for a global Kindergarten Around the World project. Michelle, the other teacher and I followed the children and communicated via email and twitter and later Skype and Google docs to discuss how we could best support the children's inquiries and their developing relationships. The two classes ended up co- authoring a book together which we published on iTunes. This year Michelle and I decided to formalise our collaboration with a little more structure, and to invite two other classes (one of them was fellow fc12-1 cohort, Jason Graham) from other parts of the world to join us. For one reason or another, I see that my children seem not to have made such strong connections this year. There are too many variables for us to be able to analyse accurately. For one thing, my group this year is very different to my previous two groups. But I wonder is it also partly because, in trying to structure the interactions, the children do not feel the same ownership or interest. I'm not sure. This is something I wish to explore further.
Another tension I have is that the #kinderchat folk are already running some excellent projects aimed at the younger years. I am not sure that I want to add yet another one to the list. More and more frequently I hear people echo my own experiences that they have taken on too much and over committed their class, resulting in superficial interactions at the expense of deep relationships and inquiries. I am reluctant to add to the ever growing pleas for connections. I think that rather than pitch my project I might prefer to focus instead on one of the excellent projects already in place. Perhaps I can use something that I have learned from this course to help develop one of the existing projects.