Be Kinder Than Necessary

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

— Albert Schweitzer,

French philosopher and physician

I am a firm believer in kindness. And being kinder than necessary. To me, kindness is when you see a person, a thing, a situation that needs something and you help fill that need.  To serve others is truly the way to make a positive impact on the world.

In my role as Learning Technology Teacher in the Junior School, one thing I see across all classes is students who are motivated to help other students when using technology.  Someone will ask me to show them something.  I will show them and then their neighbour will want to know too. Before I can show them, the first student I helped will lean over: “I will show him!” and the two of them will chatter away, leaving me out of a job.  It is the best kind of unemployment I could hope for!

I explicitly build this into my teaching, asking “Who thinks they could teach someone how to….(do whatever we are doing)?”.  “Who thinks they could help someone else?”. It is not always a zen-like state of bliss but I am hopeful that kids will see the value in learning from each other.  And that these behaviours will spill over to other facets of their life outside of technology.

New perspectives.  Sharing understanding. Building on ideas.  These are reasons I choose to be connected as an educator and I believe these are ways students can make a positive impact through the use of technology.  Technology allows us to go places we may never go in ‘real life’. This exposure to ideas that were previously beyond our reach must make us more empathetic, more inquisitive, more inclined to think, question, and wonder. Some examples that come to mind:

  • Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and the incredible way in which he has shared his understandings of planet earth with us from his reflections in outer space.
  • Humans of New York genius, Brandon Stanton and the way he captures humanity from behind his camera lens in NYC and, a few months ago, around the world when he partnered with the UN to bring us snippets of humans in Iraq, Jordan, Uganda, Keyna and six other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Peter Menzel’s Global Family Portrait: Material World and his Hungry Planet: What the World Eats both give amazing insights into what people have/have not in this world. This is one thing that is so hard to explain without experiencing it first-hand (especially poverty) but this goes some of the way to allowing students to connect globally to the ideas of others.

So, how can students use technology to make a positive impact on the world? I think Hugh Macleod has some great advice:

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He doesn’t stop there.  Here is a Hugh-inspired, play-by-play for you and your students:

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  1. Inspire and Be Inspired: Look, explore, inspire
  2. Become “Intoxicated by Possibility” – so much to do!  So little time!
  3. Dream big! – Nothing is out of your reach!
  4. Make a dent in the universe – The time is now, the person is you! Make A Dent!

I think in some ways, the key question here is misleading – or at the least, tends to lead us in a direction that we may not need to go in.  The use of technology is not the key point.  The ability to make a difference in our world is the key part.  Technology can help that process, it can accelerate that process, it can inspire that process.  The desire to connect with others, the opportunity to make a difference, that is what should be driving this process.

Use technology to connect, to inspire, to dream, and to act.  That is how we will change the world.

If you are still looking for some support to help you in this quest, one of my favorite, favorite websites is Inspire My Kids.  The name says it all and it does just that with a wealth of amazing resources designed to connect kids that want to make a difference.

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Mindset, Purpose, Connection…GO!

Global Collaboration.  It sounds daunting but with the development of technology it is a very feasible option for teachers and students. What makes it work?

Mindset

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Image Credit

 

I think collaboration on this level needs a mindset that says, “I am willing to do this thing even though it may not work or it may be hard or my students may be more familiar with the technology that we will be using than I am.”

This week I came across a graphic from a fellow Coetailer, Reid Wilson which underscores the key attributes of a modern teacher. I think step one of global collaboration is reading this list and nodding along. Vigorously.

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Purpose

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Image Credit

Step two…define your purpose.  What do you want to achieve from your collaborative effort? Who is initiating the collaboration?  Are we supporting the students or are we directing them?

An opt-in program which introduces students to the idea of global collaboration might be a good place to start.  For the past three years I have participated in Dot Day.  My level of involvement has varied from year to year.  We have Skyped with one class and shown our work, we have sent art to another and then Skyped them to discuss.  I have tried to get across to my students the idea of being connected through a common purpose.

I have also been part of the Teapot Project.  This one was challenging but authentic and I think as I continue to move on with this project, my ideas are evolving as to how it can help students broaden their connections. *NOTE: I currently have a teapot from a fourth grade class in Nanjing.  Does anyone want to participate?!

I recently saw a NYT slideshow on breakfast around the world and was inspired to do a similar “What’s in your lunchbox?” photo-sharing with schools around the world.  I created the Google Slideshow for sharing and even made a screencast of how to go about uploading your image, but then I had to ask myself, “For what purpose?”. This was so driven by me and not by the kids in Grade 2 who barely care about what is in the lunchbox of the kid next to them let alone a kid half-way around the world.  Why were we doing this?  Again, what was the purpose?

It made me think of two things with regard to global collaboration projects:

1. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. 

2. Who is driving the inquiry?

The latter question made me think of Hart’s Ladder of Participation which I have used to talk about authentic action with students. Are some global collaboration projects simply the mastermind of the teacher who can then check that off their list?  This sounds more sinister than needed but I think is worth thinking about when considering WHY you want to start a global project.

 


 

Connection

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Image Credit

I think the biggest drawcard of online, global collaborative projects is the connections you will build with fellow, like-minded educators.  I do think there is incredible value in exposing children to people, events, and ideas beyond the classroom walls.  I think there is just as much (more?) value to us as educators in participating in these ventures.

As has been alluded to since the beginning of this course, putting yourself ‘out there’ is not easy but it really does pay off.  To be able to expand your network and therefore your idea base beyond your own school is invaluable and has a major impact on who you are as a teacher.

My connected journey started with me writing my own blog, sonyaterborg.com.  From here, I asked to become a contributor to the shared inquiry blog, Inquire Within – a blog I found through Twitter. Sometimes I cross-post content from my own blog and other times I will write something specifically for this audience of (mostly) PYP educators. Soon after, I was asked by the IBO to work in a small team to develop the PYP blog, SharingPYP.

Without a doubt technology is changing the learning landscape and global education. The question is simply, are you going to be a part of that change?