When I first started teaching international penpals was a popular way of learning about others and forging global friendships. Then came email, then epals and communication became faster. Katherine Zablatnik, (of Austria) founder of the HLW Skypers group (a global skype group of educators across the world) wanted her students to develop a global learning network.
She created a HLW Skypers group for students on skype and then a facebook group for hers and other global students to join but neither really took off. After discussing the apps that we are now using on mobile devices on the skype group, Katherine sought interest from others to see whether any of our students would like to use whatsapp with her students. After asking my students, a number indicated interest. My interested students ranged from year 8 (14 year olds) to year 11 (17 year olds).
What we did:
- students shared phone numbers through their teachers
- downloaded the free whatsapp on their mobile phones
- students were given the list of phone numbers to add to their phone contacts and then could add them to their whatsapp.
- left it to the students to communiate and connect with each other and learn from and with each other.
Whatsapp is a free app that works on wifi and allows text chat, image and video sharing, recorded voice, group chats, shared locations etc
The initial outcomes – this actually worked successfully!:-
- excited students came up to me to share how they had talked to a number of the Austrian students.
- asked what they learnt and talked about – school hours (which are different to ours), muscial instruments played (again some different to ours), languages spoken (Austrian students may lear German, Italian, French and English), ours only learn mandarin Chinese (and then not very well) etc
- students actually thanked me very much for connecting them. If only all classes were like this! Read Kailyn’s blog post
Imagine the possibilites
- students develop their own global learning networks that they can call upon when studying different countries, cultures, geography, history etc.
- can discuss global events and get the full perspective of view points.
- develop empathy
- support each other etc etc