From Manila to Florida: Making Global Connections

Monday night while in Manila I had the privileged to Skype into the first day or school for elementary teachers at Chets Creek Elementary. By far this was the highlight of my trip to Manila and really I just happened to be in Manila it could have been from anywhere.

Melanie Holtsman contacted me about a week ago and asked if I’d be willing to Skype into the first day of school for the teachers to talk about technology. It seems the principal had bought ever teacher the book Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools as a book study and according to Melanie I’m mentioned in it a couple of times (yet to be verified by me) so she thought it would be cool to showcase just how easy it is to connect to people around the world.

I have to say I didn’t sleep the night before thinking about how to motivate teachers on the first day of school. I’ve sat through those meetings (just did it two weeks ago) and there is usually two things you’re thinking about. Either you just want to be in your classroom getting ready, or you still want to be on vacation…either way you usually don’t want to be where you are.

Although for some reason, I think the teachers at Chets Creek might break that rule. When I Skyped into the room I found everyone dressed up in costumes from different countries. A tradition at Chets Creek. What a fun staff and what a great way to try and keep the first day blues away by having a purpose for being there.

I started off the presentation by taking the staff on a short tour of my career. Using Google Earth we started where I was raised in Spokane, Washington zoomed right in on my parents house and the two combines sitting out back (the pictures are old because I know for a fact that the combines are in the field this week 😉 ). From there we flew to Saudi Arabia directly to the house that we lived in on the compound and you could see the pool out the front door (13 steps) and the pool out the back door (15 steps). That was resort living at its best! From there we flew directly to our apartment in Shanghai and then to our new house in Bangkok before ending up on the hotel I was staying in in Manila.

My message: The world has just gotten a whole lot smaller! I talked briefly how making global connections today is what our students do. Distance and time have become irrelevant. The web has allowed us to connect to people when we want and when we need and our students already know that. I challenged the staff to take something they already do in the classroom, some lesson, some curriculum outcome and find a way to modify it to connect their students globally. To allow them to write, create, and share with a global audience.

We then showed them some examples of things they could do. Like joining Jen Wagner’s A Room With A View project. I talked about how this type of project could fit into multiple parts of the curriculum at all grade levels. I know Kim is planning on joining the project with some of our classes here.

We looked at some examples of blogs both of teachers and of students. We looked at examples of classroom wikis and how teachers where using them in different ways to accomplish different goals.

I really enjoyed myself and am totally overwhelmed by the response of the staff.

But the best part of the whole experience happened today when I was reading some of the blog posts from teachers. Suzanne, an Instructional Coach, recapped the day on her blog and talked about the Principal Susan Phillips:

Our Principal, Susan Phillips, then presented on Web 2.0 and School 2.0. She reiterated that the web has changed. It has gone from software based to web based from individual to collaborative from offline to online from costly to free and from copyrighted to shared. We, as educators, must move swiftly as this shift happens in order to reach and engage all kids. We must focus on project based learning that is rich, real, and relevant. We must have engagement that precedes the content. We must encourage risk taking, ask for help, search for answers. We must embrace the web as participatory, and have students as designers for learning. To be successful we can no longer be digital immigrants teaching to digital natives.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I had to move back to the States tomorrow, I think I would be giving Susan a call for a job. I’ve read that statement three times now and each time it gives me chills to think that this is a principal of an elementary school. This is a leader who is not making excuses but one who is taking the opportunity that has presented itself and is determined to lead her staff and students into the 21st Century. Her latest blog post starts this way:

The Journey Begins…

Risk more than others think is safe.
Care more than others think is wise.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.

By all accounts I think Chets Creek is going to be a school to watch this year. They have the vision, the leadership, and an energized staff ready to take a risk and try something new. With Melanie at their side for support they are going to do some great things for kids!

Thank you for inviting me into your school, may this year be your best one yet!