How Blogging Has Enhanced My Parent Connection

These are insightful words about the merits of blogging, from a teacher whose writing inspires me. This is a really good read!

I didn’t think parents of my students would ever read my blog.  Why would they?  And yet, now that I have been blogging for four years I am often amazed at how often the parents of my students actually read what I write.  Not just on our classroom blog, but also on this blog; my personal one.  While there are many small benefits to this, it has also brought on a sense of responsibility to them.  I blog about my thoughts on their children, it is their children who inspire me, it is their children that urge me to change, reflect, and grow.  That heightened responsibility of how I represent our classroom and myself is only one of the things that has urged me to continue blogging and sharing.  With each of the blogs, there have been many other benefits.

Benefits of a Classroom Blog:

  • Parents know what is going…

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An Honour – #eddies13 Best Wiki in Education Finalist

As the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing broke across the world, so I also received the news that The Travelling Rhinos wiki is a finalist in the Best Wikis in Education category of the Edublogs Awards 2013! I am truly honoured to be in great company, as the other finalists are fine examples of how wikis can be put to full use in the educational sphere. What a fitting way to celebrate the FIRST birthday of this project!

If you like what you see, I would really appreciate your vote! For instructions on how to vote go here and scroll down for more information.

To vote, click on the image below:

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The World Awoke to a Storm Today…

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Today the world awoke to a storm. Nelson Mandela, iconic leader, inspirational human being and father of the new South Africa has died. An overwhelming feeling of sadness is in the air, a nation in shock. My own raw emotions welled up inside me as I relived the loss of my own father just a short six months ago. Today I revisited those emotions as I watched the tributes to this great man come pouring in on television, radio, in the newspapers and all platforms of social media. The world mourns with us.

Then, in my email inbox I find a personal letter of condolence from a Global Classroom Project teacher who I have never met, but have worked with on more than one occasion in the past year, whom I now regard as more than an acquaintance, a friend.  A letter so comforting, sharing in our pain as a nation and offering words of comfort and compassion from afar. I will not name that person, she will know who I am referring to when she reads this blog post. Her letter has meant so much to me this morning. I am eternally grateful.

This is the spirit of the Global Classroom Project. This is the world Nelson Mandela would want us to live in, a world where we share each other’s success and joys, a world where we can come together and spread peace and love and share dreams for a better future. I am proud to be a part of this wonderful community. May we grow in strength together.

The Edublog Awards 2013 #eddies13

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Since I am thrilled by the honour of having my Travelling Rhinos wiki nominated for an Edublog Award this year, I feel the need to reciprocate by recognising blogs, bloggers, wikis, tweeters, hashtags, tools, apps etc. that have made an impact on my life over the past year. I’ll keep it short and sweet:

Cross Posting: From Year 6RC at Roseville College Junior School in NSW, Australia

As the rhinos travel around the world it is always very uplifting for me to see and hear what they have been getting up to on their travels, and that is why I appreciate it when teachers (or students) blog about their experiences with the visiting rhinos. Here is a blog post by Pru Thomas, year 6 teacher at Roseville College Junior school in New South Wales, where Lesedi has just been visiting:

Lesedi : The Travelling Rhino

Posted on September 13, 2013 by 

We feel very privileged to have enjoyed a visit from a rhinoceros over the past few weeks. Lesedi is one of 5 rhinos from Cape Town in South Africa who are travelling the world to inform children everywhere about the plight of the world’s rhinos.

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We learned that there are 5 types of rhino and they are all in danger of extinction.They are hunted and killed for their horns. Rhino horn is made of keratin just like our fingernails but many people believe it can be used to cure all sorts of medical problems. This is not true. So rhinos are killed for nothing.

Lesedi has already travelled almost 22 000 km from her home to visit us in Sydney. You can read lots more about her at http://saveourrhinos.wikispaces.com/The+Travelling+Rhinos

We also took Lesedi with us to Canberra where she met the Queen of England!IMG_0133

Of Blogs and Blogging…

 

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One of my goals this year was to see that each student in our school was set up with a blog and also to set each Grade up (Grades 4, 5 and 6) with a Grade blog which the teachers could share and take turns to post articles or photos to. Well, I can happily say that I have achieved these goals – and more. We even have a school library blog and a school sports blog going now!

For the students I decided to use the KidBlog.org platform because it is safe and secure and can be controlled by the teacher. It is a great stepping stone for future blogging. For the Grade blogs, Library and sports blogs I chose WordPress.com simply because it has served me well and I have found it easy to use.

I have to say, getting the students to blog has been a whole lot easier than getting the teachers to blog. Granted, they have more features on their blogs, which have at times, been trying for the teachers and frustration levels have been high on occasion (especially when the internet doesn’t play along and loading images takes much longer than anticipated – and you know how teachers are about their time). There have been highlights too, such as a teacher blogging via her laptop directly from camp, so the parents got the latest camp news hot off the press! The students, however, don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t worry as much about mistakes. They simply keep on trying until it works or they are satisfied with the result. We are now at the stage where the students are asking to blog, which is most encouraging! The learning curve has been a little more steep for the teachers, but we are definitely getting there. Having said this, it is difficult to keep the momentum going (my own blog is proof of this) and the teachers need reminders to blog and keep their students blogging. They seem to have difficulty in finding topics to blog about, but this will change over time and it will become more intuitive the longer they blog. I have tried to help by sending them ideas for blog posts and also links to further reading for blog posts.

I do believe blogging can play a very important role in the classroom and this is why I encourage our teachers to blog:

· It opens a window into a more personal aspect of your classroom life.

· It is another way of keeping in contact with your parents.

· It is a way of sharing information, content, links etc. with students and parents alike.

· It could be a showcase for student work, as well as a way in which to post homework.

· It is a method of reflecting on work done, learning that has taken place or places that have been visited etc.

· With a blog you can share news in a paperless way!

· Blogging encourages responses from parents, pupils and other visitors, so it is another way in which to engage in a conversation.

· If you keep at it, it could transform your teaching and be the link to technology use in your classroom.

I believe our students should blog for the following reasons:

· It teaches them to write for a wider audience, not just their teacher.

· They learn valuable skills such as proof reading.

· They learn how to react to comments in an informed manner and also how to write effective comments.

· A student blog could become an online portfolio of work done (something I am working towards).

· Student blogging forms an integral part of digital citizenship and makes up an important part of their digital footprint.

· It opens their worlds up, especially when they interact with other students from around the world.

· They have something that they can be proud of and which is accessible anywhere in the world.

Although the blogging has come along in fits and starts so far this year, I am positive that if we stick with it and keep making the effort, the students and teachers alike will see the value in it and we will go from strength to strength.

Cross Posting: From The Global Classroom Project Blog

Luke Dyer was asked to do a guest post on the Global Classroom Project Blog. This is what he had to say:

Connecting Globally from a Remote School – Travelling Rhino Project

May 24, 2013 by  | 4 Comments

For the past fortnight we have been hosts of Lesedi, one of five travelling Rhinos sent round the world by Karen Stadler, who I have never met, but DSCN8901connected with through email and twitter. Hawea Flat is a small rural school in the South Island of New Zealand and the closest Rhino to us is in a Zoo 5 hours drive away. We knew what a Rhino was and we knew who a poacher was, however we had no comprehension of how the two fitted together and what the devastating consequence of their connection was.

When Lesedi arrived in the mail we had to begin at the beginning. We read books, watched YouTube clips and researched on line. Quickly made connections to the horrific truth and the selfish reasons behind the problem. I have never seen a group of children become enraged so quickly over an issue.

So I simply asked “What can we do about it? We are to far away!” and showed them the distance between South Africa and Hawea Flat on Google Earth.

That is where the kids took over. They showed me that the skills that we have learned in class – ways to solve a problem and find a solution – were important and that when needed the kids could call upon them. In groups they thought of raising money, but then realized that money was not the problem, people were the problem and that not enough people knew about the issue (Kids came up with this – not me).

So, again I said “Ok, it is a people problem. We cant fix that!”The News

Then the class was off again…

“We can make a petition.”
“Put it on a Google Form.”
“Tweet it on our class Twitter and Mr Dyers Twitter.”
“Email it to all the parents.”
“Get them to like it on face book.”
“We can tell the parents at assembly too!”

…and like that the project made an impact on my class and our community. We blogged, tweeted and emailed. Posters and placards were made. Then, we received emails from the local paper asking for interviews. The class and myself have been stopped in the street and told that what we are doing is awesome.

If you have not added you name to this petition then click here to get to the form.

Through my classes participation in Karen’s Travelling Rhino Project we have learned firstly about the plight of the Rhino and raised the awareness of it to our community, but secondly that through projects such as this classrooms no longer need to have walls.

The Global Classroom is a reality and achievable for any educator and all you need is a concept or cause and a PLN to connect you with the world. You can collaborate on a blog, email, Skype, trade letters or tweet with another class, as the technology we have at our classrooms removes the barriers of distance, borders, language and timezone. This project only lasted two weeks, but it changed the way that I look at education and changed the way my class looks at the world.

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Thank you Luke, for a superb reflection – and for taking action to save our rhinos! KS

Cross-posting: From Luke Dyer in New Zealand

I just love how the teachers who have signed their classes up for The Travelling Rhinos Project have embraced this project and in many instances, have put their regular teaching on hold to ensure that their students can participate fully in this project. Once such teacher, Luke Dyer, blogged about the project today. I have cross-posted with his permission:

First Global Project – Travelling Rhinos

LesdieBack last towards the end of last year I saw a message on twitter asking for classes to collaborate in a project to increase the awareness of the plight of the Rhinoceros.  This South African teacher, Karen S or @ICT_Integrator, and her class had 5 Rhinos made from traditional African fabric, gave them names and sent them out into the world to different classes. Now, almost 6 months later, Lesedi (Light in Setswana) arrived in the mail.

For the past week we have learned about Rhinos; facts and figures about their life and the sad facts and figures about their rapid move towards extinction. So with these issues in our mind we decided to try and do something to make a difference.  Many ideas were raised about ways to raise money, but it was clear that money was not the issue – the issue was that people did not know that there was a problem.

Then a small child said “Why don’t we make a google form and get people to sign their name and we can put it on our blog for people to access.
Another added “…and we can tweet it out on the class Twitter and your Twitter Mr Dyer”.
Then lastly “…and Mum’s got Facebook and she can like it on that and heaps of people will see it.”photo (14)

So through social media we made a petition and shared it (as I type this blog post we have over 300 names on the petition).  The class made a poster and shared it at assembly and we also used the school newsletter emailing list to get the link to the form out to all parents. Instantly we discovered that the local newspapers read our newsletters and we have had one reporter in already taking photos and recording the journey and another is coming in tomorrow morning.

Through participating in this project I have truly seen the power of modern technology in knocking down classroom walls and making global connections.  Karen’s aim of the project was to raise awareness of the issues and I believe that in our small way, this small rural school in the middle of nowhere has made a difference. Technology removes the barriers of distance, knocks down the borders between countries and allows for global collaboration of epic proportions.  This may be just one project, but there are many more out there and I urge you to look for one or begin your own.

If you have not added your name to the petition do so now and if you have thank you.

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Click on the image to view the petition

Thank you Luke, for your enthusiasm and support for this project! Please visit Luke’s blog to read more.

Cross-posting: From Kerry Muste in Australia

Kerry Muste, Teacher Librarian and ICT Coordinator at a Catholic Primary School in Western Australia has also embraced The Travelling Rhinos Project and become quite a rhino warrior! Here is her blog post about when Lesedi visited her school (posted with her permission): 

Global Classrooms – Expanding their world

Lesedi and the princess

Lesedi and yr one hugs

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Lesedi helping Yr 5's learn about rhinos.

Lesedi joing the Yr 5 class for Indonesian.

Lesedi joing the Yr 5 class for Indonesian.

The Travelling Rhinos Project – A Global Classrooms Initiative by Karen Stadler (@ICT_Integrator)Last year I participated in Karen’s Crazy Crazes Global Classroom project and it was such a good experience for myself and the students that I decided to be part of this year’s project.
We have hosted Lesedi, one of the Travelling Rhinos, for the last 10 days and she has proved to be very popular with the students. One of my favourite memories will be the Year 1 class hugging her after they found out that rhinos were being killed for their horns. Participation in the project has meant that not only are we learning about rhinos and their plight but has brought the world a little closer to us and will enable us to focus on our own endangered species and the need for awareness campaigns. Lesedi leaves us to go to Plympton Primary School in South Australia at the end of the week but her legacy will endure as we continue to learn about animals under threat.
Farewell Lesedi. We will be following your journey through Australia and New Zealand.

If you wish to know more about what Karen is doing you can find her blog here.

Please pop over to Kerry’s blog, DemystifICT and read more about her work.

Cross-posting: From Nick Corben @ Seoul Foreign School

Today I woke up to a very pleasant surprise – a blog post about The Travelling Rhinos Project written by a teacher in Korea (Nick Corben) whose class will be hosting a rhino soon. I was very impressed by the post and very honoured to have my project promoted in this way. Below is the blog post as it appears on Nick’s blog (http://goo.gl/KLkdO), with his permission, of course!

The Travelling Rhino Project

In my last post, Have you thought about Going Global? I stated:

‘The new school of education is global collaboration. Open the door to find a whole new world!’

Actions speak louder than words. Practice what you preach. If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk!

You’ve heard all these clichés before, they all mean the same thing, back up your talk with actions…

So, after thinking about it for several days I thought, ‘Why not now?’ ‘What am I waiting for?’ I decided that I didn’t want to do the same Flat Classroom project that I did last timeand through my Twitter feed came across the Global Classroom Project.

After spending some time looking through this informative and intriguing website I signed up to be a ‘Mystery Skype caller.’ Essentially, I was added to a database of other teachers from around the globe who are interested in connecting their students. The Mystery Skype provides an engaging and fun way for individuals and classes to interact with each other, while developing communication, critical thinking and mapping skills. The project goals are listed here.

Further down the homepage I came across several good global collaborative projects my students and I could really get involved in. One of these really stood out for me; run by mentor teacher, Karen Stadler, an ICT Integration Co-ordinator for Elkanah House’sSenior Primary campus in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Travelling Rhino Project began life in July 2012 when Karen visited Kruger National Park and saw these magnificent animals up close and personal. Little did she realise these rhinos were under attack from greedy poachers who have been killing them at such a rate, they will likely be extinct by approximately 2020.

The aims of the project are to educate children about these animals; to raise awareness of their situation; to unite people of the world in protecting the rhinos for future generations and a hope that action can be taken against the perpetrators.

I chose this project because I loved the way that Karen has a real personal interest and passion in the rhinos and I felt very persuaded when I read the information on the wiki she had made. I felt that my students and I could try to make a difference and help the cause.

The activities Karen suggested are good because they allow for individual, small group or larger team activities which could be done at school or home. Additionally, I will get my students to think about and develop their own ideas, allowing their creative juices to flow! Speaking of being creative, on 29 October 2012, Karen and her team managed to form a human rhino on their school field, comprising of 414 pupils!

As there are other schools around the world taking part there will be lots of opportunities to share, collaborate, evaluate and discuss. We will be able to use my Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep up-to-date with developments, Skype for real time communication and the wiki, blogs, Google Drive and other web 2.0 tools for our own project developments.

I will also use the iste NETS standards to guide and evaluate what the students are doing.

The NETS set a standard of excellence and best practices in learning, teaching, and leading with technology in education.

When I received the good news from Karen that my class and I would be part of the Travelling Rhino project, I was very excited as you might imagine! (It was 3am and I received a tweet on my phone)

I think Karen was happy too!

Whilst laying in bed and almost falling asleep, ‘What does it mean to disconnect?’ I had a good idea for my classes big ‘project kick off.’

Having read on the Global Classroom’s wiki about Secret Skypes, I thought it would be fantastic if Karen were to contact my class on skype (without them knowing) and explain/persuade/sell the project idea to them, asking if they, as young kids in a far off country can help in the awareness campaign and make a difference. ‘The rhinos need your help’ sort of thing.

I thought this would really make a good connection with my students, stimulate their minds and motivate them into action. It wouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes but would be very powerful.

Now that my class and I have been accepted into a global project, isn’t it about time your class did the same?

If you would like to follow the project developments or be part of it yourself, here are the contact details.

‘LIKE’ our page on FACEBOOK :

FOLLOW us on TWITTER:

Use our hashtag: #travellingrhinosproject

EMAIL project co-ordinator, Karen Stadler: karens@elkanah.co.za

SIGN UP for the project:

Thank you Nick for such an in-depth review of my project. I am looking forward to seeing what your class does when Zindzi arrives!