What are the best ways for a teacher to engage their classroom in a global conversation?
From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis
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Like squirrels in a sack, we can choose to coexist or we can make life miserable for one another. We are all a global citizen whether we realize it or not. Parents and teachers are building the bridges today that tomorrow will walk across.
Let’s be clear about something. Because of the way students form their opinions, if you’re not building a bridge, you’re building a wall. There is no middle ground here. Which are you?
Have a Big Mind
When I was in eighth grade, my grandmother sat me down and said she was taking me on a trip.
“You might live in a small town, but you need a big mind. You have to get out of the small town and see the world.”
Not every student has a grandmother who sees the world this way and can afford to take them on a trip. But now, I can help my students see the world through the doors of Internet technology. The price is only a little time, but the payoff is huge. Connecting and collaborating across the world is easier than ever.
Global Citizen Rising: Not just one way to connect.
There’s no one size fits all answer here. As I shared in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, students are the greatest textbook ever written for each other. I’ve done this many ways in my classroom, from the simple Mystery Skype to full-fledged global collaboration with other students and people of all ages. We connected with Kid President to celebrate awesome girls — that was just around a hashtag. We talk to CEO’s and share with friends around the world on Skype or Google hangout. Every time we connect, my kids are astounded and excited about the big world out there.
The Arab-Israeli Conflict simulation out of the University of Michigan is a powerful way to connect and learn and so are ePals, iEarn, Taking IT Global and many transformative organizations. Skype and Google Hangout have made the world a closer, more intimate place. But so have hashtags.
But to me, the best way to engage the classroom in a global conversation is to help the conversations become part of the classroom. And certainly embarrassing things happen. (Once, on a Skype call with Sweden, one of my students said – I know what you make — a Swiss Army knife! Oh, my!!! But don’t look down on my students! One time, my students were Skyping with education leaders in California. One of my students mentioned having gone to Qatar. One of the adults said to her, ‘what’s a Qatar?’” We all have a lot to learn!)
While in my book, Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, we go through seven steps to create global projects — here are three simple ones to get any educator started. Every classroom can help their students join the global conversation.
3 Simple Steps to Help Students Become a Global Citizen
Step 1: Connect Yourself
So, the first thing educators do to help engage their classrooms in a global conversation is to engage themselves. A connected teacher is a prerequisite for a connected classroom.
The social media network can be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or just about anything, although the sheer numbers of educators on Twitter is astounding and becomes quite useful. When you go to conferences, meet other educators. Teachers are making their own connections and don’t need anyone to help them create their own projects and experiences.
Step 2: Build Your Personal Learning Network (PLN)
Then, connect yourself to other educators by building your own personal PLN. While books like mine and Connecting Your Students with the World by Billy Krakower, Paula Naugle, and Jerry Blumengarten help you find and join activities easily, the best opportunities are viral and spread through social media. You learn about them and join in.
I predict that educators with a PLN will become more valuable to schools than those who don’t learn online. It is by following hashtags and reading blogs that the best educators find the once in a lifetime opportunities that spring up unexpectedly.
Step 3: Help Your Class Share What They Are Doing with the World
Finally, connect your classroom by sharing what you’re doing. The now defunct but well known Flat Classroom Projects began when another teacher wrote a comment on my blog and I responded as we discussed what our students were learning about Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat.
But connecting classrooms globally is happening around the world. Karen Lirenman’s first graders tweet what they are doing. Kathy Cassidy’s kids blog. The Global Classroom Projects connect kids and teachers around the world. Audience improves learning. A global audience supercharges it.
Scared to let kids connect?
Some may fear putting kids “out there” via blogging or other means, but kids are already out there. When you go ahead and share, you’re helping kids build a positive portfolio of work and helping them understand that people are watching and that in many ways, all the world’s a stage.
The global conversation between students is happening — with or without you. While you can’t do it every day all the time, you can connect sometimes and when you do, you can expect powerful outcomes. Perhaps one of the best things we can do to shape our future is to connect kids today. We’re building the bridges today that tomorrow will walk across.
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