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September 8, 2012 / tasha cowdy

Building a class learning network in Kindergarten

With Kindergarten students (5-6 year olds) I think that the first step to constructing student PLNs is to work with the children to explore ways of building a learning community outside of our classroom. I feel that a class learning net work is more appropriate than a personal learning network at this stage. We started by brainstorming people who could help us learn.

  • other people in our class*
  • other classes in our school
  • “experts” in a particular area (starting with single subject teachers)
  • other kindergarten classes on twitter**
  • other class blogs (add to our blog roll)

* the first suggestion was that the children could learn from the teacher. This was challenged by a child and led to an enthusiastic discussion resulting in a unanimous decision that everyone in the class was a potential teacher

** the children were amazed to read tweets and blog posts from Kindergarten classes around the world who were learning about the same things as them; they marveled at another class’s blog post on using describing words when we had been talking about the very same thing that week! When working on a shared story we tweeted a request for words to sue instead of “went”. We got many responses. An interesting observation was that many of the children used words from our twitter inquiry in their writing. It’s hard to know for sure without gathering concrete evidence but it seemed to me that the children had a stronger connection to the “other words for went” list because of the process they had gone through to create the list.

We have developed a class learning network (CLN) through Twitter. We have established relationships with several other classes and have followed them on twitter and put their class blogs on our blogroll. This gives the children an authentic audience outside of their family.

The Twitter/ blog connection has been powerful and has given rise to collaborative projects with those schools using VoiceThread, Google docs and Skype as well as providing countless authentic writing opportunities. The projects have been integrated into units of inquiry so that they are enriching experiences rather than add-ons.

The Clustr map helps children see how far their network is extending. We check our blog and twitter account every day, as a whole class, to check for comments. Through our class learning network these five and six year olds are learning to receive, read and respond to their class learning net work.

It has been helpful to talk to other teachers in our school, and in particular the year groups below and above so that we can think about the progression from year to year, and the gradual release of responsibility from teacher to student. This is a conversation that needs to happen school wide.

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