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ball-72374_1280A recent survey found that 92% of youth report going online daily, with 24% stating they are “constantly” connected. We live in a society that boasts global connections at a level never before seen.  Yet, in our schools, we face the challenge of transferring the desire to connect into rich learning experiences for our students.  Technology by itself is simply a tool.  However, when leveraged to forge powerful learning opportunities that combine academic pursuits with personal interests and peer culture, it has the ability to transform the classroom.

The connected classroom is more than a dizzying array of devices in the hands of students.  First, we must examine how to support meaningful conversations and thoughtful inquiries around content.  When the learning experience is centered around student interests, ownership occurs.

Take time to discover what drives your students and create groups that allow them to explore those common interests in an academic setting. Help them construct challenges that combine their passions with learning goals.  Then, provide them with an online learning platform (such as Converge!) to contribute ideas and share their discoveries.

Contribution is key – every student has a role to play in the connected classroom.  By leveraging digital tools that provide voice and choice in how students demonstrate their understanding, a diverse set of resources is built and shared by all learners.  This is where technology is no longer an isolated tool, but a powerful vehicle to extend classroom walls and provide a cohesive learning landscape.

Consider adopting a learning management system to centralize inquiries and new content.  With anytime, anywhere access, an LMS provides a common space for engagement and collaboration while holding each student accountable for his/her learning. 

Opportunities for feedback abound in the connected classroom.  Once students inquire, collaborate, and share, it’s important to provide responsive feedback and meaningful dialogue.  Foster online discussions that provide even the shyest of students the opportunity to contribute to classroom conversations.  Have students contribute to a classroom blog that highlights exemplar work and provides both peer and community exchanges that can fuel further inquiries. Model appropriate use of social media to drive meaningful dialogue and remove geographical barriers.

We all have a desire for community.  If you are looking for ways to foster a connected classroom, look first at your diverse group of students and consider how you can help them take ownership in their learning by leveraging their interests along with the  desire to engage and communicate. Along with the help of  dynamic digital tools coupled with powerful feedback,  you can create an interconnected community of learners where anything is possible.

About The Author

Tiffaney Lavoie currently serves as the Director of Instructional Media and Design at Edvergent Learning. An educator with a business background, she has served over 60 school districts in Kentucky as an instructional technology consultant where she developed and delivered professional learning opportunities and partnered with school and district technology rollouts. A former middle school teacher, Tiffaney has a passion for effective technology integration and recognizes the importance of accessible digital tools to support teaching and learning. She has presented on a state, regional, and national level, and values immersive digital learning environments that better equip students to compete in a global society.

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