Sunday, April 14, 2013

How My Learning Environment Has Evolved

Over the course of the last 4 years I have transformed as an educator.  I previously was a kindergarten teacher, who taught routines and was fearful of change and what it meant to our routines. I then began teaching grade 1 and wanted to change the way I delivered my message more over I wanted learning to be enriched.

There have been 4 contributing factors to the change of the environment in my classroom.  My mindset, my students’ mindset, the social space and the physical space.

It is my goal as an educator to foster discovery and reflection through the dialogue and sharing of ideas. Our classroom learning space stems from this goal:  Our entire space was designed as a free and open area where learning is facilitated by student need.

The iPad cart is open for students to freely use to update their blogs and select the application that serves their learning need.  Our room is equipped with a projector, and an Apple TV so student creations can be shared with each other, with other classes and worldwide.

In order to have a positive social environment, I honor student voice and model positive interpersonal relationships.   I empower students by facilitating their learning through collaboration with each other and me.  Students in my class feel a sense of belonging in our classroom community.  This empowers them to take risks and explore new ideas.  My students have been taught to listen carefully to each other.

Students are given problems that are relevant and important to them.  Students often need to collaborate with outside experts through Skype or Google Hangout.   My students also use collaborative tools like wikis, and blogs.  By giving them the choice on what they learn about, they are intellectually engaged.  I center our learning goals on the big ideas and key concepts across the curriculum areas rather than limiting the students to one topic or curriculum expectation.  Learning is art, science, physical and virtual, local and global.

My students come to me as technology consumers.  My job is to teach them how to become content creators.  Many of my students have iPads or iPods at home already.  They expect learning to be fun.  My students come to me with curiosity and I embrace that curiosity through project based and inquiry based learning. 

I strive to inspire and develop the skills necessary for my students to succeed in the 21st century.  My students are encouraged to create, collaborate, communicate and motivate in my classroom.
If you step into my classroom you will quickly find out that we are a classroom with no walls.  Video conferencing, blogging, creating videos and books, teaching and learning from other peers in the classroom, in the school and in the world about what they are interested in is embedded into the daily instruction of my classroom.  The results of this purposeful connectivity is that my group of grade1/2 students have begun to develop a global perspective of issues that could not have been authentically discovered if they were solely engaged in books in our classroom.

I have not done this alone.   I have a personal learning network of many like-minded educators who I have sustained learning relationships with.  My students embrace change and I embrace change. As my teaching methods and the technologies I use continue to evolve, the transformation of my learning environment will continue as a journey, not a destination.

 Guest post by Kristen Wideen

Kristen Wideen is a grade 1/2 teacher in Windsor, Ontario.  She loves collaborating with others and incorporting technology into her teaching.  You can find her on Twitter @mrswideen or her professional blog

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