Sunday, May 01, 2016

Building an online school community using WeChat

 This is the first of many blog posts cross-posted from the Connect with China blog and sharing education highlights from our trip to China in April 2016!

Our Connect with China trip in April 2016 took us to Beijing BISS International School, a small IB world school located on the 3rd ring road in Beijing. This was the school I worked in as E-Learning Coordinator and MYP Coordinator, and I wrote about our interactions with students while there in a previous blog post on the CCC blog.

This blog post features the Head of Elementary School, Shannon O'Dwyer, who not only spent the morning with us sharing the Connect with China Collaborative with teachers and students, but also took the time to share with us her evolving use of WeChat (a very common app used by most/all Chinese and others beyond China, and also used by our Connect with China Collaborative participants) as a tool to build community within each class.

This is a significant discussion for the following reasons:

  • Shannon shares that the use of WeChat is very new in the school in terms of communication between stakeholders
  • She describes how it's use is developing on the fly - and is viral in the way the benefits outweigh the disadvantages
  • A school often creates policies first and then implements communication modes - but in this case the 'policy' is being developed on the run as users (parents, teachers and students) continue to explore and innovate using the WeChat app
  • Parents and students are learning how to be online global/digital citizens and forming strong community bonds through the ongoing use of this simple tool

I consider Shannon a 'teacherpreneur' and as such someone who is not afraid to lead for change. Although she might modestly disagree with me, she is forging new pathways for communication and collaboration in a PYP school that are agile, creative and inspiring. This is in a learning environment where the middle and high school counterparts have banned mobile phones in the classroom - for Shannon she tells the students they are in trouble if they do NOT bring their phones to class! I encourage all global education leaders to be encouraged by the work of Shannon and learners at BISS. New attitudes and habits of learning that include the use of emerging technologies show us new ways of connecting and communicating support learning. According to Shannon WeChat is providing a vital connection to everyday events in the classroom and in the community - beyond the facility of a classroom blog. Students and parents interact with teachers and school leaders sharing ideas, questions, activities and more. The interview is about 8 min. long - but I encourage you to watch it all! 

 READ Shannon's blog post about our trip 'Connect to Learn'

Some images from our trip:
Classrooms, teachers, students, Beijing BISS International School, and lunch at a local favourtie restaurant!

Read more about the Connect with China Collaborative that joins teachers, students and community members from within and beyond China for collaborative learning and global understanding.

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