New Age Pen Pals: Global Storytelling and Sharing

Global storytelling can be a powerful learning opportunity when combined with a classroom full of engaged learners and an iPad.  These Grade 1 students found a way to dive into digital global storytelling with some fact finding, critical thinking, creativity and enthusiasm.

Albert Einstein is noted as saying “I never teach my pupils, I only provide the conditions in which they can learn.”  

A teacher who is aware of their impact on student learning, who clearly understands the direction the learning should take and who can facilitate a learning environment where students feel safe to tackle and challenge their knowledge, is an educator who has a deep understanding of powerful learning.

At Wheatland Elementary School in Strathmore, Alberta, Miss Blaseg’s Grade 1 class embarked on a new form of pen pals: video pals! With technology as a tool and oodles of Grade 1 enthusiasm at their disposal, students created a pen pal video message that was posted online for all humans on social media to see and was shared directly with a classroom full of students on the other side of the world…. in the United Arab Emirates!

During this powerful learning opportunity, their teacher, Miss Blaseg (@MissBeesTweets) explained that:

“The 1B classroom is celebrating #InternationalEducationWeek by starting their ‘International Video Pen Pal’ friendship with a Grade 2 class in Abu Dhabi!  We are so excited to meet these students from across the world!  We know we have so much to learn, especially since we can’t even handle that they are AT SCHOOL when we are SLEEPING!”

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” Mark van Doren

Students were required to think critically about their school, their local community and their country, in order to accurately capture what it is like to be a Grade 1 student in Canada.  They considered and shared with their video pals possible similarities as well as differences between school in Abu Dhabi and Strathmore.  By carefully considering their primary audience, these learners kept in mind that their product should cover topics and visuals that would be most appealing to the Grade 2 students in Abu Dhabi.  By synthesizing and evaluating these important aspects, the learners created a pen pal video that encompassed all of the information they had researched and synthesized.

Check it out:

Their teacher, Miss Blaseg, noted that it was remarkable how engaged and excited the students were by this learning adventure, including students who are sometimes more reluctant to tackle storytelling and writing exercises. Students with all different types of learner profiles were able to successfully scaffold into this learning opportunity, something that is also a key component to powerful learning.

“To increase student engagement and ownership of learning, we should give students opportunities to do meaningful work-work that makes a difference locally, nationally, and globally.” Eric Williams

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