Oh The Places We’ll Go – Connected Classroom

I was very honoured this week to be named a Lead Teacher by the Global Classroom Project.   As soon as I heard, I was excited to read more about the amazing things happening in the classrooms of the the other Lead Teachers (@murcha and @cccoffa from Australia, @ICT_Integrator from South Africa, and @heidihutchison, @MrsMorgansClass and @kathleencorley from the United Staes).   As I read through their accomplishments,  I was humbled and in awe of the opportunities they are providing their students.  Without a doubt, the ability to connect globally has been the “a-ha” moment of my teaching career.  I am not sure there are words to truly express the amazement I feel as I watch my students communicate, collaborate and think critically with peers across the globe.

My global connections have evolved from one-time connections to collaborative projects.  I hope to give you a sense of the different options while sharing some of my personal highlights.

Skype In The Classroom is an excellent place to start.  Anyone can create a free account and you can instantly access hundreds of lessons, speakers that you could virtually bring into your classroom and teachers that are equally as excited about connecting their students.  There are lessons for every age and in every subject.  Once you are comfortable with the idea, you can create lessons of your own.  Initially I created a Where in The World project where we connected with various classes and asked yes/no questions to pinpoint their geographical location.  After we identified each locations we enjoyed learning more about the classes we connected with. We have connected with 17 classes over the past few years  through this project.  As a result, we have learned quite a bit about class routines and the lifestyles of students around the world.

Google Hangouts is another way you can connect your students.  There are many Google Communities that post opportunities to connect.  Connected Classroom Workshop and the Global Classroom Project are two of my favourites.  Both of these communities provide opportunities to network with other teachers as well as virtual field trips.  For example, last year when studying the Holocaust, my class was able to participate in a hangout featuring Holocaust survivor Gideon Frieder.  Hangouts allow you to engage up to ten computers in the video call allowing students to interact with Mr. Frieder from their respective classrooms.  As you can see, Hangouts is a very powerful way to connect.
Twitter, Google+, websites dedicated to Global Connections and blog surfing are also excellent ways to expand your PLN and global connections.  Searching hashtags like #globalclassroom and spending time on global G+ communities and reading through Skype projects will provide ideas and potential global partners.
You never know where these initial connections might take you!  Three years ago I connected with Mark Engstrom (@markaengstrom), MS Assistant Principal and 8th Grade Geography Teacher at The Graded School – the American School in Sao Paulo on Skype in the Classroom where we completed a Where in the World Geography Project.  It was evident that we had a similar vision of the possibilities of global collaboration and decided to try a project where our students were partnered together.  We immediately saw that the benefits of global collaboration was different than anything we could have provided through a textbook or projects that grouped students within our own classes.  At that time, Global Students Global Perspectives was created.  Together, Mark and I designed four collaborative global projects with the intention of connecting students from across the globe.  What an incredible experience it has been.  Without a doubt, Mark and I learned as much as the students did.  On the map below you will see the classes that participated in each of our four projects last year.  This year we are already expanding to include students from additional countries and continents.
This map includes all of the classes my students have connected with since our very first Skype Call in October 2011.
Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.22.59 AM
View an interactive version of this  map by clicking here.
Our students have the world at their fingertips.  As educators,  it is essential that we provide them with the skills they need to become effective digital and global citizens.
I have made a lot of exciting global connections for the year ahead.  I will post more about these adventures soon on my class site.
If you would like additional information on how you can connect your class globally,  please feel free to email me or connect with me on Twitter.

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