Global education is my passion and technology enables us to connect and communicate with others across the globe – sharing conversations, learning together and from each other, solving problems together etc either in synchronous or non-synchronous time.
Following are some tips for new globaled teachers:-
- Seek out existing projects where experienced teachers will guide those who are new. Short simple projects are great for beginners. See Classroom2.0, Flat Classroom Projects,Global Education Collaborative, Global Classroom, Jen Wagner’s projects etc.
- Find another teacher(s) with a similar passion. Successful outcomes occur when passionate, committed, determined, and hard-working educators connect cross countries See Back to the Classroom (of 2.0)
- Get to know each other and develop confidence with each other. Use emails, chat, audio and then videoconference. Be honest and open at all times.
- Always test any connections -internet connections, bandwidth, potentially blocked sites, audio, video etc
- Find tools that are user-friendly to both of you eg blogging, videoconferencing, google applications, titanpad, forums, moodle, ning, wikis, voicethreads, web conferencing, edmodo etc Consider the nature of the connection and the proposed outcomes.
- Don’t be nervous about connecting with those who do not speak English (or your native tonuge) as a first language. Sometimes the richest learning takes place in these connections. My school is culturally and geographically isolated. We connect regularly with different classes in Indonesia where English is spoken as a third or fourth language. These can be challenging connections, taking students way outside their comfort zones, but we survive, connect, communicate by ‘hook or by crook’ and make ourselves understood with simplified English, body language, use of objects and/or miming.
- Be completely open and honest with each other (Skype was used for videoconferencing from home to get to know another teacher from Singapore. Fortunately, she warned me that she was a Muslim. When we connected our classes, she had her head gear on and I would not have recognized her.) As issues arise from cultural, religious, ideological values between either you or your students, discuss them openly and work through them with all parties involved. One of my students offended students in Canada with some language that was becoming common place in Australia. Discussing the problems with students and editing the blog post meant that we kept working together – a much better outcome than refusing to speak to each other or continue to work together. A second problem arose, when one of my girls uploaded her avatar onto the Flat Classroom Project ning. The avatar was a photo of her in modest summer gear ie Tshirt and shorts. A teacher from Oman in the Middle East queried the appropriateness of this image as females in the Middle East have arms and legs covered. After discussion with the girl, a different photo was added.
- Go beyond ‘meet and greet’. Greater learning outcomes will evolve if the communication and connection continues on a regular nature.
- Make the most of all ‘teachable’ moments with your classes, wither before, during or after linkups and connections. Classroom Story: In the middle of a direct web conferencing linkup with a class from Malaysia, one of my girls ‘piped up’ and said “By the way, where is this Malaysia? At the end of the lesson students searched for Malaysia. (I had assumed that my students would all know where Malaysia was.)
- Test, test and test again all tools and connections to be used. Technology is never, ever 100% reliable. Have a backup plan and a possible alternative tool. Classroom Story: Three years ago, our whole school was setup to linkup with a research scientist in Antarctica. Two other backup days were organised should the internet fail to work in Antarctica. DiscoverE was the virtual classroom software to be used. This was tested twice prior to the day with the creator of DiscoverE and our school. On the morning of the actual event, testing commenced two hours before hand with global teacher participants, software developers and our school. Google video chat is an alternative to skype when skype falters.
- Be prepared to give and take, keep a sense of humour going.
- Familiarize yourself with timezones, days of the week in different hemispheres, festivals, school terms, school holidays and any other possible interruptions. Be flexible.
- Update parents and school leadership constantly. Keep them in the loop and encourage their participation.
- Attend the online sessions for the annual global education conference, or listen to the 2011 recordings of sessions, attend classroom2.0 LIVE or Australia Series webinars.
- Build a global twitter network, follow the hashtags #globaled #globalclassroom
- Share your experiences with the world – on a blog, a wiki, twitter, google+ etc
Global education and making connections in either synchronous or asynchronous time, can be fun, engaging and exciting but most of all enables powerful learning. Do not hesitate, jump in and learn with the world!