Dreaming of Connected Classrooms

Ever since I started teaching at the college level a few years ago, I’ve been dreaming.

My first dream was to design a course that discussed emerging technologies, social media, and communication on the Web. I took my dream to the powers that be at the college and they gave me a shot. The course, Web Media, was so successful, that the next year it became part of the full time curriculum. It’s one of the most rewarding classes I teach, and I continue to be connected with former students who say that it really helped them get a leg up in the world of new media communication. For that, I’m proud and grateful.

I’ve been immersed in social media and online communications for quite some time. I was in on the ground floor of many things – I was on Facebook way before most of my high school buddies. My user ID on twitter is 821,845 (there are over 100 million users now). I’ve written 325 posts on this blog in 3 years. At about 1,000 words per post, that’s the equivalent of about 3 full-length novels. I’ve come a long way in the online world….but I want to go further. I want to dream bigger.

It’s no secret that computers and the Internet have fundamentally changed the way education is delivered. I remember the days before computers in the classroom, as I’m sure some of you do. The teacher would write and draw on a chalkboard. Presentations were hand written on plastic transparencies and displayed on an overhead projector. We watched filmstrips on an actual film projector, and listened to audio cassettes. Material was presented to us through different media, but often, what we were giving back were just flat, handwritten regurgitations of what we’d learned.

Now, anyone can record a radio show, or make a video documentary. Anyone can publish a novel or a photo travelogue. Most importantly, we can share our creations with the world. There is tremendous power in our ability learn by creating, publishing, and sharing content online. This power has translated well into the classroom environment, and it’s enriched the learning experience for many people.

I want to take this a step further.

Many classrooms today are using technology to create wonderful things. Some are even sharing it with the world. I create YouTube channels for my classes, and encourage my students to blog their college experience. That is all wonderful, and feedback from my students shows that they see great value in this. It falls short though, because classrooms are still mostly communicating with themselves. Sure, in some cases, they are showing off their creations to friends and family, but my YouTube channels are mostly so my students can look at their own and each others’ work. It rarely has much impact outside the classroom. This is where I see a great opportunity.

Most community colleges have some sort of new media or Web program now. Some even have courses specific to new communication and social media. But, in my experience, these classes often don’t know much outside the walls of their own experience.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could some how start to connect beyond the walls of our own classrooms? Wouldn’t it be awesome if our classes began to connect and share with other classes? Imagine a college class in Ottawa and another in Melbourne not only sharing what they’re learning with each other, but actually collaborating on projects. The possibilities are open and wide and endless.

It Starts With Us. The challenge with connecting classrooms is not in the actual connecting – we have the technology. The challenge is in actually figuring out logistically how to do it, and how it fits into our courses. And that starts with us teachers. Before we can connect our students, we have to connect with each other. We have to start sharing, and connecting, and collaborating on the best ways to facilitate these interactions. We have to understand how connecting our classrooms will tie into the learning objectives for our courses, and how we’re going to set our students up for success.

So this is my challenge to you. If you’re a teacher who is interested in exploring connected classrooms with me, get in touch. It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching at the college level or not, I want to hear from you. Leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter. Let’s have a chat and see if we can find some ways to dream big together. Who knows, we might just open up a whole new world of possibilities for learning.

6 comments
Suzy
Suzy

Let's make it global from the start! I teach entrepreneurship related courses to 2nd and 3rd year college students in Amsterdam and integrate a lot of social media into the programs. Could be an interesting opportunity for all.

Suze
Suze

Hey Suzy - would love to talk with you more about some connections we might be able to make. Feel free to link up with me via Skype "suzemuse". Cheers!

Barb
Barb

Fantastic, I am impressed and looking forward to reading more.

monika hardy
monika hardy

great post - great push. thank you. i'd like to push even more - maybe we don't try to fit the connecting into our curriculum/objectives - but we make the connecting our curriculum. Dave Cormier writes of community as curriculum. Ethan Zuckerman calls some of what you are talking about as imaginary cosmopolitanism. i think some of it is because it's easier to stay with what we're familiar with, but especially in ed, i think it's because we keep trying to fit everything into places we think they're supposed to fit. just finishing up Inquiry as Stance by Cochran and Lytle. just reaffirming my itch to respectfully question all our assumptions. so again - thank you Susan. me and my students are most certainly open to some incredible connections.

Suze
Suze

Hi Monika, feel free to connect with me on Skype - we can chat more about making some connections! My ID is "suzemuse"

Ed
Ed

I love the idea of connected classrooms.I've been blogging less than a year and on twitter less time again, but both have opened up a whole new world. I've connected with so many incredible educators and learnt so much that it's quite apparent we need to create such opportunities for our students too. Even at primary school level, global connections can make the learning really rich. I asked on twitter if anyone wanted to collaborate with Year 1 classes at my school for a unit on special places and got responses in a flash from 10 countries! The potential for meaningful learning is brilliant!