Social learning networks promote student engagement, global awareness

By Troy Tenhet
November 1st, 2012

When students engage with other classrooms around the world, their effort is ‘through the roof.’

Think about it … what do kids want? What do you want? How about the chance to be masters of tasks, have lives with purpose, and have the choice of when, where, and how when it comes to engagement in learning and teaching?

The classroom is no longer a physical place. Perhaps it never has been. Learning is experiential and it occurs, usually not on schedule, but 24 hours a day. What does this mean in an age of Common Core standards and high-stakes testing? The Common Core standards seem to fit well with students’ need for critical thinking and higher-order thinking skills. I doubt that the high-stakes testing philosophy fits well at all. As a teacher, I can’t help but ask if it even fits anywhere!

One of the goals of a social studies curriculum is to ensure that students are aware of different cultures and geographies—including how these are similar to or different from their own. Social learning communities make this easy. They offer a window to the world.

I connect my students to classrooms and learning experiences all over the world. Like-minded teachers exist, and they also seek global collaboration. Social learning platforms are the perfect place for collaborating in real time through online workspaces. For instance, ePals offers internal blogs and links students with numerous entities, such as the Smithsonian.

Through the years, I have found that when my students use ePals to reach out to and engage with other classrooms, the level of excitement and effort is literally through the roof. Students tell me they actually care about what is going on in the classroom. They value the relationships they create with students across the globe. Students’ writing improves dramatically, because they know their global peers will be reading their assignments.

Speaking of the Smithsonian, we have just completed a project called the Extinction Project. It is a collaborative effort between my classroom and a set of classrooms in Singapore. Rose Manuel, the teacher leader of the Extinction Project, will join me and personnel from the Smithsonian in a Skype call that will span two continents and affect hundreds of students.

With the Extinction Project coming to full fruition, we now see our opportunity to launch the iSOLVE Project. This project, also housed in ePals, takes responsibility and good choices regarding conservation and endangered species to a new level. The iSOLVE Project actually lets students engage in conversations about how they cope and survive in their own daily lives, and additionally, how they save and protect each other through life’s trials and difficult times. We hope that this project is as powerful and helpful as we think it can be.

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3 Responses to “Social learning networks promote student engagement, global awareness”

November 1, 2012

Thanks for a fascinating article. Social learning and social media is rapidly becoming an area we must consider for teaching and learning – because of how it facilitates communication, collaboration, creativity and other 21st Century Skills. It’s also so that we as educators can give our students safe areas to learn digital citizenship in our new flattened world.

As an author, writer, adjunct professor, and as the product manager of a safe social learning product (http://www.schoolwires.nimbus) I am pleased to see these questions and ideas reaching more educators.

Love hearing what Troy and his students are doing as they expand the boundaries of global learning and connect and collaborate for authentic learning.

When discussing social learning we can’t forget to mention My Big Campus. My Big Campus is a social learning platform that most educators prefer because of its numerous security features and pre-embedded resource library (just to name a few). And now with My Big Campus Bundles, teachers (and students) can group resources, projects, videos & assignments together and categorize bundles according to subject, topic and standard. One of the coolest things about My Big Campus bundles is how they can be shared with all My Big Campus users—not just those in the same school or district.

November 3, 2012

Great Post Indeed! Thanks a lot for sharing your teaching experience with your readers. I totally agree with you that technology in today’s generation plays an important role in every man’s life. No man can now think life without technology.Therefore, with the help of technology, individuals are excelling in their field. They are now getting a chance to learn, communicate and educate themselves in the right manner.