Smile, You’re Not Alone: A story of “connecting”

I Got This!

Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I heard about COETAIL and what it entailed, blogging, tweeting, making global connections… I thought to myself “check, check and check!” I was already doing those things so I thought COETAIL would be a breeze. In many ways, it actually was smooth sailing, but on the other hand it was definitely a LOT more than I expected. Allow me to explain. COETAIL turned out to be a pretty simple course for me not because you don’t have to do much, but because I feel that I was already in the right mindset about technology in education. So, whenever a new idea or concept was introduced, it served to strengthen, support, and extend my teaching. As we all know, COETAIL is most certainly a committment, but I am glad that I have joined this network of educators who will always understand the core idea when I’m trying something new…even if it fails 😉

Inspiration for #KchatAP

Designed by Andrey Danilov

Designed by Andrey Danilov

Even before I discovered what COETAIL was, I decided I was going to start my own hashtag chat, #KchatAP or Kindergarten Chat Asia Pacific. As an early childhood educator in Asia, I was finding it harder and harder to try to participate in chats like #kinderchat or #1stchat because I was usually teaching at the time the chats were happening. So, I reached out to two former colleagues Joe Sergi and Serena Fan and we worked together to begin #KchatAP. Slowly we’ve built up a pretty consistent group of educators and we’re gradually bringing new voices into the mix. By the end of May we will have been up and running for a year and a half!

I have to say that COETAIL has influenced a lot of the chats that have happened on #KchatAP, as I went through each course, I usually ended up moderating a chat related to it. It began with Course 2, where I moderated my first chat influenced by COETAIL on ‘Digital Citizenship’. Then, after my return from Learning2.014 and meeting so many other COETAILers there, I HAD to do a chat on ‘Visual Literacy’ including special guests Nicki Hambleton & Heather Dowd, the two L2 leaders who focused on visual literacy. This further led me to want to do a chat on ‘Flipped Learning in Early Childhood’ because I was still questioning what it looked like in the early childhood setting. I tweeted the flipped learning guru himself, Jon Bergmann, and he actually agreed to join our chat even if it was at 5:30 in the morning for him!!! I was so grateful! It just goes to show that Twitter has really brought the world of education together in ways that were previously unimaginable! Now that I am in Course 5, I naturally had to run a chat on my focus topic ‘Coding in the Early Years’, to get input from my PLN. You can visit all of our chat archives at kchatap.weebly.com.

I personally also went through a little journey of my own, continuing to develop my visual literacy skills. After course 3 on visual literacy, I began to challenge myself to layout a promotional visual for the chat. Our moderators have also taken on the extra task each time it is their turn to moderate. Take a look at some of the visuals I created:

I used Canva for all of them, and as you can see, I started with the free icons and images provided wthin Canva, but I slowly started to play more with photographs and different types of layouts. I think that the big challenge for me was, whenever we decided on a topic, I had to visualize what image could represent that topic, then go and find it. If I couldn’t find it, I had to start searching for alternative ideas. I have to tell you, this process continues to be a challenge for me but I am enjoying the challenge! It has also pushed me to realize I need to integrate more visual literacy into my lessons because many times students aren’t given the time to practice this type of thinking.

P.S. Join us this coming Tuesday, April 21st, to discuss ‘Literacy Support in the Early Years’, 7:30pm UTC+8 😉

Almost There Traveling Teddy Bear!

Teddy header2

I cannot do a post on community engagement without mentioning my “baby” the Traveling Teddy Bears Project. Almost at the end of its first full school year in action, I am amazed and humbled by the learning and sharing that has happened through the project. The teachers who are involved have not just participated but blown my mind in how they have really taken the project over and beyond anything I could have expected! They are making their own connections with each other through Skype, Twitter and the blog. We have had classes who have prepared entire houses for their teddy bear in anticipation of his or her arrival.

There are plenty of COETAILers in the mix this year including Caitlin Munson, Jay Graham, David Bullio, Tom Hammerlund, Tami Ruebush, David Beaty, and Palvinder Thurman from our Online 2 cohort!

Palvinder has recently posted about how she used the #globaledted project to extend her work with her students on using Google Maps in the classroom. Check out her post HERE.

The project has really started gaining some popularity too, as not only have we had several requests to sign up for next school year already, but our bears have made it into newspapers and even national television in Serbia!

Here are Tessie and Bobby on the News in Serbia! It’s not in English but you get the general idea of what’s happening. It starts at about 25:00, you may have to fast forward or rewind a little, it doesn’t seem to want to start where I mark it!
 

To follow our bears you can see tweets on #globaledted and see detailed posts from different classes on the Traveling Teddy Bears Blog! Sign ups open in mid August 2015.

Face to Face

I have to say, that being a connected educator has made opportunities to meet people face to face all that more exciting! Learning 2.014 brought about the most face-to-face encounters in the COETAIL community for me, and I look forward to more in Manila next year! Here’s a picture of those of us in online 2 at L2 and of course Chrissy who has been guiding us through it all! Online2

More recently I attended EARCOS in Kota Kinabalu, and I had the chance to meet some of the #KchatAP moderators and participants in #globaledted.

Always There…

Most recently I have been trying to illustrate to some of the teachers at my school who are unfamiliar with social media in education, about the power of being connected. So, as a part of the first grade social studies unit on how families live in different places, I decided to create a survey with each class and show them that I could use my Twitter account to tweet it to hundreds of teachers around the world, who would hopefully help us gather some information. This process took about 15 minutes to come up with the survey questions and tweet it out. Now, I was pretty optimistic that the first class I did this with would get some responses, but we have seven first grade classes. So, I was worried that by the time I did all of them, people wouldn’t be responding anymore. I’ve gone through just three classes so far, but I now know not to underestimate the power of my PLN! The number of responses, retweets for all three forms was amazing within a matter of hours! We even have teachers offering to send us photos and videos so students can visualize the places where they live. Having a strong network of educators that just get it can be truely phenomenal. Thank you to everyone who has responded and helped to retweet! Keep you eyes peeled, I have 4 more class surveys coming your way this coming week! Here are a few of the tweets and responses to the surveys:

 So on, and so forth…

There are other ways that I’ve remained connected, I continue to blog on my original blog, mspanasays.com. Not as regularly as I would like but hopefully I can pick it back up again soon. In a few weeks I will be Skyping into my fiance’s graduate class which he is auditing at University of Massachusetts Amherst, to discuss iPads to support language and literacy learning. Plus, my final project wouldn’t be anything really without my network! But, more details about that in my final COETAIL post…*sniff* I can’t believe we’re almost done.

The Future?

The Endless Road by Ryan McGuire at imcreator.com/free

The Endless Road by Ryan McGuire at imcreator.com/free

So what’s next after COETAIL? I know for certain I’m still going to be blogging at mspanasays.com, I will still be on Twitter running #KchatAP and of course active in other places too, #COETAIL and #COETAILchat amongst them. The Traveling Teddy Bears will be expanding even further so I am soon going to have to call out for willing people to join the team! I’m going to need project facilitators (a.k.a “annoying naggers”) who will be responsible for emailing teachers along the way to ensure they post bears off on time and notifiy us once a bear is received. I am also hoping to work with Michael Graffin to develop my course 5 final project into a #globalclassroom project and really take it global next school year.  Overall, I think I can safely say that I can no longer learn or educate without connecting.

4 thoughts on “Smile, You’re Not Alone: A story of “connecting””

  1. Pana I know the network is a 2-way thing but in your case you have contributed so much! I know even my school here at #isstavanger has benefited from your PLN as we were a part of the #globaledted project. I just wanted to say thank you for all your efforts. You are an example for many educators out there! Keep up the great work!

    • David, I am thrilled that you guys were a part of #globaledted and loved seeing all the great things your students were doing with Bobby. Thank you! 🙂 Yes, building a network and engaging in it is definitely a two-way street! I am glad that my contributions seem to be worthwhile for some groups out there and I am always so grateful and amazed at the response I get when I need some help. I’ll never regret the decision to become a connected educator!

  2. Pana,
    I love how you have tracked your own connections that have been fundamental in the course. (I also love that I have been a little part of that too! as have you in mine!)
    It is always great to meet F2F and the photo you shared sums it up – just look at our faces! I wish there were more opportunities for this, maybe a COETAIL retreat as was mentioned at the meetup at L2? I have never been to Taiwan and I would be very happy to come to you!! Maybe in the new academic year we should work something out, look at a triangle of connections and find the common place for a (long) weekend of connecting and collaborating to keep us inspired for the next stage post-COETAIL?
    In the mean time our chat on Twitter has managed to prompt us to connect more online and I am looking forward to our one-to-one on Thursday (moral boosting/bum kicking whatever we need!) and the group one on Sunday – I hope it works out.
    Matt, Anne and I have Google Hungout a few times to chat and it seems to work although I cannot figure out how to record it!
    I love how the Teddy bear project has really taken off – the kids must love it, as do the parents – well done for setting it up and helping it to grow!
    I would love your feedback/thoughts sometime on how I can grow my C5 project beyond May as i really value your input.
    Looking forward to chatting again soon in any capacity!
    Nicki

    • This reply is coming quite late as we’ve already had our Google hangout and talked out our process as we all finished up our Course 5 projects. I think that one of our main connections was that the project didn’t seem ‘finished’ to any of us; there was more to do, and we all saw a future for our ideas and where the students would take it. Now that we have both published our final projects I feel like we’ve both learned it just DOESN’T end, and that’s the point! So wonderful to have been in this cohort with you and other amazing educators. Thank you for all the collaborations and I look forward to more in the future 🙂

      Pana

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