Five years ago, I had essentially quit teaching. I was feeling like I was delivering curriculum as opposed to teaching kids. There was so much focus on getting test scores up and not on the kids. I wasn’t motivated to teach anymore and was considering other options.
I left school in February and was encouraged to come back to the class by my administrator and that was about the time Jim was starting to get involved in some of these projects. I saw how engaged the kids were and how motivated they were to do their best work. I also saw the potential to integrate the projects into the curriculum as opposed to having them be add-ons to an already full work load. The following year, I started with one simple project (the cultural cookbook) and the kids loved the fact that they were sharing their work with others globally. We then started collaborating with Jim Carleton on the Sierra Leone project. The kids were thrilled to be helping others and knew that they were making a difference in others’ lives. These experiences were life changing!
The TIGed classrooms have enabled us to work with teachers and students globally. By using the classroom space, we have been able to collaborate on common projects (My Hero, Carbon Footprints) and use our collective intelligence to plan for all of our students. I love the fact that all participants in any project can post a discussion, facilitate an activity or encourage students to participate in several activities within the classroom space. These spaces have essentially created “classroom without borders” as students are united in a project, and in a collaborative, supported community.
We know form observation and also some research that the students are more engaged and motivated to work within global collaborative projects. We can meet many curriculum goals by allowing our students to participate in this learning environment. They are using critical thinking as they and their global peers investigate real life issues and problems. They use 21st century skills as they use social networking tools in meaningful and relevant context while networking with others with a common interest or goal. These classes promote digital citizenship as we are able to foster responsible and respectful use of social networking tools and activities.
The biggest fear I had a first was the technology. I didn’t know how it worked and I was intimidated by it. The tipping point for me was realizing the power it had to form relationships and going from being scared of the “how” to empowered by the “why”. Knowing that the technology allowed by students to collaborate, communicate and share what they were learning on a global scale was a huge factor in us using the technology in our classrooms and essentially changed the way I teach and learn. I was learning alongside my kids and collaborative partners globally.
My role in teaching has changed. I am no longer the “expert” or talking head in the class, but am a guide and a facilitator. I have also learned that teachers globally have the same wants and needs for their students. Whether we are in Canada, the USA, or Mali, West Africa, we want our kids to love learning, be safe and part of a larger global community. I also know that I have learned this by taking risks and sometimes going to places where I had no experience to go, but through a supportive community, like TIG, we were able to learn and achieve goals.
My advice to new TIGeducators out there is to DO IT! We are at the precipice of a huge shift in education. Our students are using these 2.0 tools and it is not only our job, but it’s our responsibility to integrate tools like the TIGed collaborative classrooms into our programs. Our students will be more engaged and motivated to work when they know they are sharing their work with a global audience. They honestly care about what others in the world think about their work. In order to prepare them to work in the 21st century, we need to have them learn in the 21st century. It is our role is to foster these skills.
Students are constantly being bombarded with IT in their lives. They come to school as digital natives and we are their immigrants. We need to teach and learn using these tools, as they are using them anyway. Jim likens this as students governing themselves like “Lord of the e flies” We need to guide them through this shift in education, or we will have a group of unmotivated, disengaged youth. By having them connect, collaborate, communicate and share by using such tools as TIGed collaborative classes and other tools, we can engage them as they prepare to become 21st century citizens.
We also have to let go of the notion that the teacher is the “sage on the stage.” We have become part of the collaborative process as we become collaborative partners with other teachers and also become facilitators of learning in the classroom. This is a HUGE shift and we all need to become part of it in order to fulfill our promise as teachers to prepare our students to become citizens, not only of their classes and schools, but of the world.