In December our team held a “mini-retreat” to review how things have been going on Out of Eden Learn thus far and to develop our vision for the coming year. One theme that emerged from our very productive meeting was that we would like to develop more of a sense of educator community on Out of Eden Learn – and in so doing support participating educators more effectively.
NOTE: This is a blog post where it would be particularly appropriate and helpful to get feedback! We encourage comments, either on this blog or on the Out of Eden Learn Facebook page.
Here are a few of the developments we have in mind:
(1) Google + Hangouts
We held our first Google + Hangout On Air for 2014 on Friday, January 17 at 11am ET. Despite initial technical difficulties it was a very positive experience. You can view the second part of the conversation – when we successfully incorporated educators into the Hangout – on my Google + page or on YouTube. It was great to hear how teachers have been adapting Out of Eden Learn and the Out of Eden Walk to their specific learning contexts – and it was really inspiring to hear their enthusiasm.
We hope to organize a series of Google + Hangouts over the coming months, with each session focused on a different theme. Given the global nature of our community we will be sure to vary the times that we hold these Hangouts so that educators in Australia, for example, do not always have to get up in the middle of the night if they want to take part. To our minds, these Hangouts will serve several functions. First, they will provide an opportunity for participating educators to actually “see” and talk with one another about their experiences and to share ideas. Second, it is a way for prospective or newly signed-up educators to learn from the experiences of those who have been engaged in our community for longer. Third, the videos of these events will serve as a useful and ongoing resource for educators to refer to – and a means of feeling part of a global community that is made up of real live people.
Please note that our research regulations prevent us from organizing Google + Hangouts involving classrooms of students: the recent Google + Hangout that featured Out of Eden Learn students was okay because it was organized by National Geographic. However, we are all in favor of teachers informally organizing Google + Hangouts or Skype meetings between classes as a way of building community and boosting student engagement.
(2) A new Resources tab on our home page
We are currently working with our web developer Jon to create a new Resources tab on our homepage. We know that some educators have been doing tremendous, innovative work around Paul’s Out of Eden Walk – particularly those who teach younger students and who have been engaged in cross-curricular work. We would like to share some of their ideas and materials, as well as additional Project Zero resources via this tab. In addition, we intend to provide links to stand-alone materials developed by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. The educators participating in our Google + Hangout were strongly in favor of “sharing the wealth” in this way.
The gallery section of our website is a means for us to feature individual student work – a further resource for educators. Please note that we have recently posted a new gallery featuring work that was created by Out of Eden Learn participants this fall.
(3) Developing a general discussion forum
We set up our Out of Eden Learn Facebook page with the idea that it would serve as a space for educator discussion as well as a means of disseminating information about our project. To date, the discussion aspect has not taken off but we will be looking to develop it over the coming months. In addition, we are talking to our web developers about adding a Discussion tab to our homepage, which will be open to the public.
In many ways it is you, the educators who are interested or involved in Out of Eden Learn who will determine how this aspect of our learning community develops and grows over the coming months. We look forward to seeing what unfolds and sincerely welcome your feedback and ideas. Here are some questions to start a conversation.
- What resources or features would you like to see for educators on Out of Eden Learn?
- Do you have any tips or advice for building a vibrant online educator community?
Please respond to this blog post or leave a comment on our Facebook page. Alternatively, you can always write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look to learn from you.