How much fun did you have at school this week? How much enjoyment? Were you interested? Engaged? They are all different experiences but sometimes one cannot exist without the other.

Schools in New South Wales went back this week after a two-week Easter break. It’s a week full of stress, excitement, anxiety, re-connection and many other feelings all enrolled in the same MIIC (Massive Internal Intersecting Conflict). Even my aunty and mother – both of whom have over 30 years experience in education – admit to having butterflies before going back each term.

So it was with these feelings that I was also welcomed back to an onslaught of marking finalisation, report writing and evaluating, professional development planning and organisation, as well as all the usual beginnings of new units with my classes. However, it wasn’t the usual frantic beginning to term (where you can’t start “slow” because we can’t postpone a class until we feel back in the groove) as I had also been working with a group of dedicated History students to plan a seminar on global history.

As a few people know (those who have let me have a rant about the benefits of global connections) I have tried this a few times before. My class and another class get together, divide into groups which are mixed with members of both classes, and then plan and conduct a research investigation together.

This year, the classes didn’t have much class time to be able to engage with the project. This year, the students weren’t in my classes – with one exception. This year, we found topics common to both classes so they had a social/cultural link to the topic on both sides.

The main difference with this project to others you might have conducted at your school (and most of those I do) is that one class was in Sydney, Australia, and the other was in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, USA.

Two history classes, 14 hours apart, two separate countries, with different historical, political, economic and cultural experiences came together in their own time using basic web tools like Google Presentation, Wikispaces and Skype to create interesting and diverse presentations which they then co-presented live on Friday morning.

It took quite a bit of background organisation and discussion from the teachers, a little bit of pushing and nudging. It took quite a bit of proactive engagement by the students and leadership/collaborative skill. But, overall, the project was a great success. The kids had so much fun connecting and hearing each others’ accents, working together on a common project rather than just awkwardly trying to socialise online. The kids told me how different yet similar their experience of life and school is compared to us here in Australia. We think they all have guns and pickup trucks (which isn’t too far wrong) and they think we ride kangaroos to school (not much in Sydney as far as I know).

The excitement, fun and interest our students showed make this kind of project worthwhile and actually led me to have more fun in my other classes that week rather than letting the stress get to me. My Year 9s and I had interesting discussion about why war happens and why Australia would get involved in war, my Year 11s and I launched into an investigation of society in Europe at the turn of the 20th century – child labour, urbanisation, etc. Love it.

This really came home when one of my seniors posted a video to Edmodo about the industrial revolution. It’s hilarious. Watch it HERE. A warning, it’s catchy.

So yes this week was stressful but it was also deeply rewarding and fun. And let’s be honest… what experiences should we really hold close to our hearts? The report comments and grades and marks? Or the interesting questions, the heated debates and the excitement blasting through our classrooms when students are truly engaged in learning?

Have a great week. And have some fun.

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