Essential Life Skills (Whether You Are Online Or Not)

“The fears we don’t face become our limits” – Robin Sharma.

“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends” – Shirley Maclaine.

“We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown” – Teal Swan.

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” – Susan Jeffers.

The Great Unknown

In a whirl of ironic timing, today my colleagues and I had INSET after school, all about eSafety. It was expertly delivered and contained well researched and well pitched elements throughout. However, though it briefly mentioned the potential positives of Internet use for education; it predominantly focused on the perils of the world online, and particularly Social Media.

This reflects an oft repeated message. Articles such as this one bring home the potential dangers for us as professionals, as well as for our students. If all is to be believed, our wi-fi connections are acting as portals for piracy, unsafe situations, poor ethics and legal minefields.

Old fears, rehashed

I totally agree that we should be safe when online. If we are naive to the potential dangers that lurk out there, then we are liable to many a sticky situation. We must heed the advice of the excellent eSafety websites that are available to us, such as The NSPCCKidsSmart or thinkuknow; and give our children adequate guidance to help them lead safe and fulfilling lives.

This intriguing article on tells the story of how, even if we are trying to avoid being found, the trail of information that we leave online garners a footprint. Thus, you really have to think carefully about how you act and what you say when on the Internet. There really is no true privacy online, as is summarised nicely in the following quote (on the same article).

It turns out that people – ordinary people – really can gather an incredible dossier of facts about you – ‘Vanish’ article on

Plenty to be feared then. Yet, we should not let our fears rule us. Even more pertinently, we should not let our fears rule the education of our youngest. Is it time to change the focus of how we teach and learn about privacy online?

The Skills Of Life

…cultivating digital intelligence grounded in human values is essential… – Yuhyun Park on

My mind was entirely shifted on this issue by the writing on by Alia Wong and by Sally Pewhairangi. Truly inspiring stuff which you should most definitely give a read.

Sally Pewhairangi succinctly describes how digital literacy is very different to digital skills. Paraphrasing slightly, digital skills encompass the doing with technology. For example: setting up an email account, creating a story with a Word Processor or creating a database. You know, old English Curriculum content! Digital literacy, however, is the understandings behind how and why we use technology. For the purposes of this blog post, the how and why we protect our privacy or stay safe online.

Our teaching of the how and the why must also extend to the teaching of how and why we interact positively with others. The how and why of empathizing with other people. The how and why of being a kind and considerate human. Just because we are sat at a computer, we should not forget these life skills, and we certainly should keep this in our minds when educating about privacy protection and staying safe on the Internet.

DQ Institute, All Rights Reserved, via

Alia Wong, in discussing the ideas of educators such as Reuben Loewy (his organisation is here and even offers a Digital Literacy Curriculum Overview), comes into some agreement with the above ideas. Specifically, she states: “…(students) need to deeply, holistically, and realistically understand how the digital world works behind the scenes.”

Additionally, an education in the human side of the Internet; such as our online identity, the perils of too much screen time or the merits of digital activism – are now surely essential elements of the communities that we live in. We must move towards a deeper and more meaningful education of online privacy, and technology at large, to truly help our modern learners. Specifically, we understand better how to protect the privacy of ourselves and of others if we combine a knowledge of how and why technology works with how and why people work.

All too often, we invest in expensive technology and then tell our pupils how monumentally terrible it is for us. Fear it, we suggest. Look at all of these frightening news stories! Surely, we should be showing our youngest how positive the world online can be, whilst specifically modelling the all important how and why. Only then, can we hope that our students can protect their privacy and stay safe online. Only then, can we hope that we can produce engaged technology users who can really be ready for the society at large.

You can’t be an informed, responsible, and critical member of society if you don’t have the education – Loewy, quoted on

Copycats Assemble!

…individuals should initiate digital citizenship education in their own sphere of influence…” – Yuhyun Park on

Confession Time

OK, I admit it. Issues like copyright, fair use and remix culture scare me. It is not that I believe that my online ponderings are going to be stolen, left right and centre. No, that kind of arrogance is really not a part of my DNA. Rather, the fear comes into play because I really do not want to abuse someone else’s craft. Their creativity and vision is theirs and theirs alone. I was brought up to believe that to take something digitally without permission is just as bad as taking something like a bike or a car. I also graduated from an educational system of meticulous citation of quotations, which indeed did often take me as long to complete as the actual bulk of the writing that it was based on.

No doubt that these factors come into play with where I find myself now. Nervy. A little unsure. In fact, I surprisingly had not even thought about the whole issue for a few posts at the start of Course 1, before a colleague that is towards the end of their own COETAIL course said something along the lines of…

“Oh! I remember this – one of my first posts. Ha, to think that I used to set out my pictures like THAT! No captions at all…”

Ah. When realisation dawned, I scurried away to my laptop and not only located images with Creative Commons licenses, but also with their links copied in in the form of a caption. Belt and braces. Watertight (see above). Yet, it is the remix culture which I need to learn more about. To become more confident with. Lawrence Lessig alludes (alongside a surprising take on things politically) to an enticing culture in the following video. A culture of taking work digitally and adding value to it, for to then to teach us more about ourselves. A culture surely to be a part of. As the quotation suggests at the top of my post, as educators we need pay attention to and use Fair Use, and also use our influence to teach others about it as well.

It’s That Time Of Year Again

No, not Christmas. That would be random. No, what I am referring to is that my Year 3 students have their class assembly on the horizon. In my school, our assemblies are often quite something. Sure, they showcase learning, as most assemblies do in schools. But, there is also a culture of putting on quite a show. Imagine well timed jokes continuously hitting the spot, musical numbers that should be in theatres and thought provoking imaginings that make even the most steadfast parent shed a few tears in the audience.

No pressure then. The temptation is to use music videos, downloaded from YouTube, wholesale. There is also a temptation to scour the Internet for the best images and take them without asking. All then uploaded to the Class Blog or Google Classroom afterwards, no questions asked.

Well, for this weary and wary educator, it is time to ask those questions while I create the resources for our latest hit show (!). For a robust starting point, and for my own peace of mind, I will start simple and build from there (see the starting points below). This should also provide clarity for the children in my class, those ‘digital newbies’. As I intend to add it all to a blog, this would be a sensible move.

  • We will produce our own media as much as possible, e.g. video, photographs, voice recordings, etc (definitely more fun this way anyway).
  • If absolutely necessary, we will pay for something that is not ours (it is highly unlikely that we will do this, but a conversation worth having with the students).
  • We will make use of images with Create Commons licenses or with permission given. This will require us to become ‘Search Ninjas’, in the words of Jeff Utecht. This is an incredible resource when considering intelligent searching:
  • Of course, permission will be asked for when using images or videos of children.
  • If reusing, we will make sure that we remix media owned by others, using amazing advice such as that on Langwitches.

As I investigate these ideas, and the last one in particular, it will be a joy to help my students to further explore participatory culture.

Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from individual expression to community involvement – Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture.

Course 1 Final Project: Sikhism

A Little Context

The context for the focus of my Course 1 Final Project is a Year 3 Religious Education Unit of Study on the Sikh faith. Within the British National Curriculum, Religious Education is a subject which tends to be much marginalised. The entire Curriculum was re-written in 2014, and RE was not included. Instead, the guidance explains that though there is no statutory guidance, schools should locally agree how the subject is included and to what extent.

I lead this subject area in my setting, alongside another non-statutory subject – Philosophy. Students study one world religion per year as they progress through their time at my school, and Sikhism is the religion of choice in Year 3. This website offers a superb breakdown of suggested content, alongside the 2010 RE Curriculum.

Obviously, I am extremely enthusiastic about RE as a subject, even though I am not personally religious. I feel that it offers a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about different cultures, peoples and ways of life. Empathy should be at its heart. It is also a subject which can potentially empower children as critical thinkers. It can elicit debate, encourage creative ideas and be a host for entrancing learning. This is what I hope to bring to Year 3 with this UbD (no pressure)!


The UbD planning format is a new one for me (UbD in a Nutshell). The proforma forced me to rethink the lesson planning process somewhat, but I found the backwards planning process a really rewarding one. It directly ensured that each subsequent section was relevant to the overall objective. I also found that it also encourages the use of practical and truly embedded technology, a key feature of COETAIL Course 1 learning.

Having ambitious aims for our children and questions that rely on deep thinking is also a stellar feature. Including the ISTE Standards helps us empower our students, as active collaborators who make decisions meaningfully – all key parts of Course 1.

The Planning

I decided on a similar formula for each lesson in terms of how the lessons progress (reflect – independently research – share collaboratively – share on blog), which I hope will allow the children to afford most of their lesson time to learning about the topic at hand and the discussion that hopefully leads from it, rather than on content which does not necessarily link with these key aims. I based each lesson around one or two enquiry questions, as I feel that this will empower the students to think critically and act as a good focus point.

The entire Unit relies on uploading of created content onto a SeeSaw blog, which should bring this learning in line with Connectivist methodology, produce engagement and act as a further source of collaboration. Finally, I decided to ask the children in the last lessons to choose their own digital media options (which they have previously used) and I am really enthralled to see which ones they pick and why.

I am really excited to see how these lessons go in practice and to hear all of the wonderful opinions and findings from the students. My hope is that the technology listed will not only cement understanding of the central aspects of Sikhism, but also allow the children to reflect and discuss their ideas on a much deeper level. I can’t wait to share how it all goes with you all!

Don’t Feed The Trolls!

…70% of 18 to 24 year olds who use the Internet had experienced harassment, and 26% of women that age said they’d been stalked online – ‘Internet Trolls’,

The Dark Side

Only a cursory glance at a Twitter feed is needed to learn that the trolls are out there, fishing. They no longer live in nursery rhymes, but online, connecting directly to our screens. The online world has a dark side, as well as light. As the video above explains, in the most serious cases; the Internet can be used for cyber-bullying, threatening behaviour and the proliferation of negativity.

With the press of a mouse button, we can also see poorly researched views and terrible writing. Click bait and mindless re-tweets. Networks are regularly used poorly and people are experiencing disconnection through connection. As this article lucidly illustrates, poor use of the resources at our disposal online often arises due to desensitization, deindividuation and a mob-mentality.

Indeed, in recent times I saw this happening through my personal social media. In the run in to the last American Elections, I was convinced that there was going to be a wholly different end result than what happened in ‘reality’. Our ‘friend’ lists on Social Media can often be a political echo chamber, where we are only really benefiting (if you choose to see it that way) from a single point of view. This is problematic if you are interested in a measured view of the world. It is a problem if you would like to use the Internet for educational purposes.

Moving Into The Light

As educators, we must model positive use of learning networks and groups, and give students the proper foundations in the effective use of social media – Andrew Marcinek on Edutopia.

It is essential that as our students make their first forays into the connections online, that we guide them as best as we can to be positive Internet users. To fill the world behind our screens with love, as opposed to strife. This article, though written primarily about Wiki Projects, provides excellent guidance on how to fulfill this duty.

As the teacher, we have to model not only how to use the Internet appropriately, have open conversations about how to stay safe online and also treat this as an ongoing learning process, rather than a one-off teaching point. The culture of trust that we have in our classrooms has to extend beyond our walls. Our expectations and goals have to be clear and concise, from the outset of our children’s journey.

Educators must be ready to run into problems, and show students how to navigate the hurdles that inevitably stand in their paths. When interacting on the Internet, we must provide the appropriate vocabulary and show exactly how to be kind to others. In aiding critical thought, we must also guide our students to accept, give and learn from criticism.

Finally, our students need time to practice. None of the above comes naturally, and instead the positivity can be honed through meaningful experience.

The Results Are In

In a previous blog post, I explained how I would use Twitter in order to increase the readership for my student’s writing. One month later, I have found that the children are really engaged in their writing and appreciative of the chance to write to a larger number of readers. The amount of conversations that we now have about writing for our readers has also greatly increased. The community of parents seem to like the idea, and some responded with ‘likes’ and comments.

Feedback from pupils, teachers and parents on samples of the student’s writing.

The expertise has begun to become ‘crowd-sourced’.

…crowdsourcing is suspicious of expertise, because the more expert we are, the more likely we are to be limited in what we conceive to be the problem, let alone the answer – Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age.

But, it is now time to take our PLN to the next level!

Expanding Our Reach

I would like to do this on two fronts: one where samples of writing are displayed to a larger audience (expanding the ‘Twitter effect’) and the second in terms of blogged writing from the children.

As mentioned previously, Pobble seems like a brilliant way to extend the readership for written pieces of work, so the children and me will have a designated time in the week to upload work onto this website.

We will also use a segment of our week at school to blog. The Five Sentence Challenge and The 100 Word Challenge seem like really engaging websites to inspire story telling, with a competitive edge. This will hopefully allow the children to progress with regards to creative thinking and story crafting. We will also model for the children how to moderate and edit their writing before posting, and give them time to evaluate the writing of others through commenting (as in the ‘Evaluating’ section of Blooms Taxonomy Digitally). As an added benefit, it should aid the children’s spelling and typing skills – both crucial targets for my particular Year Group.

The Rule Book

Blogging in this way should provide my Year 3 students with a great way to increase their network and in which to learn how to be positive Internet users, who collaborate and are caring towards others. The activity will all be moderated by me, and protected as such, so it should be a good place to start. I will be there for the children as a regular point of contact, in a classroom which has a culture of trust, to help the children through the process of navigating online connections. We will learn together, and sort out any problems that we find on our way.

The images below show the clear and concise guidelines which I will set out for the children as we start this process.

Would you do anything differently if you brought these ideas into your classroom?

Do you think that these blogging rules are a good place to start?

Avoiding Hypocrisy

The Middle Ground

On reading the blog post here from Neil Willis, I reflected on how finding a ‘middle ground’ with regards to our use of technology in the classroom is often the best choice. Educators can not afford to be left behind in this fast changing world, to become ‘cavemen’ as Neil puts it. Yet we do all have to operate within a system. Some schools are more ‘traditional’ in their approach to education, whereas others are of a more modern nature. Unless we work as school leaders, usually our actions in the classroom have to account for the setting that we find ourselves in. However, it is our duty to take advantage of technology in any way we can, within our context, in order to help the children in our care to the best of our abilities. The biggest change that needs to take place in education with regards to modern technology is the approach of the teachers on a daily basis.

Growth Mindset

If we want to move the useful adoption of technology forward, it is crucial for educators to learn to listen, to observe, to ask, and to try all the new methods their students have already figured out, and do so regularly – Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Marc Prensky.

All of us push our children to develop growth mindsets, in order to act as effective students, as was presented memorably by Carol Dweck in her book and this TED Talk. We ask them to take on feedback, to develop and to consistently learn. Many of us make them say ‘not yet’ and ask them to see learning as a journey, rather than as a fixed entity. All effective educators do this to different extents in their classrooms (even if some of us shy away from the overused phrases that often are repeated robot-like!)

In a world of growing tech proliferation, of change and revolution; it is crucial for our children to act this way. Only then will they effectively utilise the online and technological world, for the benefit of their learning and ‘growth’. But what about us?

Taking On The Mantle

We must also adopt this mindset, for ourselves as teachers. It is all too easy to stand at the front of the class as the ‘all-knowing expert’. Adopting this archaic position then forces us into our comfort zone. A zone of using known technology, now probably years old and undoubtedly not really as effective as a host of other apps or devices out there. Or worse, repeatedly rehashing dated lesson plans with a complete ignorance of the utility of technology generally. Though some ‘dabbling’ (from the ‘Shaping Tech for the Classroom’ article) may take place, it is likely that opportunities are wasted with regards to the possibilities that use of up-to-date technology presents.

Ultimately, one of the biggest changes that technology will make to classrooms around the world is on the approach of the teacher. I vow to take on a positive philosophy of educational growth and to always strive to include technology positively in my classroom!

Classroom Reflection

Shelley Wright in the video above talks about how she changed her pedagogy, towards a direction that is driven by the students. She had to step down as the information provider and simply ride the wave of enthusiasm, collaboration and audacity from the children in her classes.

Though not quite on such a grand scale, I experienced a similar shift this week in my own class. I ‘delivered’ a lesson for PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) which was based on Online Safety. When I formerly taught this lesson, I would have stood at the front of the class and we would have debated some of the potential issues that can take place, with a video then used as a ‘reveal’ of something mildly shocking. It would have culminated in a list drawn up on a flipchart for the class to gradually forget.

This time out, I started with a set of (carefully chosen) videos on the topic which were set up on a Prezi. Not exactly groundbreaking, right? However, what the technology allowed me to do was to shift my approach entirely. The children accessed the videos in pairs and discussed them as they went along. They discovered information for themselves and developed their own rules to follow when Online. The level of interest and engagement was far greater than it would have been with the more classic approach. As the children worked together, I was able to learn alongside them and coach them based on learning skills such as effective collaboration.

The increase in enthusiasm then led us to have an interesting discussion and make a short video of our class rules; which we then posted to Twitter (private account) and received positive feedback from some of the parent community. I am really glad that a ‘growth mindset’ allowed for this positive change.

Student Survey

Finally, this blog post inspired me to allow my students some time to feedback to me, as a professional with a ‘growth mindset’. I felt that the children are showing that they are really empowered to work in what is clearly a reciprocal learning environment, despite an audible gasp when I asked the question, ‘Do you think that Mr Bell is a good teacher?’ It was really great to put myself forward as somebody who wants to improve to the class and some of their responses were extremely interesting (though thankfully overwhelmingly positive, with achievable targets to change)!

Flipping Out

Fair Warning

The modern world as we know it is calling out for us to use technology in education. There is such a veritable wealth of resources available that it would be foolish to disengage from the revolution that is taking place outside the classroom walls. However, ‘with great power, there must also come — great responsibility (thank you Stan Lee/Spiderman)!’

Many points from Teach Thought rang true with me. Especially number 4, namely ‘How will this tech empower students to control their own learning?’; number 5, ‘Am I more enamoured with this tech toy than my student’s learning?’ and number 9, ‘Will all students be able to access and leverage this tech?’

I completely agree that our focus must always be the children in our care. Lessons have to be delivered that are relevant and always to positively enhance the school experience for our students. We must innovate, and leverage the potential of technology to do so; but always in a way that is practical, effective and truly embedded. It is imperative that we avoid the error of our whole focus being on a fancy gadget which we heard about online, but also conversely of just ‘bolting on’ technology to already dated teaching. We have to strive to embed technology properly.

To Flip Or Not To Flip?

I have been interested in the concept of ‘flipped classrooms’ for some time, which has particularly piqued since reading blog posts like this one by Philip Arneill. The ideas surrounding this pedagogy have also been around for quite some time, after being introduced to education communities by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, and detailed extensively in their book here. I believe that if this is delivered well, then it should tick many (if not all) of the ISTE Standards.

Yet, to simply embark upon this approach without thought would surely mean that I (and more importantly, my students) would fall straight into many of the pitfalls listed in the paragraphs above. The warnings that echo from the Teach Thought Article would become a reality in my classroom. So, just how do I go about adopting aspects of this approach in a way that is practical, effective and embedded – for my Year 3 students?

If the flipped classroom is truly to become innovative, then it must be paired with transparent and/or embedded reason to know the content – Andrew Miller on Edutopia.

My research about flipped classrooms filled my browser with an array of superb ideas and approaches. I focussed particularly on versions of the pedagogy for elementary level, as befits the children in my class. The sites that particularly resonated with me were created by Jon Bergmann (that man again) and Alison Doubet. It is time for my Year 3 lessons to perform the ‘In-Class Flip!’

Don’t flip a class: flip a lesson…start with a lesson that students struggle with and make a short video – Jon Bergmann.

In-Class Flip

This would appear to me to be something that will potentially empower my class, help them all to progress and should be an effective use of technology. I started with what the children need to work on the most, within the lessons as they stand. This led me to select Mathematics as the subject of focus, particularly how the children use reasoning when solving problems, particularly when they are open ended in nature. This is also a focus for all four classes in my year group.

I find that, as we find across the syllabus, different children have different needs. Some children benefit from having instructions repeated or from having further visual representation of the problem at hand. Others need exemplification of exactly how to expand the scope of their reasoning, especially when they are writing it in a book. Lastly, others solve the problem really quickly and require additional challenges.

I have decided that in some lessons through the week, I will set up video tutorials which enhance those three areas for the children. I will still teach them, so it will not be entirely flipped, due to the fact that the children seem to benefit from this process (particularly the excellent discussion that proceeds from it, or initial practical exploration). However, perhaps the use of video opens the lesson out and increases the potential for progress among all groups of students. The children should be empowered as they will access the videos independently, in the form of self-directed assistance or challenge.  It may also free me up to give even more specific guidance, or to coach learning behaviours. I believe that it should also allow for more time in the lesson, with the focus being on additional experimentation with ideas and even…MISTAKES!

My intention is to experiment with different types of presentation methods, as I make these short video tutorials. I will allow myself to fail with this, potentially, and learn from it. Nevertheless, this article is an excellent list to start with. Later on, the children could take my lead and begin to make their own instructional videos for their mathematical solutions. Time to push them on to the next level of reasoning, and ultimately, understanding!

What presentation methods would you use?

How can I ensure that it is manageable, within the context of the busy school day?

Culture Shift

Simply allowing students to connect is only the beginning – Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design.

Shifting Landscapes

A theme inherent in this week’s reading is the idea that change has happened and is happening, irrevocably. Our lives are increasingly online, interwoven and interdependent. We rely on technology for so much, and more. As this is now an almost unavoidable constituent of everyday life; a crucial challenge for education is how to harness modern forms of interactivity, self-expression and creativity.

Yet, what is becoming increasingly obvious is that schools and the strict use of classic curriculum styles do not fit in with this present-day reality.

What we’re seeing right now is a culture clash between the modes of instruction and the institutions of learning that we’ve perfected in a prior age… – Learning That Connects by Mimi Ito.

If change is inevitable, with online and technological advances being subsumed into our teaching, we must help our children to make the very most of the wonderful array of tools that are at their disposal. We must help them to learn the most that they possibly can online. We must help them to shift culturally and in terms of mindset, from the education style of the old to the new.

Classroom Change

I was particularly inspired to change my classroom around, after reading this blog post from Dan Berry and this blog which influenced his writing.

As will become apparent, the changes that I made are not new, nor are they based on technology. But they are all directly geared towards readying the children for the world outside the classroom walls. All to change the way that they think and approach different situations. It is clear to me that we must start from the very basics, in order to positively influence the culture of each school day and consequently their mindsets for learning online.

With a strong foundation, the hope is that then the children can enter the online world as learners who are able to support each other, acquire knowledge autonomously, innovate and think critically.

I made the following changes to push towards these aims…

  • Children developed their own positive class rules, therefore owning their behaviour choices.
  • Displays are created by the children, with only a small selection of prompts pre-prepared, so that they can be in charge of their environment.
  • Every child in the class has a job to do, from taking the register to handing out books, giving them a sense of autonomy and leadership.
  • Resources, such as practical equipment for Mathematics, are readily available so that the children can serve themselves.
  • All have access to a ‘Wonder Shelf‘ where the children can store objects that make them wonder, even including objects from home which they can share.
  • The classroom is divided into different ‘zones’, from a group reading area to an area for quiet reflection, so that the children can adapt to different styles of working.
  • A designated time in the day for ‘show and tell’, to push the children to develop interests and share those interests with others.
  • A few minutes each day, devoted to mindfulness and quiet reflection. We use the channel ‘Flow’ on the site GoNoodle, and discuss the importance of finding a few moments for quiet in our busy and fast flowing world. This video sums it up perfectly…

  • If the children are stuck on a challenge, they ‘ask 3 before me’, enhancing peer support.
  • Regular self and peer evaluations, free from rubrics, to help the children to learn to evaluate and reflect.
  • Free choice options in homework, such as additional challenges or self-directed study.
  • Lessons hooked around an inquiry question or problem to enhance the use of meaningful decision making.
  • ‘Guided Reading’ as ‘Reciprocal Reading’, where the roles and thoughts are entirely directed by the children.

It is our job as teachers to set up our children to succeed, not in terms of passing tests or achieving the highest rung on the rubric, but rather to become connected collaborators who operate positively in a world made up of online networks and communities. With this grounding in positive learning behaviour, the hope is that the children can autonomously learn as much as they possibly can and help others to do so in the process.

Let’s not only help them to connect, but connect effectively – Connected Learning Report.

Moving Beyond A Single Source of Expertise

Weapons of Mass Collaboration – Donald Tapscott

The readings this week about making connections and forming networks were extremely inspiring and really made me consider the implications of how we use the Internet as a source of expertise, in particular social media. It is truly time to become a ‘prosumer’, as Jeff Utecht puts it in his book Reach.

However, my thoughts also moved to the children in my Year 3 class as well. They absolutely live in a community: from the bonds of friendship that they are building in the classroom; to the lists of exciting clubs that they attend; and to the all-important play-dates that they have outside of the school walls. This is particularly apparent in an English language and British style education school, based in central Tokyo.

They also absolutely learn from each other and build on different ideas in class time: from interesting talk partner conversations; to practical exploration of open ended problems in Mathematics; and to the rich discussions which we have as a whole class. Yet, does the online world really help the children to learn within the classroom setting? I would suggest that it is certainly time to take some of the ideas of connection, collaboration and network and use them directly to truly enrich the children’s learning.

Let’s take the all-too-regular a sticking point in the primary school day: the writing lesson. As it stands, the children in my class explore exciting texts and produce really creative pieces of writing. All to be viewed by their teacher (me) and teaching assistant. If they are really lucky then it will be stuck onto a display and perhaps viewed by another teacher in school, or a chance viewing from a parent.

Youth using new media often learn from their peers, not teachers or adults, and notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads – Living and Learning with New Media.

Aside from continuing to offer my expertise and ideas, it is time for my children to experience a wider range of experts. It is time for me to become a ‘connector first and content expert second’ – World Without Walls.

The first move towards this will come in the form of Twitter, which is currently used as a window into my class for the parents at home. I will ask the children to occasionally upload their writing onto this, in order to obtain some comments from the other classes in school, from other children in their own class, or from their parents at home. Though this is just a small measure, it should increase the audience that the children are writing for. It should give them some ‘real world’ drive.

In the interests of further involving friends and family as part of their audience, I think that the website Pobble is also something that I would like to investigate. This seems an excellent resource for the children to show their writing to the world and to gain feedback from a wide range of different people. It will be really interesting to discuss with the children how their personal networks are growing and exactly how this helps them with their learning.

Moving forward, though the children will be superficially involved in this process, it seems a logical aim to eventually help the children to gain full control. This would enable the children to be fully active in the process, and move from a ‘lurker’ to a ‘prosumer’. Child friendly blogs seem like something which would be a good step towards this, though any ideas about or beyond this would be warmly welcomed. With a whole world of online connections, it will be exhilarating to see how far the children’s networks can grow.

Much like classroom discussion, you must be an active member to get the most out of the content being shared – Jeff Utecht in ‘Reach’.

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Today was the first day for the brand new ‘cohort’ of Year 3 children to start in my class. As I guided them through a series of orientation, ‘get to know you’ and classroom rules lessons; I reflected on a very real sense of commonality between us.

The melting pot of trepidation and excitement that they inevitably felt prior to starting the day (especially the new starters that had both moved to Japan and moved to a new school) is very much a mirror of my feelings towards my own COETAIL-related adventure.

There is a lot to learn, and it certainly will be a steep learning curve. But then again, isn’t that exactly the same for so many of our students?

Colleagues, who are also graduates of the course, speak exuberantly about what a brilliant experience COETAIL is in terms of allowing members of the community to reflect on their practice and share the very best ideas. With such a valuable wealth of expertise out there to learn from, within such a rich and diverse set of connections, it is time to dive into all that this course has to offer!

I look forward to taking this journey with you all. All the best of luck to everyone in Online 9, let’s take the plunge!