Jabiz Raisdana, AKA @intrepidteacher, shared an interesting post a few days ago, which he entitled Singing Hearts, in which he wrote about how a group of eighth graders in Missouri connected with his 3 year old daughter in Qatar.
Like many stories of connections made across time zones, cultures, and age groups this one involved some risk taking, some curiosity, some opened minds, and I hope some learning.
After reading The last child in the woods , which spurred Jabiz to increase his daughter’s contact with nature, he and his daughter went outdoors with their cameras to explore their surroundings,
even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse.
The result of this little expedition was a photo essay which Jabiz shared with his twitter network, and which then resulted in @wmchamberlain sharing the blog post with his class and receiving more than 40 comments which you can read on Kaia’s post.
In this little expedition, Kaia not only connected with the outside world in a physical sense, but also the world of people beyond her immediate environment.
Hello from New Zealand.
We really liked looking at the pictures of the backyard and the desert! Amazing stuff, you did a great job with the descriptions. We thought that it must be very hot in the desert, its been raining here in New Zealand today so the desert seems exciting and interesting. (Room 8 Melville Intermediate School, New Zealand)
Those pictures were awesome. You did a great job speaking in your first photo essay. You took ordinary things that everyone passes by and made them look wonderful. I like your blog and I will visit it more often. You can visit my blog at jacob-everybodysbog.blogspot.com Thanks and keep up the good work. (Jacob)
With her father as her guide, Kaia has connected with people in his learning network, people who are interested in learning from others, regardless of location, age or race. A simple photo story has been of interest to others who have contributed their thoughts and a little of themselves.
Although, at such a tender age, Kaia would not fully understand the meaning of her experience, she has surely felt, to some extent, the power of connecting beyond her home and immediate family.
She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.
Jabiz reflects on his feelings as a father who has shared his young daughter’s experiences with his online network:
… having Kaia exposed like this made me hyper aware of how vulnerable I am making her…
… I started to think about how much trust we ask that parents put in us as teachers. Kaia’s blog started as a way to share photos with family, it has quickly become a way that we are documenting her life. And now, it is becoming a way that she is connecting with people throughout the world. This is scary. Part of me wants to pull back and keep her our little secret. But if we want our students to feel comfortable and be cautious online, we must be able to do the same with our own children.
Jabiz’s blog reflection on the positive and negative potential consequences of his experiences ends in questions he poses directly to his readers:
What do you think? What is the value in this experience? Is the risk of exposing ourselves and our children online worth the connections that will be made and the lessons that will be learned?
I was amongst the commenters following Jabiz’s post, and so was John Strange, Professor of Professional Studies at The University of South Alabama.
My response was you will not get the yeast to activate a closed system. They must engage the world. It is so important to energize learning through the techniques you, Mr. Chamberlain and others are using. I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives. I think it is absolutely essential if we are to move forward with true learning, for all of us.
If I hesitate when reading ‘ I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives’, then I only do so momentarily, because the example of Jabiz supporting his little girl’s learning is an excellent model for us as educators and parent. If we hold the hands of our young and vulnerable students and our own children, and then still go outside of our private little worlds, then we learn to navigate the richness of connections with what is beyond our step.
For me, personally, every day spent reading what other people share online, in the form of blogs, Twitter posts or photos on Flickr, opens up a new window to the lives and experiences of others. There’s no way I could go back to what I had before. Could we even go back to pre-Google days?
I like John Strange’s concept of networking being the yeast to activate learning – it surely is.
Just in reading this one post, I’ve learned so much, and connected with so many people. It’s disappointing when someone contributes a comment and doesn’t provide a link. A blog, for example, provides knowledge of the author, and we can ‘know’ each other through our contributions in writing or pictures. We share what we think is appropriate, while preserving our privacy, and I think this is what we need to teach our students. Their digital footprint can be modelled on ours, and this not something we can do theoretically.
Apart from learning about Jabiz and his daughter, Gaia, I’m happy to have discovered John Strange who shares so much of himself online through blogs, points of contact and photos. Take a look at his page to see an excellent example of the richness of digital identity.