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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

Connecting Near and Far: Leveraging the Power of Digital Technology

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

There are many benefits of learning partnerships, and we are fortunate that the power of these can be enhanced by leveraging digital technologies. Over the past few years, my students and I have had the honour of connecting with many people and organisations virtually to enhance our learning.

Author read alouds have provided the opportunity to amplify the value of picture books for learning through meaningful conversations. Authors we have connected with digitally include:

  • Tara Martin and her ‘Cannonball In’ message of overcoming fear, inspiring us to find our courage;

  • Barbara Gruener and ‘Mr Quigley’s Keys’ powerful themes of character and empathy;

  • Tamara Letter’s ‘Passion for Kindness’ sharing the power of kindness with us all;

  • Allyson Apsey's 'Princes of Serendip' help readers learn the value of gratitude, kindness and pride.

We joined the digital book launch of “This Small King”, written by Lauren Streifer and hosted by the Museum of Australian Democracy; and participated in Apple’s Story School program with author Tristan Banks, who offered many engaging ideas and tips for student writers to develop their craft.

We have also connected with organisations to support student learning and self-awareness of their role as active citizens. We began learning about democracy and how we can use our voice to be a changemaker by participating in the ‘You, Me and Sustainability’ workshop presented by the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Connecting with fellow Australian educators and students has also been made possible via digital technologies.

  • Catherine Williams, fellow Australian educator, has read to students, and helped us understand the importance of friendship.

  • Classes from a local school, and a school in Brisbane joined our sustainability Lunchbox Challenge, and we all shared our lunchbox audit data. This prompted students to discuss ways to reduce their lunch waste with parents, and make more sustainable choices.

Student were also able to work with author Allyson Apsey, through the opportunity to edit and provide feedback on a youth fiction book she wrote, ‘The Serendipity Journal’. As real-life editors in an authentic way, each week students received prompting questions from the author, with Mrs Apsey always responding to the student’s feedback. They were then able to see the creation of the next chapter and reflect on their contributions. The use of digital technology enabled this international communication and creation of a collaborative literacy experience possible.

In addition to learning from educators nationally and internationally, students have also connected with students in the USA using online platforms. We’ve gotten to know students in Virginia through Tamara Letter’s Kindness Connections initiative; Alicia Ray’s students in North Carolina, who were also editing ‘The Serendipity Journal’; and students in New Zealand who we were partnered with through Empatico’s #SparkEmpathy Fellowship program.

Last but certainly not least, and essentially where my connections journey began, who can forget connecting with #tlap Pirate Captain, Dave Burgess, for our inaugural cohort ‘Get To Know Our Crew’ Day! Over 170 Grade 4 students and 10 teachers gathered in our hall/sports venue to hear Dave read ‘Rufus Goes to Sea’. He was so engaging that everyone was mesmerised – there was not a peep or a wriggle from anyone the entire time he was reading! Dave then answered several questions the students had prepared and gave some great advice about following your dreams, achieving your goals, and of course the greatest treasure of all can be found in books.

Leveraging digital technology can enhance and transform student learning in many ways. Making connections beyond our school environment, has offered students the opportunity to learn from a range of educators and experts, as well as insight into school and life for students in other countries. These valuable experiences broaden student’s knowledge and understanding of the world beyond their local community, leading to the development of empathy and an understanding of how they can make a contribution as global citizens.

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