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Inspiring Learning Outcomes with Twitter in the Kindergarten Classroom

by Kelly Walsh on April 10, 2011

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This teacher’s work with Twitter is building connections across the globe, and inspiring learning here at home.

I first learned about Amy Night’s use of Twitter in her kindergarten classroom when she submitted the following comment in response to the post, “Do you use Facebook or Twitter in the classroom (or know someone who does)?” back in February:

“I am a kindergarten teacher, using Twitter in my classroom as a tool to connect my students to a larger, international community, of kindergarteners. I blogged about it here: http://missnightmutters.blogspot.com/. Just recently the entire kindergarten team (4 teachers) at my school created twitter accounts for their classes, and we are using them as part of a “Kindergarten Around the World” virtual exchange project.”

Naturally I stopped by her blog and started reading. I loved her story, and decided right then and there I wanted to write about it here. When I recently sat down and started reviewing her work to try and put together an article, I found her March post, “I heard them say, love is the way”, and it occurred to me that I really couldn’t add anything to this, and that I really wanted to share it here. I asked Miss Night if I could republish her story here, and she kindly granted me permission. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  

 

I HEARD THEM SAY, LOVE IS THE WAY 
(originally published on http://missnightmutters.blogspot.com/)

A few weeks ago, we started a new project in my classroom: Kindergarten Around the World. I will spare you the minute details (hit me in the comments if you want to know more), but it is, basically, a virtual exchange between our class, and a partner class overseas. For my 20 Canadian munchkins, we found a partner group in East Borneo, Indonesia. Both classes have created an imaginary friend, who attends our partner school. (For the curious, our imaginary friend is a little girl named Ella. She is 6 years old, she has blond hair, brown eyes, and brown skin. Her gender and name were decided by vote. Her age and appearance were drawn at random.) We use Twitter to ask research questions of our partners, and the answers allow us to write stories documenting our imaginary friend’s experience in another country. Each child has a journal for the project, where they record things they have learned. It being kindergarten, the recording mostly takes the form of drawings. The children dictate text to go with their drawings, and then copy that text onto their pages. We are working on a Prezi presentation to share our learning with parents and other classes. We have made a video to teach our “Indonesia friends” about snow and how to get dressed for recess when it is very cold.

When my team conceived of this project, I knew it was going to be cool. As mentioned in my previous post about Twitter in kindergarten, I love love LOVE that my students are building real connections with other children their own age. This project brought it to another level, by pushing them to imagine themselves in a completely different setting. (As we graph the often FIFTY degree difference in our daily temperatures, I often imagine MYSELF in a completely different setting, too!) I knew that this project was going to take us in unexpected directions, and there is no doubt that it has. In the 3 weeks since it started, we have learned:

  • That  a map is  picture of a place, taken from up high, and helps us see where things are.
  • That blue parts of a map are always water.
  • That when we are at school, our Indonesia friends are sleeping, and vice versa, and that that is because the Earth is rotating, and Canada and Indonesia can’t face the sun at the same time.
  • That voting is a fair way of making decisions as a group, and that just because something is “fair” doesn’t mean that everyone is happy about it.
  • That orangutans eat more fruit than any other animal.
  • That baby orangutans stay with their mothers for 6 years.
  • That adult male orangutans live alone, but still visit their mothers.
  • That orangutans can yell so loud you can hear them from 1.5 km away.
    (We REALLY got into the orangutans. Our partner school is located close to an orangutan preserve, and once we’d had a virtual fieldtrip using a link they sent, it was all orangutans, all the time…)
  • That, shockingly, not only can kindergarten teachers be men (as we have learned from some other Twitter friends), but music teachers can be men, too.
  • That in warm climates, many schools have outdoor swimming pools RIGHT AT SCHOOL, and that this is possibly the very coolest thing about Indonesia.
  • That “temperature” tells us whether it is hot or cold, and that “weather” tells us what the sky looks like. 
  • That “Fanta” is another word for “orange pop.”

Every single time we log in, we learn.

And, then, today, we learned about tsunamis. 
 
Some of my students had heard about the events in Japan on the news, and that Indonesia was among the countries facing a tsunami watch. They were curious and concerned:
 
What is a tsunami, Mme? It’s a big big wave, bigger than you can imagine, big enough to wash away cars and buildings. 
Is it dangerous? Yes, it can be very dangerous.
Could we have one  here? Probably not, because we live a very long ways from the ocean. 
Our Indonesia friends can see the ocean from their classroom, could they have one? Yes, it is possible that they could have one, but the people in charge in their country are watching carefully, and they will evacuate if it looks like a tsunami is coming. 
What is “evacuate?” If something dangerous like a fire or a tsunami or a really bad storm is coming, the police and the army will help people move to safer place until it is okay for them to go back home. 
Where would they go to be safe? They would go somewhere further away from the ocean, probably somewhere higher and drier, until it was safe. 
  
Can we tell them to come here? They are our friends, we can take care of them, they will be safe with us, and they could go to our school. There’s only 6 kids in their class, we have room for six more. Can we please tell them to come here…?
 
I knew this project would be amazing. I knew it would make me proud. I knew my students and I would learn things I never expected, and that there is magic in learning TOGETHER. 
I didn’t know it would be the thing that made a faraway tragedy into something real. I didn’t know that it would leave me humbled by my students’ simple statements of generosity. I didn’t know how REAL those 6 little people, on the other side of the world, were going to become to my 20 little people. 
  
They are our friends. We can take care of them. They will be safe with us. We have room.
 
I didn’t know that this project would lead me to think that the world might be a far better place if foreign aid and international disaster relief policies were written by five-year-olds. 
  
They are our friends. We can take care of them. They will be safe with us. We have room.”
 
 
Thanks to Amy Night for allowing me to share her story here. I know many other educators are using a variety of tech tools to collaborate with classrooms worldwide. If you have a similar story, we’d love to hear about it (just click here to comment)!
 

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Belinda Zimmerman September 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I am beginning a research study on using Twitter in the primary classroom as a tool for young readers and writers so I am most thankful for Miss Night’s insights. Thank you! :-)

Ben Sheridan April 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm

I worked with Miss Night on this project and would without hesitation recommend this project to any interested class. It was very well thought out and an absolute pleasure to do. My students really enjoyed as well as learned from the experience. I can’t wait for next year!

Miss Night April 10, 2011 at 10:04 am

Thanks so much, Kelly, for talking about my work here. Twitter and kindergarten have proven to be a match made in heaven. Anyone interested in more details of the Kindergarten Around the World project for next year can fill out the form found here: http://bit.ly/hkceVk to be on our e-mail list. Thanks again, I am so honoured to be featured here!

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