As part of our unit of inquiry into Where We Are in Place and Time, our KC class has joined a global project called Kindergarten Around the World. We have partnered up with Michelle’s KinderPals class in Abbotsford, Canada.
During a recent Skype meeting with our KinderPals in Canada, the two classes agreed to collaborate to write a fictional story. KinderPals got the ball rolling by tweeting some ideas to KC, and we discussed them and responded with our ideas. As the story ideas became more sophisticated, the KC children wondered how we could share our ideas as, “there are too many letters and they will go red and then we can’t send it” on Twitter, their usual communication tool.
I introduced the children to Google docs. We created a document and I explained to the children how we could share the document with others and choose who could edit the document. As we recorded our ideas in the document, some children wondered how we would know which ideas were KC’s and which were KinderPals’. Trenton suggested using different colours. The KC children chose red. Nia suggested offering to swap colours if KinderPals wanted to be red.
The classes took turns to give feed-back on the ideas so far and to add their own ideas. They tweeted each other when they added some more ideas to the Google doc so that the other class could have a look at the updated version.
The KC children wondered how they could share their ideas about how settings actually looked. After some discussion they decided to draw detailed pictures which we shared in a PhotoPeach so that KinderPals could give feedback. With hind-sight, a VoiceThread would have been a better collaboration tool; ideally, I would have guided the children towards VoiceThread when they were brainstorming sharing tools but I missed that window of opportunity.
Some of the children in KC asked if we could Skype with KinderPals again, “because it will be easier to decide when we can see them and ask them, otherwise we have to wait for ever, till the next day, to wait for a twitter.” Other children explained that it is difficult to Skype because KinderPals and KC are in different time zones, and when we are at school, KinderPals are at home. Someone wondered if we could Skype KinderPals during our sleepover. Hal suggested checking on the worldtime buddy app that we use to keep track of different time zones of our friends around the world. We found that skyping wouldn’t work during our sleepover. We discussed the idea of synchronous and asynchronous communication (I didn’t introduce the vocabulary, just the concept; perhaps next time I would drip the vocabulary). The children realized we would have to use other tools for communication.
As the project unfolded, both groups of children were expanding their knowledge of 21st century communication tools and were seeing that their learning environment expands far beyond their classroom. I marvel at the fact that these five and six year olds are developing online learning networks and switch so comfortably and appropriately between web 2.0 tools to comunicate effectively far beyond the classroom. Over the course of the year the children have blogged, tweeted, emailed, air-mailed, Skyped and used Google docs, a wiki and VoiceThread to make connections and compare and share their learning with children in different time zones in the other corners of the world. It occurs to me that these children of the digital generation are limited only by the limitations of those that teach them; the more we as teachers can explore, experiment and take risks by going out of our comfort zones and trying new things, the better able we are to support and scaffold the children’s digital inquiries.