My Community Engagement

Personal Learning Networks

As our COETAIL journey is winding down and coming to an end, I’ve realized how much my Personalized Learning Network has grown since the start of this course well over a year ago and before experiencing a global pandemic that forever changed what teaching and learning can look like worldwide.

From full digital models to different hybrid models, to “Modified Full On-Campus Learning” with each passing week we continued to evolve our craft to meet the needs of our diverse learning group. From those stuck out of the country due to VISA restrictions to those at home quarantining, to those who remained in other time zones well on the opposite side of the world, it has never been more clear how much teachers care and are willing and able to put in the time to engage, teach, and inspire their learners no matter their location or given learning mode.

Throughout this year I have relied on a number of different groups to learn from and share different lesson plans and activity ideas with.  You can see from my original post from back in February 2020 all of my learning communities in yellow, where then I have added my newer ones in green since on this COETAIL journey.

CEESA- Learning Support

To start, having our school being a part of CEESA (Central & Eastern European Schools Association) has had numerous opportunities for growth and development. Even after Covid hit, a number of the Learning Support teachers would continue to pose questions to the group and seek solutions and ideas for ways to best serve students in the Special Education Program. After a few months of countless e-mail replies, we took our lengthy e-mail chats to a more formalized meeting.  A poll went out, we selected re-occurring days (monthly) to meet. It wasn’t too tricky with the time zones being that it was all CEESA schools, but generally, the meetings lasted about an hour and were recorded for people who couldn’t attend. An agenda was set up such as this:

1. CEESA learning support website
2. Screening, identifying, and referring students
3. Measuring progress in hybrid or virtual learning scenario
4. Takeaways from the CEESA conference
It was a great way to connect to others who share the same passions with SEN and in similar international schools facing similar challenges.

Google for Education

Next, the Google Educator Groups have been extremely helpful as I applied to the program and am working towards my Google Educator Trainer exam. Using things like Quizlet.com to help you study and prepare, it was also great having access to people who have already done their level 1 and 2 exam to ask questions and practice more tips and tricks for short cuts, activties,and simply new fun ways to utalize all things Google!

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Global Online Academy

With plenty of workshops to choose from, Global Online Academy offers a wide range of courses depending on your current skill level. I found their lessons and discussion boards beneficial during the start of our lockdown, when moving to a full digital teaching and learning model. But I quickly learned that the resources provided by my school and the level of tech. skills I had already acquired, led me more to answering questions through this community than getting my own questions answered. It was a great experience that really allowed me to see where we stood in terms of supporting our students during a crazy time in education and also allowed me to grow in confidence about all the great things we were already doing and using with our students to increase engagement and ensure learning was taking place.

Even in the “end of quarter student reflections”, I was thrilled to see one comment that read,

“Even during a pandemic we can learn”

Sometimes I think as educators who are constantly thinking 10 steps ahead while simultaneously reflecting on the past 2 weeks and assessments and attendance all while not forgetting SELF CARE ….. we forget how resilient kids can truly be and that when modeling positivity and optimism for what the future has in store, only great things can happen. Which also led me to seeing that despite me thinking that this year would be hard to show two plus years growth… from the students point of view they are on track for meeting their goals or in some cases have already met them and would like to set new ones!

Twitter

This leads me to my own academic goal- which was to sign up for Twitter and actually attempt Tweeting. I have never been a huge fan of this platform, being from the original Facebook Generation, but I found out I was able be extra selective on who to follow and was also able to get a few helpful hashtags from friends along the way which proved to be a great resource.

Not only was I able to Tweet out my COETAIL blog posts, but I was able to stay better connected with my cohort, for the times when we planned a meeting to touch base and see how everything was going and everyone was doing on their final projects.

More specifically I really enjoyed using Twitter during some fun grade level projects like March Book Madness… with Harry Potter as this year’s champion and getting to tag the authors of some amazing work in young adult and children’s literature.

Or getting to share out fun class lessons on the sustainability of our oceans. Teaching students about Exclusive Economic Zones and what’s going on in today’s world on top of the environment and pollution of those oceans with plastics- while being sure to use biodegradable materials and doing a fun lesson on bottled water vs. the tap! What are you really paying for??

Without expanding my personal learning networks many of these lessons and activities would have stayed with their creators as opposed to having great lessons reach as many students as possible.

Lesson Plan – Living Lands & Waters found here https://www.livinglandsandwaters.org 

Facebook

Joining the group- “Teaching During Covid-19” allowed me to see numerous examples of what others around the world were doing in place of the in-person learning activities. I loved all the Bitmoji classrooms people were using, but never found quite the right lesson to use with it. When we introduced our literary terms for a past unit, I saw others who created “escape rooms” with their Bitmoji classrooms. So I decided I wanted to take it one step further by incorporating a Google Form into it and the special features like “Section based questions” or “Conditional” and “text contains” allowed us to really have some fun with our new terms and challenged them to check their work and see if they were correct- allowing them to “escape”.

Webex Teams

At first, Webex Teams was just another platform for communication. Yet- another thing to put on the list to have to check daily from e-mails to what's app groups, to Facebook messenger, to your Twitter feed... I found it regualrly exhausting attempting to keep up with everything. But in the end, it was useful to connect with different people who you don't see throughout your typical school day, and allow for opportunities like Moderating WIDA writing samples across grade levels. It allowed for easy sharing of writing samples and rubrics and quick and easy communication for shared scoring and reasonings. I know this tool will also be exteremly handy towards the end of the year as we begin to have our final ILP and SSP meetings along with all the transition meetings taking place from ES to MS and MS to HS. 

Zoom

Last- our Monthly Happy Hour Zoom meetings with former colleagues, allowed that time for Self-Care that everyone so greatly needed during these past 15 months. Getting to talk about how other schools are handling the Covid situation, but more importantly, connecting with old friends who share your passion for education was vital to surviving this school year.

From synchronous to asynchronous learning styles, with a lot to a little notice, I’ve come to realize how wonderful and supportive colleagues around the world are: sharing ideas, resources, and availability to offer feedback and simply be available for a group brainstorming session. I am thankful for my Personalized Learning Network and can only hope it continues to grow as I move towards a new chapter of life, leaving my school in Moscow for the unknown!  I am excited about all the new connections I will make and know the relationships established during my 10 years of international teaching will continue to be there, for a lifetime.

Author: Shalene

This is my 3rd year in Russia- teaching SEN at the Anglo-American School of Moscow. Loving life... and always learning.

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