… that’s how big my classroom is.
On Thursday my class in Snow Lake had our first Skype call of the year on our second day of school. We skyped with Heather Durnin‘s class in Wingham ON. (Heather is a plpeep btw…)
Today our call was simply to connect our two classes and let our kids meet for the first time. Because this will be the first of many. Heather and I have hooked our classes up for the long haul this year. We are working with the thinwalls model. Thinwalled classrooms are different than traditional collaborations. In most globally collaborative models, students are hooked together with other classes for what I call “the sprint.” In the sprint we pull our kids together for six or eight weeks so they can complete a unit together. We spend our time praying that things don’t break down and we ask our principal’s for exceptions to be made to filtering policies and for websites to be opened up. We hold it together for the duration and then when the unit is over we go back to the way things were. Just when our kids are getting good at communicating globally and working in teams, the experience ends.
In a thinwalled classroom, you are in it for the long haul. We plan on having our students hooked together as one class for the entire school year. Our classroom blog will list all of the kids from both classrooms as one. They will be grouped together to complete assignments, to read novels and to blog. We have a few lessons planned already that we are going to be teaching both classes over skype and we will be reading a book aloud to both classes.Bringing our classes ever close together, the plan is to bring the students into daily contact with each other.
Thinwalls is about living openly and honestly with another teacher and another class, even though they may be far away. Heather and I have had to be open and honest with each other about ourselves, our styles and about the challenges we face.
Our students are already interested in the similarities and differences between our two spaces. Although we both live in smaller rural places, Heather lives in a place that is mainly supported by farming and is fairly close to urban areas whereas where I live is more isolated and supported by mining. It’s also interesting (and slightly strange) to note that although I have been using technology in my classroom for a number of years and worked with people from around the globe – this is the first time I’ve worked with someone from within my own country.
We will have a lot to share as we move forward about what we’re doing and how we do it. The tools we are using are available to all for no cost to very low cost (a pro flickr account – $25, for example). More important than that is the changes to our pedagogies we are working on to support learning in these ways.