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Purpose, Passion, and Connection through Global Ed

By Christine Hodges, 4th Grade Teacher at Colegio Internacional Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

Intentional Promotion of Global Citizenship

“The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody in it.” – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Global education isn’t code for world history or geography units anymore.  Technology has enabled teachers to strengthen lessons by integrating globally collaborative projects into our classrooms organically, no matter the subject or grade-level that we teach.  In a world with disintegrating borders, cultivating global perspectives and compassion amongst our students is imperative.  Luckily, Global Education enables us to step up to this plate and promote worldwide purpose, passion, and connection.

In order to begin, we must understand that “Global Ed” is the process of using today’s technology in order to connect our classrooms with other classes around the world.

While these connections can certainly be made specifically for studies in geography or social studies, the door is open to any subject.  It therefore appeals to all educators because Global Education allows students in any class to learn from peers, work collaboratively with others no matter the distance, and present/publish their work for a meaningful audience. Suddenly, classwork has an automatically heightened purpose, which lights a fire within students and motivates them to become passionate about whatever it is they are learning.  As global connections increase in the classroom, students thus become passionate about both the form of learning and about the connections that transpire.

Collaborative projects may also incorporate student voice and choice into learning, encouraging students to fuse their personal and cultural passions into projects.  Of course, as the vehicle to connect students with peers around the globe, a long-term payoff to Global Ed is the fostering of relationships, tolerance, and understandings of other people and cultures within our students at an early age.

The benefit to global connection within the classroom is clear. By intentionally incorporating global education into the construction of lessons and units, we can extend our teaching beyond our set standards and provide our students with the skills and benefits of global connections that they will need in their future.  Today’s influential educators use Global Ed as a vehicle to reach objectives, assess learning, and engage students in instructional activities.  Here’s how:


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Fourth Graders in Venezuela partake in a Mystery Skype with fifth graders in Wisconsin.

1:  Tailor the tool to your needs, not your needs to the tool.

To begin the planning process, remember that Global Ed is the vehicle for student learning, and not the other way around.  First we’ve got to keep our focus on what exactly it is that we are looking to teach – that is, we should begin at our learning objectives.  We as educators can agree that the objectives should still maintain the focus of an activity, no matter whether the planning process is student-driven through design thinking, or crafted through Backwards Design.  We therefore must decide how to both instruct and assess our students based upon the end objectives.  From that point, we can determine if global collaboration will best-serve students through assessments, instructional activities, or, preferably, both.

2:  Determine How Global Ed has a Place in the Final Product.

Perhaps the initial building block to incorporating global education into the classroom is by beginning at the end:  It is easiest to wade into the waters of global collaboration by initially sharing final products.  Summative learning should be shared and celebrated publicly in some manner, whether it was student-driven or teacher-led, because it adds meaning and purpose to the learning.  The question, then, is whether the learning itself, or the product of the learning, will be globally shared.  This can be determined by deciding whether students will showcase their expertise and knowledge, or if they will display a final product or creation.

If your students have become experts on a new math skill or science phenomenon, for example, then give them the opportunity to showcase their thinking and knowledge, and to share it virtually to become teachers to their peers worldwide.  Global connections through Skype or Google Hangout (GHO) allow students to present live to classrooms around the world, while Apps such as Explain Everything or Show Me! enable them to capture their thinking and create Khan Academy-style “How To” videos for classes worldwide that can easily be Tweeted to other students and classrooms, or posted on blogs.  Other assessment pieces that demonstrate students’ thinking or expertise include ThingLink (See example HERE), YouTube, ePortfolios or student blogs,  and GAFE features such as Slides or Drawings.  All can easily be shared with the click of a button.


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Fourth through sixth grade students became experts about their celebration of Holi and presented activities and songs to students in Venezuela, Mexico, and the United States via Skype and Google Hangout.

In addition to knowledge and skill, Global Connections can help showcase students’ creations—that is, the products of their learning.  After all, when each student has worked so diligently on a poem, narrative, art project, skit, or speech, it’s time for us to recognize their efforts and give them a wide audience to share it with.  Websites such as http://www.kalwriters.com/kidswwwrite/ serve to post literacy while giving it a strong feel of being professionally published.  Meanwhile, Apps like Voicethread, Garage Band, and Soundtrap allow students to create podcasts of anything they wish (See an example of Voicethread HERE).  Of course, Skype and GHO, are once again available to connect students to live audiences, while Green Screen videos or iMovies can be uploaded onto YouTube, posted to student blogs, and Tweeted out across the globe (Click HERE for Greenscreen examples, and HERE for an easily-shared Book Trailer).

4:  Gear up for Global Instruction.

If sharing students’ final learning or products of a unit is wading into the pool of global education, then incorporating global collaboration through the instructional phase of a unit is climbing back out at the ladder and cannonballing into the deep-end.

Consider how students and teachers can involve global collaboration through instructional activities, project design processes, prototyping:  How can we incorporate it into the actual process of learning?

To begin this level of integration, students or teachers should consider how the students can learn from others, whether they are physically in the room or not.  Then, they can use technology to connect globally and learn from the experts themselves.  Connections such as these may include tweeting to authors or connecting to other schools during activities such as World Read Aloud Day, or using Skype or Google Hangout (GHO) to connect virtually to speakers or classrooms.  Skype and GHO are particularly helpful to engage in Q&A sessions when the global connection itself is the focus, such as for cultural or geographical exchanges, as well as for contacting other classrooms who have studied a particular topic and have become experts.


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Students around the world connected via Twitter and Skype during World Read Aloud Day to exchange stories that were special to their culture, and used Today’s Meet and Twitter as joint backchannels.

In addition to connecting in order to “download” information, students can also use technology to collaborate and learn with others around the globe.  These types of connections can easily be completed through Google Apps For Education (GAFE) features, such as through the collaborative construction of maps, writing, presentations, or illustrations through GAFE Drawings, Slides, Docs, and Forms.  Student blogs also allow peers from around the globe to provide feedback on posted projects or ideas, while Apps such as Book Creator, Voicethread, and Weebly allow students to construct books, illustrated podcasts, or websites together (Check out a collaborative Weebly HERE).  Other projects may include a collaborative Youtube playlist, Thinglink, or Pinterest board.  Meanwhile, engaging in Mystery Skypes or Mystery Numbers foster sound reasoning and problem-solving skills within students, while tools like Padlet, Twitter, Storify, or Today’s Meet serve as powerful backchannels to curate information.


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Students exchanged narratives and rubrics via Google Drive to gain peer feedback. Check out the students’ responses in the comments section of Sandy Otto’s student blogs as they crafted their avatars for a gamified unit.

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 Students participated in a 24-Hour Skypeathon, connecting with students from all over the world every half an hour for 24 hour hours.

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Students snapped photos of traditional food while participating in a Twitter discussion, #whatisholidays, in order to learn about different traditions amongst other cultures.

 What about when the objective itself is to foster global perspectives and awareness?

Any and all of the resources previously mentioned can of course be used to build specific cultural or geographical connections.  However, particularly helpful resources include Skype and GHO for Q&A sessions, email for student pen-pal correspondence, and classroom exchanges of the following student-created materials:  Weebly websites, student blogs, Book Creators, Voicethreads, and GAFE Maps, Slides, and Drawings.  These projects may be crafted to showcase the class’ culture, demographics, heritage, or whatever other information you are hoping to learn about the other country.  The possibilities are endless, however, so adapt any other tools and project ideas as you and your students see fit!

Making Connections:  The Means to Successful Education

Before the implementation of these projects comes the connection:  In order to implement global education in the first place, we must first set up a network of worldwide educators.  The first step is to connect with like-minded educators via Twitter by chats. If you’re looking to get started, check out the following chats listed below).

In addition, take advantage of professional conferences to network and build connections for future classroom projects. Once the connections have been made, remember to foster a positive collaborative partnership with other educators.  Be open to connecting with different grade levels, and as flexible as possible with activity plans, guidelines, and dates.  In this way, projects and connections will be a success for all parties involved.

The real measure of success, however, extends far beyond just one globally collaborative lesson or unit.  With continuous exposure, our students develop powerful relationships and understandings with those of other cultures.  Our students will benefit from global education through attaining heightened senses of purpose, passion, and connection to their peers around the world, and therefore be prepared for a future in a global society.  When we incorporate global education into the construction of lessons and units, we foster within our students a global perspective.  In today’s world, this global citizenship is the true success.

Recommended Twitter Chats:

#TLAP 9:00 PM EST, Mondays

#GlobalEd16 8:00 PM EST, Wednesdays

References

Campbell, J. (1988). The power of myth. New York: Doubleday.

Otto, S. (2016). Otto ELA Blogs. Accessed May 2, 2016 at https://kidblog.org/class

/ottoela/posts.

Ruurs, M. (2016). Kids WWwrite. Accessed May 2, 2016 at http://www.kalwriters.com/

kidswwwrite/.

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