Seizing Serendipitous Moments

(In the spirit of K-12 Online Conference, you are invited to add your comments, ideas, news, and reflections in the discussion tab of this page)

A characteristic of most early adopters is risk-taking, and I am no exception (at times to the chagrin of my Director of IT!). As well, early adopters are often those who think outside the box and are able to see potential in matching technology tools to learning opportunities.

I like to think of it as seizing serendipitous moments and would like to share a few of those with you with the hope that other educators will begin to recognize more of those moments when they come along - particularly if they can involve students from other parts of the world.

My lesson plans are not the kind that are shrink-wrapped and inserted into binders for use from year to year. Our English department teachers now follow a curriculum map we created last year, but it does not set out cut and dry lesson plans to accomplish our goals. So when a serendipitous moment presents itself, I try to adapt my intended lesson and see how I can fit in a learning opportunity for my students that match our curricular goals.

Below I describe two of those recent situations.

Westwood wiki opportunity for collaboration

During the first week of school in September, we were very aware of the necessity to teach online safety practices to our students who were being given laptops and universal wireless access. I happened to notice that Vicki Davis’ students from Westwood school in Georgia had created a wiki which was designed as an online textbook on various computer topics. Online Safety was the first chapter. wiki1a.jpg

The Westwood students had created videos to accompany their material safe online practices. I saw this as an opportunity for my students to learn from other students about this subject and so created an assignment based on the wiki content and posted it in the moodle learning environment. Actually it was an ideal activity for the students to complete while I had to be absent from school for one day – the day I defended my thesis to my committee at Concordia University. Later, I collated their responses to the questions I had posed and posted it on the Westwood students’ blog.

Vicki was delighted to have her students receive peer feedback from somewhere else in the world. She pointed out the many advantages of peer collaboration and feedback on one of her blog posts. When I later showed it to my students, they were astonished – “She’s talking about us?!” It was powerful for them to realize that they could teach someone else through their
responses – that their voice was even more influential than the teacher’s.

Opportunity to help out some young students in Russia

Last spring, a teacher from Russia asked me if my students could provide some information about the grizzly bear and the beluga whale for an international project her gr. 5 level students were completing other students around the world. I had just discovered the potential of Inspiration software and thought it would be a great opportunity to provide an authentic learning experience for the students to use concept maps and Internet research skills to provide this information to the students in Russia. The new version of Inspiration permits a new kind of concept maps and one can export the files as html files and post them very easily onto the Internet. The gr. 7 students were able to experiment with Inspiration and were given a short lesson on Internet research and giving credit to what they find. We had a very short period of time to complete the mini-project, but it gave the students some hands-on experience for a later project they completed using Inspiration.

The students in Russia were happy because of the visual nature of the concept maps; as second–language learners this aided their understanding of the content.

Credit: Milana Zubritskaya, NSTU Lyceum, Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia