As we start the school year and online projects, I’m reminded that incorporating the richness of global collaboration into my curriculum has been a gradual process. The whole process seemed more daunting when I first started, but there are so many people and organizations willing to help make it a real possibility for you and your students. There is no end to the Professional Generosity, a phrase Lucy Gray describes in her TedxTalk, available within the global education community.
In my class last week, after our mixed-class small group meetings, Lisa Parisi instructed both of our classes on fact checking and how to cite sources for their collaborative Google docs. That may not seem unusual, but it was all done on Skype, and Lisa’s class was in Long Island, New York and we were in Geneva, Illinois. We are working collaboratively on a geography unit called Natural Disasters and Us. This is a complex project involving research, documenting, writing, communicating online and on Skype, and finally the creation of community prototypes that are designed to withstand specific natural disasters.
Lisa and I are able to spend time in each other’s classrooms to learn together as we co-teach. We can be mentors and advisers to one another. She has influenced my teaching greatly. All that, and I have never actually seen Lisa in person. A couple years ago, I could never have envisioned myself doing such a complicated interdisciplinary unit outside of my own four walls. This didn’t happen overnight. I was able to do this little by little with some amazing help.
My first exposure was a pilot global project, A week in the Life, a Flat Classroom Project, and at that point, I had to ask my then principal , Dr. Barrett, what a Web 2.0 tool was. The Flat Classroom teachers in that project patiently walked me step by step to not only a successful outcome, but a toolbox filled with web 2.0 savvy. Next came my first iEARN project, the Holiday Card Exchange, involving another group of amazing teachers to learn from and with. Many of us are still in contact doing projects together and sharing information. iEARN’s motto is Learning with the world, not just about it… and that is true in every sense.
I cannot stress enough the value these interactions hold. The available growth as educators is nothing short of amazing. Opportunities to learn from teachers all around the world, with varying educational cultures and climates….and with different background knowledge… has added a dimension to my teaching that could be gained no other way.
If I can be the teacher in the first paragraph, so can you. All it takes is a gentle guiding hand to lead the way. You can find that in iEARN or the Flat Classroom, as well as many other wonderful organizations.