As I look into my crystal ball, I foresee that when historians look back at the late 20th century and early 21st century they will marvel at the advances we made in two areas: transportation of goods and people globally and the exchange of information. As international educators, we are quite familiar with transportation of people around the world as we move from country to country (whether to work or for those generous holidays). The transportation of goods might feel a bit less impressive for us though as we wait yet another week for our shipping to arrive.
In the classroom, we have been most impacted by the readiness and exchange of information. Our students are connected to a wealth of knowledge, people, and resources the likes of which education has never experienced. It has become an expectation that we prepare students for this globalized information exchange while also meeting the requirements of exams and university admissions. This can be a challenge, but also a huge opportunity. Imagine breaking down the walls of the classroom to share global connections that build their 21st century learning knowledge through hands-on experiences. This is best done with learning activities that connect students across geographies where they engage in authentic exchanges. And there are a number of ways to do this using technology.
So, I thought I would offer some practical ideas for educators to open those global connections to their classrooms:
Traveling Tales is a program where classes collaborate to create a shared book. Five classes sign up to create a story and each class develops a portion of the story. The program is designed to fit into exist language and literacy lessons, rather than being used as an add-on. The stories are done with visuals and text delivered through an interactive video format. Traveling Tales books are being written all the time amongst schools around the world. The power of this type of collaboration is that it does not require any alignment of time zones for shared work.
Learn more: http://bit.ly/travelingtales
The Global Read Aloud
Every year, starting in October for a 6 weeks period, classes will read the same the book aloud with or to their classes. Thousands of schools participate at varying levels of involvement with the simple goal of making as many global connections as possible. Schools share their read-alouds and connections on a variety of platforms including Twitter, Skype, Padlet, Flipgrid, and other similar avenues. Again, this is powerful form of collaboration because it does not require time zone alignment, but synchronous discussions can be used to create a more meaningful experience for the students.
Learn more: https://edtch.co/globalreadaloud
Global Math Task Twitter Challenge
This Twitter-based mathematics challenge connects classrooms through tasks and problem solving. Each week a group of “Task Tweeters” will share grade specific math problems over Twitter and classes around the world will post solutions to Twitter using the hashtag #GMTTC. The experience connects classes completing similar problems and it opens dialogue for students around mathematics and problem-solving.
Learn More: https://edtch.co/gmttc
Empatico is a free tool that connects classrooms around the world. Their mission is to create empathy between students and schools by putting them together through collaborations and share experiences. Empatico will make a virtual introduction between two classrooms using tools to connect via video, share files, partner, and share tasks. Empatico is one of the largest networks of global connections in the world with representation in nearly every country worldwide.
Learn More: https://edtch.co/empatico
Mystery Skype is a program where classes connect with other schools, experts, and individuals around the world using Skype. Though listed as a “Mystery,” there is very little mystery about it. Participants volunteer to join the online collaborative and they make themselves available via Skype during specific times. Classes that connect with them know in advance what they have to offer and what they will discuss. These connections can last 10 minutes or be repeated for months.
Learn More: https://edtch.co/mysteryskype
iEARN is an NGO that works to connect students around the world through shared learning activities. Designed to create authentic experiences, iEARN facilitates connections between schools and students through a global community-based approach. They facilitate connections, offer resources, and run programs for global collaboration. At present iEARN is being used in 140 countries with over 2,000,000 students.
Learn More: https://edtch.co/iearn Regardless which of these tools educators find useful, the biggest challenge is always the first connection. I recommend that teachers select a tool and just jump in to make a connection. The avenues for learning that will come into their classrooms will be boundless.
I work as an Educational Technology consultant at International EdTech committed to helping schools use technology successfully. I frequently present at conferences on Educational Leadership, Learning Technology, IT, and Data Systems. I am also a a published author focusing on Educational Technology, International Education, and Leadership.