Online Connections Course gets a Cool Cat Teacher Award

Sometimes I just want to reach through the Internet and give a super big High-Five, hug, and “yahoo” all at once.

This is how I felt when I read about Jennifer Dorman's class that she has developed called Online Connections.

I also want to give a high five to the administration that had the vision (and trust) to give her the reigns for developing such a class.

(I believe that teachers should be enmeshed in curricular decisions and in fact that will do a lot to prevent waste and promote improvement. As a whole, I believe that education has a lot of decision makers who couldn't hold down a class much less teach anything. But that is another blog post.)

Jennifer says:

The class is called Online Connections and the focus of it is loosely centered around the notion that technology has changed the way people learn and work and that we must expose our students to the reality of this changing world. For a techie and former social studies teacher who often felt somewhat constrained by curriculum, this is like going to teacher heaven.

Now, take a look at her outline:

I created essential questions and enduring understandings for the course and posted them on the class wiki. While these statements make a lot of sense to me, I have been challenged by how to make them clear and meaningful for my students (who I will only see for 22 school days!).

  • I created a partnership with a class at the Korea International School,
  • generated a learners toolbox that students will use to review Web 2.0 applications and how they can be harnessed to learn and create products of value,
  • aggregated various news feeds to help students gain a more global perspective,
  • put together resources to help students construct understanding of copyright and online safety,
  • and am in the process of developing what I hope will be a Quadrant D

I challenge you to go to her blog and read more! So, this is why I created a Cool Cat Teacher Award for her work. (Who knows I may give more in the future?)

1) She partnered with a school in another country.

2) She created a learners toolbox full of some great tools, along with a class wiki to pull it all together.

3) She harnessed the power of RSS to customize information from the Internet. (She used Grazr like we did for Horizon.)

4) She addresses digital citizenship. (See Copyright Information and Online Safety from her wiki.)

5) Her purpose is to create a shift in their thinking and perception backed up by valid research-based methods of teaching and a desire for excellence backed up with a purpose for participation and global awareness.

6) She makes no excuses. (She only has 22 class days but is full of optimism and can-do attitude.)

Her wiki has blown me away and I've got ideas for how I'm going to revamp my wiki! And I love her inclusion of Derek Wenmoth's Four C's of participation in online communities.

One of my purposes in blogging this year is to share what great teachers like Jennifer are planning and doing! Great job! (If you know of one, let me know.)

Congratulations, Jennifer! You've done an outstanding job getting this course together, let me know how it goes.

And a word to administrators out there — empower a teacher to develop a course like this! I would argue that such a course will do more to benefit the future of students than any other course that could be offered.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Diane P August 26, 2007 - 4:52 pm

Thanks for pointing the way to this teacher. I have so many ideas spinning in my head on how I can use this with my students.
As I said on my comment, we set up a Moodle this summer but I think it was a little awkward and not quite what I want to use with my middle school students.
I have a wiki and I will change it up.

Sue Waters August 26, 2007 - 9:46 pm

Thanks Vicki for sharing her work with us. Such a fantastic example of a class wiki, definitely deserved the Cool Cat Teacher Award. I also love Derek’s model of participant and refer to it a lot.


Jennifer Carrier Dorman August 27, 2007 - 12:35 am

Thanks for the recognition. I really appreciate the feedback from your posting as well as from the comments posted on the DEN PA blog.

-Jen Dorman (cliotech)

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