Raise your hand if any of the following applies to you:
a) you hear people talking about using Skype or blogging in their classrooms, but really aren’t sure what they’re talking about or why they might want to do that;
b) you would LOVE to do some connecting with other classrooms around the world, but just aren’t sure how to take the first steps;
c) you have your class blogging, but would like to find some ways to take it “up a notch”, and find an authentic audience for your class;
d) you sometimes have an urge to pound your head against the wall, as you try to explain to people that meaningful, real tech integration is possible in their classrooms – even primary classrooms?
If any of those scenarios apply to you, you need Kathy Cassidy’s new book, “Connected from the Start”. She’s taken everything you could possibly need - both the rationale behind integrating technology into a classroom, and the concrete how-to to make it happen, and put it into one, thoroughly engaging, example-filled spot. It’s actually kind of breathtaking, when you start to dig into it.
I recently listened to a national call-in show here in Canada about the book vs digital print, and whether the second would eventually make the first obsolete. The responses were overwhelmingly in favour of the old-school book, and the joy of curling up with hot chocolate and said book. I paced around my kitchen making dinner, trying to get through to the show (unsuccessfully), and muttering under my breath: “yeah, but what about professional resources, with hyperlinks and other added features – what about textbooks, what about being able to critically think, and make notes on what you’re reading?” (http://www.edutopia.org/blog/students-read-critically-ben-johnson).
This book, this amazing, revelatory, magical, beautiful book – this is the example I would have used. It’s an e-book from PLP Press (one hopes the first of many), and reading it, as an educator interested in trying to take my technology practice up a notch, is like being handed a detailed game plan. Need to see what she means by a particular idea? Click on the video that shows her class demonstrating it (and experience their joy in what they’re doing). Want to see the background on digital footprint that she references? Click the link – you’re there.
The book is not only a great experience for a teacher, it’s terrific for a learner. The information is chunked, so you can take it one gentle, hand-held step at a time. And the “how-tos” are just that – there is no previous knowledge assumed (I am really beginning to think this is a key piece in convincing people to try this sort of teaching and learning). It is a true step-by-step approach, and you can determine how many steps you’re ready to take.
Throughout the book, Cassidy manages a great balance between the why and the how. It’s that balance we’re always looking for – where good pedagogy is driving the use of the technology. So, she explains why she uses Skype in her classroom, and what it brings to her students (with concrete, curriculum-linked examples), and then she takes you through exactly how to set it up for your classroom.
If this was a hard-copy book, it would already be dog-eared and highlighted into oblivion (and I would suggest reading it in a .pdf program that will let you highlight and annotate) This is a keeper, one to have in your digital backpack all the time, but, most of all, it’s one to share. Give it to your admin, your colleagues, your student teacher. Their students will thank you.
P.S. (If (d) above was your answer – get the book. Your head will thank you.)
You can find an excerpt from the book here, as well as ordering information. It’s on sale ’til April 23. http://plpnetwork.com/2013/04/10/connect-excerpt-kathy-cassidys-book-global-learning-primary-grades/