Kindergarten Around the World (tagged on twitter as #kinderworld) is a twitter-based, virtual exchange project, for our very youngest students.
Project signups from interested teachers are accepted on an ongoing basis. Please visit Project Description and FAQ to sign up.
(Pour des informations en Français, SVP visitez "En Français, SVP!" ou bien écrivez moi! Je suis toujours à la recherche des classes de langue française pour le projet.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Project Update for 2013-14

Hello friends! I just updated the Project information page, and thought I better post the new version as a blog post, too, just to make sure everybody gets it. Don't forget to add this page to your RSS reader to make sure you get all the latest news!

First, an apology from Amy: Unfortunately, due to changes to Google forms, I have had to create entirely new sign up forms for this year. If you have already signed up, I must ask you to do so again, using the links found at the end of this page. I apologise for this inconvenience. I promise that the new forms are quicker, easier, and should result in faster matches!

Whether you are new to the project, or have participated before (I know some of you are coming up on your 4th year of participation), please take the time to read through this page, top to botttom. I know it's long but but covers a lot, and even if you have participated before, there are some changes for this year. Please, bear with me, and soldier on. I promise you will get to the signup link in no time!

Kindergarten Around The World 2013-14

Kindergarten Around the World is a twitter-based virtual exchange project, allowing young students to experience and explore a way of life different from their own, by building a relationship with a class of similarly-aged children. It was piloted using 8 classes in 2010-11, and has grown exponetially since them.

The project is based out of Calgary French and International School (www.cfis.com) located in Calgary, Canada. The coordinator (me!) is Amy Murray (@happycampergirl).  

By developing a relationship with a kindergarten class in another part of the world, participating students will:
  • Compare and contrast their own daily lives with those of other  students around the world.
  • See themselves as part of a larger, international community of Kindergarten-aged children
  • Develop an awareness of and appreciation for other cultures
  • Reflect on their own school lives and daily experiences.
  • Explore the use of technology as a tool to communicate and build relationships.

Who can participate?
Most participating classes have students between the ages of 4 and 6; however, other age groups can participate if they are open to being matched with younger students. We have had classes as old as 8th grade participate very successfully.

All participating teachers must: 
  • Have a twitter account separate from their class account. 
  • Have regular internet access.
  • Have (or be willing to create) a Twitter account for their class.
  • Be willing to check their class twitter account at least 3 times a week to communicate with their partner class. 
 Why do *I*, as the teacher have to have a twitter account, too?
The more I work with and reflect on young children and social media, the more firmly I believe that it is not responsible for us to lead our students to social media tools that we don't use and understand ourselves.  As the project coordinator, I am not comfortable encouraging you to tweet with your class if you are not tweeting yourself. For more details on this, you can read my blog post: So You Want to Tweet With Kindergarten. 

Additonally, twitter can provide you, as a teacher, with amazing, ongoing, free professional development. For more on how and why to use twitter for your own PD, check out: Of Bellybutton Lint & Glitter.

If you need some help getting started on twitter as a kindergarten teacher, #Kinderchat has a great Newbie's Guide!

As a final note, providing a teacher twitter account gives me and your partner teacher an additional, "backup" way to contact you, in case e-mails get stuck in spam filters, or blocked by school network security.

How does it the project work?
After completing the signup form, you will be assigned a partner class as soon as an good match becomes available This is new this year - in the past, all the matches were made after a set deadline. Making matches as they come in allows teachers to get started whenever they are ready, and prevents EVERYONE having to wait until ALL the signups are in. It also allows teachers to sign up at any time.

When does the project start?
The signup form will ask you for your ideal start date, so you can start at any time, assuming an appropriate match is available.  

How long does the project last?
This is entirely up to you and your partner teacher. To help children build relationships, I recommend that you maintain contact for at least 3 months. You are matched with your partner base on your ideal start date; beyond that, your timeline is entirely up to you.

How do you make the matches?
The signup form collects the information that helps me make the matches. Your match is based on practicalities (i.e. your availability, ideal timeline, and preferred language of communication) and diversity. I make every effort to match classes that are notably different from one another in at least one significant way. The matches are made by hand, with great thought and reflection - this is no computer algorithm!

Am I guaranteed a partner class from another country?
For the purposes of the project, the definition of diversity is not limited to geography. You may get a partner class located in the same country as you, particularly if you are an English-speaking class in North America. However, your partner will be from a different region, and probably from a school setting that is different from yours in at least one significant way. As an example, in the past, an urban school in New York was (very successfully) matched with a school in  ranching community in Colorado.

But I really want a class from a different country!  
No problem! Please note that in the signup form. Remember, though,  that the more specific your request, the more time it may take for me to find you an appropriate match, and that a match is not guaranteed to anyone.

Why do USA classes have a separate signup form from everyone else? 
Typically, more than half the signups I get are from US classes, and most people prefer to have a match from a different country. Having 2 separate forms means that Google does the first step of the matching process for me: sorting the signups as "USA" or "not USA."

Does that mean all non-USA classes will be matched with a USA class?
No. Not at all. In fact, part of the reason for separating the signups is to help me make sure that DOESN'T happen. If a class in Japan and a class in Poland are compatible, I will ABSOLUTELY match you!

The most important goal of the project is for children to vicariously experience a life different from their own.  The project is what YOU, the teachers, make it.

Once I have a match, what do I do?
When you receive the e-mail confirming your match, you have 10 days to make contact with your partner teacher. If, after that time, you have not received a response from them by e-mail or twitter, please e-mail me (Amy), and I will find you a new match. 

Note that if your assigned match reports that you have not responded to their attempts to communicate, and is subsequently assigned a new partner, I cannot guarantee a new placement for you. The project is entirely dependent on the communication between partner teachers.

Ok, I have a match, we're in touch, NOW WHAT?
Now: whatever you want! Work with your partner teacher to come up with a timeline and ideas that work for both of your classes. 

For an outline of how we do the project at my school, please visit the sample project page
 Some teachers may choose to make the project their primary "theme" for a set period of time, others may choose to weave it into their existing program. There are no firm rules about how to integrate the project into your classroom -- as long as it is working for you and your partner teacher, you are doing it right!

I have a friend at a school in another country, and we would like to to do this project. Can we just DO IT, or do you have to match us?
That is wonderful news! Please go right ahead, and keep me posted on how it is going. If you would like me to include you in the project map, please e-mail me and let me know who/where you are!

I really want to do this, but my administrator is not on board. How can I convince her/him?

To start, try sharing my blog posts about the power of twitter. You can find all of them here.
You can also share some of the media coverage of this project.

If you need additional support or testimonials, please contact me. My own administrators would also be happy to talk with yours.

Okay, okay, I'm ready to sign up already! Where do I go?

Wait! I need to know something that you haven't covered here!
Please, e-mail me, or find me on twitter: @happycampergirl.

I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for joining me in this adventure.

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