Building a strong online community within a grade 5 class

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Community is a concept that can be particularly important in online courses, given the potential for students in such courses to feel isolated and alone. The ways in which we experience community with students differs when we teach online.

Community members share not only interests but also a desire to exchange ideas and information, to learn with and from each other. Communities allow us to gather and share knowledge.

In the past when we were talking about community it was understood that they have to share the same spatial boundaries (i.e. classroom, community center, sport club, local market, store, group of people doing an activity together). Nowadays, this concept of community has evolved with the new communication technologies.

The virtual communities are nowadays a new type of community. These communities do not share the same spatial boundaries but instead they are based on common interests.

In the text it says: When we occupy the same physical space, and we spend time with each other. Our attention is focused on the same thing at the same time, whether it is the teacher talking, a student answering a question, a group working on a project, someone making a joke, and so forth. We engage in a course together, as a group, rather than as individual members of the class, and we identify with each other as part of this group.

Reading that I think that what is really inspiring with the online communities as opposed to ‘regular communities’ is the fact that the students explore and answer questions outside the classroom and bring their own experiences, wonders and discoveries to their classmates. So, ideas come from outside the classroom to inside the classroom. This is something we discussed about in our course about Inquiry Mindset. Bring something from outside the classroom to inside the classroom walls is inspiring to the students. This new way to teach is great because it allows the students to use their own knowledge, curiosity, explanations from their own research and bring it to be share within the online communities.

Technology can change this, allowing community to extend beyond the temporal and spatial confines of a classroom… What we do know is that community is more than participation; it requires moving from participation to engagement, involvement, and action.

Now, a project I would like to install in my class start to appear more clearly in my mind. I would like to have my students sharing their reflections when they read a book but online instead of in the physical classroom. My biggest challenge is to find an appropriate means, easy to use, appealing and meaningful. I thought of using so my students could share on an online wall some general questions and ideas about their readings. Now, I am looking for another means (social network/app/website) so my students could:

  1. write down a passage they liked
  2. make a reflection about it
  3. make connections about this passage and what they read, experienced or saw before in their life.

So this is where I am in the development of this new platform for my students. If you have any ideas, input, or you know any ways I could make that happen please share it with me.

Nothing is no longer private: “We are like naked men.”

The internet security and our own privacy is certainly something we should address as soon as possible as a society. In fact, nothing that we do with the technologies now is kept secret, we are like naked men. It will be an issue the more our life is connected to the technology, and with the increasing Artificial Intelligence-driven technology. It already started. 4 years ago, I was at the beach chatting with a friend saying how nice the beach was that day. Just a minute later, I opened my Facebook and I saw an ad for a self-inflatable mattress popping on my phone. I was shocked, how can it be possible that my conversations are under surveillance, analyzed and used to offer me services. This can be seen as anodyne and insignificant but it is a huge breach in our life privacy. How can a personal conversation on my personal chat system can be intercepted and used like this, without my consent. Without my consent? Really? That is unfortunately not true, we are all consenting to this. You know the boring text in very little characters that we rarely read and that we click I AGREE. I read this interesting book in French and GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple) control already 90% of the information that circulate on the web. And it goes further, in the text A guide for resisting Edtech it is said: Thanks to the “internet of things,” all our various connections can be monitored by our ISPs — from our physical location to the temperature we keep our homes to the music we ask Alexa to play for us. (In fact, Alexa processes all of our speech when it is on, even when we are not addressing it.)

So now, not only we are under surveillance when we are using the internet. But almost at all time with gadgets like Alexa, Siri and Google Home to spy us. An important job of the teachers of the 21st century is to informed their students about that and to develop their critical multiliteracies. In the text it says: Even tools we love — that have potential to do good work in the world — need careful scrutiny. It is, in fact, part of our care for those tools and students who use them that demands we approach educational technology critically. There is no good use in tool fidelity. For example, uncritical belief in the superiority of the Mac OS over Windows or Linux may lead us to overlook how single-platform solutions exclude those without access to them. Tools (and software) are not something we should ever be “loyal” to.

These technologies are so implemented in our lives that we view them as living things, like pets that we should be loyal to. Moreover, like pets we are more than loyal to, we like to “feed them to”. Some really good questions in the text emerge: What flexibility do we have to be anonymous, or to protect our data? Where is data housed; who owns the data? What are the implications for in-class use? Will others be able to use/copy/own our work there?

There are big issues of intellectual properties and plagiarism. Students have to be aware that their hard labor is maybe in some other parties’ property when they use technologies.


L’homme nu – La dictature invisible du numérique by Marc Dugain and Christophe Labbé.

The classroom of the 21st century

I like the approach used by Lina Lane, the History instructor. Since the students’ age and background vary widely, she was able to install a class setting that seem to fit everyone. As a Grade 5 teacher in the 21st century, I understand that is where I have to aim. My intention was already to have my students better use the new technologies individually (i.e. having them self reflect about how they use the technologies), and also in a more collaborative way (i.e. creating padlets to share ideas). Another of my intention was to create class that use provocations tools to have my students more engaged. I would like to use short clips, images, art pieces, etc. (i.e. all kind of multimodal texts) to start a lesson or an unit and to have them react and ask questions, instead of only me leading the course. Moreover, since this excellent course taken 2 weeks ago here at Uvic about having an Inquiry Mindset  when we teach, I really want to engage my students by having them asking essential questions and trying to answer them by using all kind of means possible (with the use technology of course, but also art, skits, cartoons, comics, blogs, padlets, etc.). This is what I believe the class of the 21st century should be. And through that, I would also like to give the theory (i.e. in French: grammar, expanded vocabulary, reading, writing skills, self-reflection skills) and assess them. But always through the scope of an Inquiry Mindset that is more engaging and exciting.

Here is a quote from Lisa Lane and I share her views regarding pedagogy in our digital era: My pedagogy is balanced between presentation and interactivity. Each week consists of context readings (often from Wikipedia) and lectures. My lectures are detailed and contain audio sections (with me reading the lecture), images, video clips, and links to primary-source documents. A multiple-choice quiz is assigned to check the students’ comprehension of the content of the presentation portion.

Thus, this is the kind of setting I will start to put in place in my classroom in next September. A classroom with an open and versatile desks’ arrangement that allows us to switch quickly from an activity to another or that allows students to work individually or collaboratively with the means they chose (digital, art, written, spoken, etc.). Also, I would like to have this kind of message board where we can share messages, ideas, questions, etc. It can be a physical wall (a billboard with messages) or an electronic wall (padlets).

Then my job is simply to circulate in the classroom, helping students to achieve their tasks, sharing ideas with them or making sure they share with their classmates. In brief, fostering curiosity, a desire to learn and fostering good self-autonomous work habits. This kind of project is certainly exciting but first we must start by having our students (especially at a younger age) aware of their responsibilities (respect, work habits, desire to share, to make mistakes and to try again). Once we feel that they understand their responsibilities, let’s them start having fun learning.


Inquiry Mindset: Nurturing the Dreams, Wonders, and Curiosities of Our Youngest Learners by Trevor MacKenzie (Author), Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt (Author)