Joli Barker, a second-grade teacher at Slaughter Elementary in the McKinney ISD, will travel across the Atlantic this November to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum in Prague, Czech Republic.

She is one of only 16 educators chosen to represent the United States at the international event.

Barker was selected from a pool of 100 outstanding educators from 25 states who participated in the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 U.S. Forum held in Seattle, Washington in August. The annual event recognizes the efforts of teachers who creatively and effectively implement technology to improve student success.

While there, Barker presented her innovative 2011-12 “iConnect Project,” an undertaking designed to connect her students not only to literature, but to kids from seven other countries in authentic, collaborative learning experiences.

“I came up with the ‘iConnect’ concept while thinking about ways to bring a more well-rounded, meaningful learning experience to my students,” Barker said. “As part of the iConnect movement in my class [last] year, our focus [was] on how we connect to our curriculum and make connections across our curriculum, but more importantly, how we connect to each other and our world.”

The project began with participants committing to reading the Magic Tree House series of fiction and non-fiction books by Mary Pope Osborne.

As they moved through the series, students in Barker's class shared reading responses, book analyses and author studies with their international peers via Skype, ePals and Edmodo. Using Kodu gaming, they shared ideas and files around the world to code and create video games that reflected what they had learned from their favorite Magic Tree House books.

The iConnect project provided Barker’s students with a challenging, engaging opportunity to use technology to expand their learning and love of literature. It also expanded their understanding of the world and their place in it.

“Every student not only deserves an excellent education,” Barker said, “but he/she deserves to feel significantly connected to and important in their world. When a child recognizes his/her worth, when they realize they matter, the impossible instantly becomes possible, tangible and a non-issue.”



About the author: Shane Mauldin is a McKinney ISD communications specialist.