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A guest post courtesy of Toni Olivieri-Barton who blogs at toniobarton.wordpress.com.
In the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization, “international-minded” students are defined as demonstrating all of the following attributes: open-minded, risk-taker, reflective, principled, balanced, inquirer, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators and caring. There are many ways to give our students enough time to practice these attributes. I have incorporated them into the library time and collaborating with teachers to allow students to show these attributes to others around the world
Global projects assist teachers and students in being able to demonstrate all those attributes, but especially open-minded, risk-taking, and reflective. In a global project, classrooms around the world meet virtually to discuss cultural similarities and differences. For students who may never get to travel outside of their neighborhood or school, this global experience is essential because they will hear ideas and opinions that they themselves have not thought about. Even understanding students in a different school in the United States can open up their minds allowing them to care and reflect on their life.
One example of this is Mystery Skype. Mystery Skype is a Skype videoconference where another school in the world to connect with my school. The teachers do not tell the students where the other school is from and the students ask each other Yes or No questions to determine where the school is located. While doing this the teachers and students talk about being good communicators and thinkers. Our students are not allowed to use slang or text talk so that they can be respective when they communicate. They are representing our school and need to think and act accordingly. After the location is discovered, the two classrooms have a social exchange of what our classrooms, communities, and environments are like. We need to be knowledgeable about our own state and inquirers into what their state or country have to offer.
We had a few classes participate in the Global Read-Aloud. The teacher running this program simply picks books for every level K-12 and asks teachers to join her Edmodo group to find a connection with other teachers. Last year the students discussed in groups on Edmodo what they thought of the books and also video conferenced with other classrooms who read the same book. Our fifth graders were able to return to school in the evening to communicate with Kuala Lumpur students who had also read the book. The book this year was “Wonder” by Palaccio. The book talks about a student with deformities. Students discussed how a caring student would react with the main character. The students had an exchange about the book and then had time for a social exchange to understand each other’s culture.
On a larger scale, I am eager to have more classrooms participate in a global collaboration project, such as Flat Connections. There is one project for kindergarten through second graders that is called “Building Bridges to Tomorrow”. My 4th graders participate in one called “A Week in the Life”. Both of these projects are created and managed through Flat Connections, which is an organization who believes students from different schools, and countries can come together to collaborate with each other. During these projects, students learn to be open-minded and inquire to their fellow co-students from around the world. If students can see this task as simple and friendly, they will develop into adults who want to connect with others who are not similar to themselves. Flat Connections has projects for all grade levels in K-12.
During the last year, my students made amazing reflections. One class of 2nd graders all wanted to move to Iowa so that they can drive the tractors in the fields at age twelve. This farming community in Iowa opened our students’ eyes up to different experiences. Another group of students connected with a Catholic school in Illinois. When one of our religious students asked how often they studied religion, the Catholic students answered only on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday because on Wednesday they attended Mass. The student was surprised because they only study religion a few days a week. As a librarian, this connected learning is similar to learning from a primary source. The students are learning from each other by discussing their similarities and differences.
As a society we should learn from our past mistakes and make the world a peaceful place. We have a diverse earth where conflict arises when we don’t understand our differences. This past year, I had every classroom from second grade to fifth grade participate in at least one project with a classroom outside of our school. Some of these projects were only communication projects. This year my goal is to have all the students from second through fifth grade participate in a collaboration project.
As the IB model teaches, teachers should inspire students to act about the knowledge they gain during school hours. If that knowledge includes more international students or United States students who are different than them, our students will become more open-minded and reflective. Even at the primary grades, students question how the world works and take action on their knowledge and passions. The Flat Connections group uses the term “Glocalization”, let’s teach globally, but act locally.