About a year and a half ago if you would have told me that I could be a better teacher by expanding my PLN, I would have laughed it off and made fun of you for being one of ‘those people’. In fact, I took some time to look back on my very first blog post in regards to this and what I thought about it then compared to now is completely different. At that point I was doing it because I knew that I should, but I really didn’t like it. Now, I have done a 180 where I am willing and eager to do it and I like to because I have seen how much it has made me become a better educator for my students.

Since December, I have made an intentional effort to learn and grow by expanding my PLN in a variety of ways. Here is a detailed, sequential list that I created that shows them all, and then afterwards I will go into each kind of connection individually and how it has enhanced my learning and made me a better educator.

Global Student Projects

One of the first ways I stayed connected for not only myself, but also my students was through participating in some global projects. The two that I specifically focused on were doing the Travelling Tale and the Traveling Teddy.

Let me start by briefly talking about the Travelling Tale. My class participated in one that was published in November called The Unicorn and the Boy as well as one that was recently published on March 20th called Ocean Friends. For the sake of my students, these tales taught them to collaborate globally and understand the idea of creating digital stories. For myself, both tales really enhanced my learning of global projects and how to collaborate better via email, Google docs, Flipgrid, and Twitter. For our first Travelling tale, @marianozuk and I connected so that we could get our classes to post to a collaborative Flipgrid together to learn more about our cultures and experiences while creating the tale. This was super beneficial for me because I learned a new tool. Honestly I had never used Flipgrid before this, and my students got to talk with another class of students from across the globe and practice being good digital citizens. 

The Traveling Teddy was also an amazing global experience for me and my students. We received Freddy the bear for the month of January. For me this again expanded my knowledge of global projects and global action centered around the SDG’s and also helped me to make some more connections with a class in Panama. I contacted @BevansJoel and he got me in contact with the first grade teacher at his school so we could connect. The first grade teacher and I messaged via email to find a way for our classes to connect around the Teddy. We decided that we could best do this through Seesaw connected blogs. Her class made comments on our post about Freddy and then my class replied back to answer questions via commenting as well. This taught my students a bit more about digital citizenship as well as required me to problem solve a way to connect with another class who did not allow their own students to do a Seesaw connected blog. When my class posts their final plant experiment tutorial videos, I will again reach out to this teacher to see if her class will listen and comment on my class’ work.

Ongoing Blog Comments

Throughout Course 5, I made a personal goal for myself in regards to blog commenting. I decided that I would make one comment on every post that was made by any of my fellow Online 10 members. Since there are only a few of us and we only make 4 blog posts during this class, I thought it would be beneficial for both them and myself and indeed it was. I always learn something new when I read posts of my fellow Coetailers and they also give me ideas for things I could do in my class as well.

Another goal I made for myself was blog commenting on one of the Coetail 11 member’s blog posts each week. I thought this would be interesting for me to do because I could look back as they complete their Course 1 and 2 posts and reflect on how I have changed since then as well as impart any knowledge that I learned in those course to them. What I didn’t think about was how much learning and ideas I would have as a result of seeing their posts and connecting with them. Here are a few in particular that were helpful for my learning and teaching:

  • Caitlin Howald’s Blog– She talks about an activity she did with her class in regards to ratios using candy and tech. It inspired me to find a way to implement more tech in my class when it came to graphing data. I downloaded the app Graphing for Kids and brought in some M&M’s for them to use for graphing. Lot’s of engagement and purposeful tech use happened as a result. Our classes may even connect as a result!
  • Matt Broughton’s Blog– This blog post was his final project centered around using Siri as a tool for research. His post opened my eyes to this possibility for my students as well. His lesson plan to go along with it is really great and I will use it to introduce it to my classroom. 
  • Mike Thaler’s Blog– This blog was also his final project and it centered around using Probots for teaching geometry. Integrating computational thinking into subject areas is one of my personal challenges and his blog post gave me some new ideas for how to do this! I am going to try out using Probot for my students during our geometry unit and our measurement unit next year because I found out from his post that the forward arrows are measured in cm. Had I not read this, I would still be just having my kids use them for simply exploring and not any specific content. 

Twitter Chats

A few Twitter chats that I have been active in and will continue to be active in are #IntEarlyEd, #1stChat, #InnovatingPlay.

#IntEarlyEd is a chat created by the amazing @PanaAsavavatana. The most interesting thing about this to me is that she actually started this during Course 5 of her Coetail journey! These chats happen once a month around a different subject area and I try to participate as often as I am able. Through participating in these chats I have learned more about early years education than ever before. This is only my 3rd year of teaching an early years grade, so this chat has been beneficial for me to follow and participate in. I have gotten new ideas and so much new learning about what education should look like for littles. What I am most proud of in regards to this particular chat is that I was able to moderate one of them in December! Pana reached out to a group of us on Twitter a while back in October to ask for volunteers to help moderate and lead one chat during a month for this year. I have NEVER lead a chat before so I was a bit nervous, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and learn something new! Pana and the other chat leaders were super helpful if I had any questions for how to organize it. I was still pretty nervous when the day came, but it went off without a hitch and I was happy to have helped. I even learned about how to time tweets using TweetDeck so that I could continue with a slow chat after the live chat was over. You can see in the Google Doc above the process I went through to create and moderate. Through moderating I also got connected with some other really great educators I could learn from on Twitter as well.

The next chat I was and will definitely continue to be involved in is the #1stchat. These chats happen every Sunday evening in the states which falls on Monday morning my time in China. It is really great to get connected with other 1st grade teachers around the world to talk about different content areas and disciplines. From this chat, I really get to put my knowledge out there while also getting so many tools, tips, ideas, or lessons that I can implement in my classroom immediately. One chat in particular was about kids and self-regulation. I took some ideas that morning and used them in my classroom that day. I will continue to keep up with this chat whenever timing lines up for me and maybe even use it to try to get some other first grade classrooms to listen to my class final plant experiment projects.

The last chat I fell upon accidentally. I was actually looking for a #Seesawchat date to connect with but instead found a group of teachers in the states that were chatting on Flipgrid about Seesaw called #InnovatingPlay. I will talk more about them in the next section.

Flipgrid Chats

I am really glad I accidentally fell upon this group of teachers. Up until finding the chat about Seesaw, I had never done a Flipgrid chat for myself. I was very nervous to step in and talk but I am really glad I did. Their PLN #InnovatingPlay was created by 2 pretty awesome stateside teachers, @PintoBeanz11 and @jlabar2me, that have educational philosophies similar to my own. They host slow flip chats each month that center around different subject areas and all teachers are welcome to join in the chat. I have participated in a few now since finding them in February and I will continue to do so any time I can. Through chatting with them I have gained more confidence in my own teaching ability, a group of like minded educators to share my ideas with and get ideas from, and lessons/digital tools/materials I immediately can use in my classroom. Since all of them are located stateside, they are pretty happy to have a look into the life of an international teacher as well. At first they started out as strangers to me with a common passion which made it a little scary for me to get on and create a video of myself to share with strangers. But since they are a welcoming and encouraging teacher community, I now look forward to when each question comes out weekly for the chats so I can post, and listen to all of the great things everyone has to say. One fellow first grade teacher who frequents the chats and I will be connecting our classes in the future for sure.

Connecting IRL

You may not believe me when I say this but I am naturally a VERY introverted person. Just ask my husband @MrPmusings and he can vouch for me. That being said, since I really see value in making connections for the sake of continuing to grow as an educator, I try to get myself out there IRL as much as I can even if it makes me step out of my comfort zone. If there is a PD opportunity my school is offering, I will be one of the first to jump on it. Unfortunately this year when I asked to go to 21CLHK, I was unable to go because they wanted to send some other teachers who have never been to this amazing PD. But, since I also have the opportunity to work with the amazing @TanyaLeClair and even call her my friend, I did not miss out completely. She worked to plan and organize the #21CLTeachMeet that I was able to go and participate in. While there, I was able to learn and connect with some awesome teachers from around our area. It was really great to learn and discuss our struggles/accomplishments while teaching within the context of China. Surprisingly enough, I also met someone who attends the same church as me here in Guangzhou. Such a small world!

Future Plans

As you can see, I have been working hard and I have been very intentional about putting myself out there and to learn from and share with others around the world. This course has really changed me from being a passive lurker, to an active participator who shares my knowledge and seeks knowledge in any way possible to make myself a better educator. Through making connections, that cost me absolutely nothing, I have grown so much personally and professionally and gained so much that it really should be worth millions of dollars. I will definitely continue to participate in all of these ways mentioned above and seek out any opportunity presented to me to make myself a better teacher for my students every day. After all, we are definitely better when we all work together.

Featured image created using Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay