Phase 1: Getting Ready
Participation in a Learning Circle can be a very rewarding
experience for both students and teachers.
For teachers, it provides a way to team-teach with many
different teachers in a virtual classroom. Developing working relationships
with teachers all over the globe enables teachers to develop a very strong
sense of the field of teaching. This professional development is more
current and dynamic than more traditional avenues of education.
For students, working in a collaborative setting with peers
around the world gives them a wider perspectives on issues and a greater
understanding of similarities and differences. The work with others can
be a powerful mirror that will help them see who they are, where they
live, and who they live with in new way.
Now is a great time to have a discussion about expectations
and procedures so that you and your students will have a successful experience
in their Learning Circles. At the beginning of each of the phase descriptions
is a short narrative that describes the Learning Circle experience from
the perspective of a single teacher in an Hawaiian classroom.
Learning Circle Interaction
(Curriculum-Based) You and your students will need to coordinate
classroom activities with your Learning Circle partners. You can prepare
for this interaction by reading this Learning Circle Guide carefully.
Part of the excitement of working in a Learning Circle is that it is an
open learning environment created by the group. No one can predict exactly
what you and your students will be learning over the next few months.
Your learning experience evolves from the cooperative work of all.
A little bit of uncertainty is what makes the educational
experience so exciting. But there is also a strong need for predictability
in networking. It helps if you let your Learning Circle partners know
when and how often to expect messages from you and from your students.
You will see how important this is the first time your students send a
message. They will ask you when they should expect a response. You tell
them a few days, or a week, or even a few weeks and they will wait. But
if there is no reply once that period is up, they will be very
disappointed. So you need to be careful about the predictions you make
and recognize that others will be counting on you and your students to
respond. Try to set a regular schedule for checking and sending mail and
share this information with your partners.
It is important to have a Learning Circle session time line
which lists the specific dates for each of the phases of your Learning
Circle interaction. This document should be shared with all participants
in your Learning Circle prior to the Opening day of the Circle. The Learning
Circle timeline from iEARN
can serve as a model.
Once you have time line, make a note of the dates when you
will be on holiday or away from computer communication in order to share
this information with others in your Learning Circle. Make a note of the
dates when you will be on holiday or away from computer communication
in order to share this information with others in your Learning Circle.
Reading through this Learning Circle Teacher Guide before
the start of your Learning Circle will prepare you for working in your
It is a good idea to have your first " Teacher's
Hello message " ready to send as soon as your Learning Circle conference
is ready so that everyone will have an opportunity to meet you.
Your students also need to get ready for this new learning
experience. Before the session begins, spend some time talking with your
students about the concept of a Learning Circle and the specific curriculum
focus of your Learning Circle. Informing parents of your Learning Network
activities is also a way to get them involved and gain support for your
A student letter introduces
the Learning Circles to students. You may find it useful to make copies
of this letter to give to your students or post it where your students
can read it.
You may find the analogy to primary "circle time" from the
introduction useful. Creating an image of an electronic
classroom is another way to explain Learning Circles to your students.
Once they know the location of your partners, you might want to explore
their expectations about their partners.
Informing parents is a way to encourage their involvement
in their child's education. A sample letter
to parents is included which you can use or modify to suit your needs.
Students can take the letter home to their parents when you introduce
the Learning Circle concept to your class. This letter also serves to
invite parent participation in the Learning Circle activities. Engaging
members of the community in your Learning Circle project will enrich the
learning environment for everyone.
Finally, you can begin work on the Class
Survey so that you will have this ready to send when the Learning
Your Learning Circle Theme and Project
Students in your classroom will be working on a common theme
that defines your Learning Circle. It might be helpful to begin by thinking
about what community and network resources you can draw on to help your
students in the specific theme you selected. These ideas are arranged
by Learning Circle theme.
Classroom guests and field trips can broaden your students'
perspectives on your Learning Circle theme. There are many social services,
businesses, and community programs that have speakers who would be happy
to come and talk to your students. There are also likely to be many places
in your local community that could become interesting sites of field trips.
Developing relationships between the school and community organizations
can result in many positive benefits for everyone involved.
There are also many places and people that can be found
online using computer networks. These resources are arranged by Learning
Classroom Guests, Field Trips
and Online Resources for Learning Circle Themes:
As you think of ways to help students explore your Circle
theme, remember to share them with your Learning Circle. While your local
resources are likely to be different, your explorations may give ideas
to teachers in other locations about how they can use their local services
to enrich their students' experiences.
It may help to think about the following as you prepare
for your work in Learning Circles.
What do you think your students will want to know about
What do you want to know about the teachers and their schools?
For more information and ideas about projects for each of
the Learning Circle themes, see
Phase 3: Planning the Learning Circle
Managing Electronic Mail
Now is a good time to decide how you will be handling
the mail that you receive from the other schools. There are many different
strategies and you will find the one that fits best within your teaching
style within the structure of Learning Circles that you have selected.
Most likely your messages will be distributed by a maillist or posted
within a conference structure. If you are participating in Learning Circles
through the International Education and Resource Network, (iEARN), you
will be have the opportunity to select online conferencing and email.
Teachers comment on their
experiences in Learning Circles.
Getting Ready Checklist
The Phase 1 Getting Ready Checklist
will help you see if you are ready for phase 2: Opening the Circle.
HINT: You may want to print copies of each of the phase
checklists as a reminder of what you need to accomplish by the end of
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