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How To Connect Your Students Globally

2009 October 4

Cross-posted on the TechLearning Advisors Blog

Two weeks after returning from the Flat Classroom Workshop in Hong Kong, I am still inspired and energized about what learning could (and should) look like.

The key component for me was connecting students, both face to face and virtually, from a variety of backgrounds to work together to solve a common problem. Although we might not have the luxury of bringing together diverse groups of students every day, we certainly have the capability to connect them using technology. No matter what subject you teach, I truly believe adding a global component is not only possible, but necessary to prepare students for our increasingly connected world.

As Fernando M. Reimers writes in Leading for Global Competency:

Good educators know that the real world is ever more interconnected and interdependent. We all share in facing such planetary challenges as climate change, health epidemics, global poverty, global economic recessions and trade imbalances, assaults on human rights, terrorism, political instability, and international conflicts. We also share opportunities for global collaboration in such areas as scientific and artistic creation, trade, and international cooperation. These challenges and opportunities define the contours of our lives, even in their most local dimensions. Yet in spite of growing awareness of the importance of developing global skills, few students around the world have the opportunity today to become globally competent.

As exciting and enriching as globally collaborative projects are, it can be a daunting task to start one on your own. Even if you have a great idea, you might not always know how or where to find the right partner(s). Ideally you would know the people you’ll be collaborating with personally before starting a project, but sometimes you don’t have that luxury.

So, here are a few ways you can get started:

Window shopping

These social networks are great places to start looking for teachers who have planned a project and need collaborators, or just a place to see other projects and how they work. I always like to start with a little “window shopping” before I jump into my own project – often someone else has already started something that will work perfectly for me!

Find a Geographic Focus

If you’re looking for a classroom in a specific country or city, try exploring the network of international schools around the world to try to find teachers who might be interested in working with you. These schools are often well-resourced, well-connected in their country, and offer a western-style curriculum. Even if you’re looking for a local school in a different country, international schools can be a great way to start making international contacts. You might want to start with this list of international school teachers who are blogging and/or on Twitter.

Ask the Professionals

A few weeks ago I was honored to be part of a panel on Global Awareness hosted by Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon. I certainly felt like a small fish in a big pond speaking alongside the directors, presidents, and chairs of so many well-respected and established organizations dedicated to connecting teachers and students around global issues. If you’re looking for an organized, formal connection with other classrooms, these would be a great place to start:

Build Your Own PLN

It can be difficult at first, but developing and expanding your own personal learning network may end up being the most rewarding professional development of your career. Connecting regularly with individuals and groups that can push your thinking, support your learning, and collaborate on projects both in and out of the classroom means that you are learning what you need, when you need it.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the plenary session of the AIS ICT Integration Conference coordinated and led by Chris Betcher. As a member of the closing session, alongside 5 other amazing educators – Sharon Peters, Matt Montagne, Toni Twiss, Tom Barrett, and
Cindy Barnsley – I noticed that all of us described using technology to make a positive impact on the world.
These are the people I want to be learning with! And it all starts with simple steps – commenting on blog posts, participating in online conferences, joining regular online live events. These two posts might help you get started:

Jump In!

Once you have an idea that will work and a classroom (or two) to connect with, get started! This post outlines the process I go through when beginning a new project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Globally Collaborative Projects.

Final Thoughts

Oftentimes, when I’m working with teachers new to technology, I end up suggesting a project idea which is easy, fast, and convenient, just to ensure that they (and their students) have a successful experience. But, now, after leading the Flat Classroom Workshop, participating on the Global Awarenes Panel, and joining the AIS ICT Integration Conference, I’m reminded that these globally collaborative skills and experiences are critical. Even if global projects are not always the easiest or the fastest to plan, and even if they don’t always work out perfectly, this is what we need to be doing with students and teachers on a regular basis. With the right approach, using technology in the classroom can be about making the world a better place.

Works Cited

Reimers, Fernando M. “Teaching for the 21st Century: Leading for Global Competency.” Educational Leadership, ASCD, September 2009, Volume 67, Number 1.

Peace on Earth image by cayusa

37 Responses leave one →
  1. October 4, 2009

    Great post. It is one to share. Thank you for the realistic how-to.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      Thanks Lisa, so glad it’s helpful!

  2. October 4, 2009

    You make it so easy for everyone to jump in Kim!
    Your clear step-by-step instructions, help, ideas and links are giving everyone a head start when planning projects to connect their students globally. Thank you!

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      Thank you Silvia! That’s such a huge compliment coming from you, the master of step-by-step, clear instructions!

  3. October 4, 2009

    Thanks once again Kim!
    I have been getting resources together for a mini-PD workshop at my school about fostering collaboration, and you have done most of the work for me.
    I would add Global SchoolNet to the “window shopping” heading. http://www.globalschoolnet.org/index.cfm
    Their project registry is quite good.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Jonah,

      So glad the post was helpful for you! Thanks for the additional link!

  4. October 5, 2009

    What a blog! I’m so glad I found you. My gosh, I’ve got a ton to learn from you. I taught at an International School in The Netherlands years ago. AFCENT International School. I’ll be coming back here lots to read and grow.

    Thanks for making this blog.

    Mike
    Teacher Food

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Mike,

      Thank you so much! I used to teach in Munich and had the pleasure of visiting The Netherlands several times. What a great country to live in!

  5. October 5, 2009

    Thank you for this great leg up into the world of connection and collaboration. You’ve made it easier for newbies, like me, to find and make connections. I’ve realised that for me making connections with Asia makes good sense and you’ve provided loads of leads that I can follow and develop.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Louise,

      I’m so glad this post is helpful for you! Good luck making your connections in Asia! Let me know if you need any help.

  6. October 5, 2009

    Great tips! Now just to get the teachers I work with to buy in…

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Chelsy,

      Yes, good luck with that! As slow going as it may feel at times, you are making a difference. Keep at it!

  7. October 7, 2009

    Hey Kim,

    Great post! I am going to use part of your post for my Advanced Computer Applications class. I would love for my students to see how an effective educator can leverage technology to break down the walls of the classroom.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Jennifer,

      Exciting! Can’t wait to hear how it goes! Would be interesting to have them design their own project to see what they think is an interesting, exciting and appropriate application of global collaboration in the classroom.

  8. Kristina205 permalink
    October 7, 2009

    There are so many things that technology can be used for in the classroom but I think this is the best idea i’ve heard so far! Using technology to connect students with other students around the world is so exciting! I hope to teach in a Spanish Immersion school when I graduate college and using these tools to connect my American students with Spanish speaking students would really be awesome. I really enjoyed reading your 5 Tips for Creating a Global Classroom and First Steps Toward Becoming a 21st Century Educator. They showed me how technology can be used to expand children’s outlook on the world. I will definitely reference these tools when I get started to teach. Thanks!

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Kristina205,

      Thanks! So glad these posts have been helpful for you! I’d be curious to know how much of your college courses are talking about these kinds of ideas, or if they haven’t really hit undergrad yet. Good luck in your new career!

  9. October 8, 2009

    I absolutely love the idea of using technology to become more globally involved. I think that in many ways technology in the classroom is a very big step forward– however becoming more involved in the rest of the world is one advantage that is usually overlooked. Many students, especially younger, only know about the rest of the world from history classes, or if something huge happens that affects America. Making American students more involved in the rest of the world is a huge perk to technology in the classrooms.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Lizzie,

      Although I’m not teaching in the States right now, I went through the US public school system and I can certainly agree. It’s easy to become isolated from the rest of the world living in such a big country with so many resources. Finding ways to expand our students’ horizons and help them realize that there is a whole big world out there can only help them become more open minded and objective.

  10. November 25, 2009

    Kim,

    thanks for all your wonderful guidance and getting teachers motivated and thinking “globally”. I believe it is the cornerstone of teaching and really needed – the world is becoming smaller and for the sake of peace, we need to get to know, “the other”. So many valuable lessons there.

    As an EFL teacher – our subject lends itself hands on to this challenge and call. I’m really looking forward to technology even making it more and more easier to connect globally. You might be interested in my own global project – Project Peace. Teachers from around the world make videos of their classroom to spread peace through music. … we need more teachers particpating! http://projectpeace.ning.com

    Cheers,
    David
    http://eflclassroom.com

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @David,

      I couldn’t agree more about getting to know each other and building a foundation for peace. I will pass on your project idea to our teachers here at ISB, it looks great!

  11. Angela Suk permalink
    December 8, 2009

    This is a great entry! It’s wonderful to see the efforts you have taken to enrich the lives of your students. It’s very inspirational and motivational!

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010

      @Angela,

      Thank you! Hope it’s helpful for you.

  12. September 27, 2011

    Great post and a great site, thanks for all these links. It looks a bit overwhelming to start with but I guess once you’ve done it once, it’d be easier the next time and I do think this sort of thing can revolutionise kids engagement in the classroom and as you say make the world a better place.

    I’m putting a link to here from my site. I hope that’s ok
    Tahlia Newland┬┤s last blog post ..Will ereaders encourage kids to read?

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      October 2, 2011

      @Tahlia,

      It definitely gets easier every time! You learn so much from testing out how things work in your own classroom, and building a network of educators you can collaborate with on a regular basis. Feel free to link away :)

  13. Katie permalink
    November 28, 2011

    Kim ( & others),
    I am currently taking a graduate course on collaborating globally, would you or anyone else be able to answer any of these questions?

    -Why did you choose to collaborate globally (internationally) rather than nationally?
    -How did develop your global activity?
    -What age/grade are your students?
    -What type of school do you teach at? (public, private, parochial, cyber,etc)
    -How did find another educator to collaborate with?
    -Did you know them prior to the activity?
    -How did you communicate? How frequently?
    -If you did not use Skype, would you consider it to “connect” your classes more?
    -What other technlogy or methods did your students use to contact the class/teacher?
    -Did you find this activity to be worthwhile? Did your students?
    -Were they motivated to take part in this project?
    -What would you do differently next time?
    -What did you learn (biggest take away point) from this project/experience?
    -Would you recommend this activity and/or global collaboration to other educators?

    Thank you so much!
    ~Katie
    p.s. Please forgive me/feel free to delete if this is not a good place to post these questions

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