Over the years I have developed a network with fellow Apple Distinguished Educators which brings the world to my early years classroom. I regularly receive positive feedback from parents who are amazed at the way their young ones connect with other children around
the world using software like FaceTime.
Monday 4th July marked another one of those moments in my career where my classroom became an international hub for collaboration between the children that I teach and classrooms around the world. It was such a pleasure to welcome Jason Milner from Sydney, Australia to Burton Joyce Primary School, Nottingham!
Building up to Jason’s Visit.
Jason joined the Connecting Classes Across Continents project on World Book Day this year. My class took the theme of Australia and I contacted Jason for his help in making the day much more meaningful. His class wrote the story the story of Tiddalic the Frog and shared it with my class. They set us challenges in the video and we responded with our retelling using Puppet Pals:
Since then, we have exchanged many video blogs between our classes. We have learned about the farm at his agricultural school and our classes both hatched chickens over the same month. My class made posters about caring for chicks for his children to read and display in their class. We have used iMovie, Puppet Pals and our school Twitter accounts to share learning despite the time difference.
You can read much more about the Connecting Classes Across Continents project and the impact it has had on Understanding the World here.
The days before Jason’s visit.
Jason’s journey to our school began the week before with flights from Sydney to Bangkok, Bangkok to Dubai, Dubai to Amsterdam and finally Amsterdam to Birmingham. We tracked his flight on the Smart TV in the classroom over two days. In circle times we reviewed all of the videos we had exchanged to remind us of our Australia learning and the children suggested activities to set up in the unit for his visit on the Monday.
They were most excited about kangaroo tracks outside and writing Tiddalic books for Jason to take back to his class. This was the first time they would get to share something beyond video messages with the children so the purpose to write was high!
Jason’s visit day.
The best part of Jason’s visit was greeting the children in the morning. Even the parents rubbed their eyes at the amazement that this whole project was real and Jason wasn’t a character from a BBC video on iPlayer! The awe and wonder in children’s eyes was magical! Two children in the class had a real interest in the whole project and enjoyed sharing their writing of the Tiddalic story with Jason.
We had a class assembly where the children got to ask Jason about his class, school and life in Australia. A lot of the questions the children asked came from the videos that they had seen from the exchanges we already had made but the opportunity to talk to the teacher from the videos inspired the questioning. They also said ‘You’re the teacher from the videos!’
The visit and the work leading up to the visit made me think of the time when Pen Pals were in fashion! Having Connected Classes through video blogs, FaceTime and work exchange over social media enhances these kinds of knowledge exchanges between children and classes. It isn’t necessarily about meeting people from the classes you connect with, these connections make for meaningful exchanges through all kinds of media. Meeting Jason though did highlight the importance of Connected Classes as a way of bringing children together and making the world more of a home for all of us.
MakerSpace Projects with Jason.
This post is 1 of 3 in a series describing the day spent with Jason. The knowledge exchange with my class covers only a small part of our day together! We packed so much in to 6 hours at school! In the morning session at school Jason and I took Foundation Stage practise in to Key Stage 2 by designing a pop-up MakerSpace which wraps coding around the curriculum. Later that day, we rejoined my Foundation call to bring them a MakerSpace challenge with Dash robots and a space theme.
Find out more about our MakerSpace project with Year 4 here:
Find out more about our MakerSpace project with Foundation Stage here: