This is the first post shared on the Flat Connections blog from the Connect with China trip to China in April 2016.
The China trip of Katie Grubb and Julie Lindsay took them to Beijing BISS International School, a small IB world school located on the 3rd ring road in Beijing. This was the school Julie worked in as E-Learning Coordinator and MYP Coordinator, and interactions with students from this visit were shared in a previous blog post on the Connect with China blog.
This blog post features the Head of Elementary School, Shannon O’Dwyer, who not only spent the morning of the visit sharing the Connect with China Collaborative with teachers and students, but also took the time to share her evolving use of WeChat (a very common app used by most/all Chinese and others beyond China, and also used by 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
Shannon is a ‘teacherpreneur’ and as such someone who is not afraid to lead for change. Although she might modestly disagree with this description, 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, as Shannon tells, “students take the lead in sharing much of their learning and thinking seamlessly from home to school. With every passing day it is controlled less and less by the adults, and is more a community focused on learning”.
All global education leaders should 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 new ways of connecting and communicating to 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.
Read Shannon’s blog ‘Connect to Learn‘
Images of classrooms, teachers, students, Beijing BISS International School, and lunch at a local favourtie restaurant!