Is Global Collaboration Easier?

EQ: How can we embrace globally collaborative projects in our curricular areas to address this facet of 21st Century Learning?

When I read this question I think it is actually written backwards. It should be “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”

First, let me start by saying I don’t like the term “21st Century Learning” because in my head I think back to classrooms that were around when I was in university. Each “21st century class” was given one of the latest iMacs. I always thought that these were a waste of money because all I ever really saw them used for were Accelerated Reader tests. To be fair the tech was slow and the training for teachers was nonexistent. I think that we need a new term because I think a lot of teachers have images of pre-2000 things when they hear that term too. As George Couros mentions in his blog post 21st Century Schools or 21st Century Learning have schools really changed? He has seen some great physical changes but has the teaching and learning changed? We need a new term that isn’t associated with “stuff” that is thrown at/into schools.

So back to the topic at hand. “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. I think that technology and the connectivity that comes with tech plays a huge role in this. I was recently given a Geography Journal from a fellow teacher who had been sent it. It was the sort of thing that was supposed to pass from person to person than before May be sent back to the student. While it was a paper and pencil notebook, not a single person who had added to the journal did so solely with paper and pencil. Every entry had images, maps, and facts that the authors had used technology to make or find. I know that I had to Google many facts about Moscow in order to give the student the geography information that she needed. I did enjoy the paper and pencil aspect of it but I also told her that I was getting a hand cramp by writing it all out since I spent most of my days typing now instead of writing!

I wonder what could have been done to add to the journal. For example, could the Journal have been electronic? A Google Drive folder for example with a doc that each person made a copy of and wrote their entry on. Then pictures and facts could have been linked to interesting pages about the area for the student to explore. For the paper/pencil aspect, each participant could be asked to send the student a postcard from the location that they are at. The issue with this method would be the amount of data. The journal I had, had only about 5 entries. That is a manageable amount of data for a middle school student to sift through. Opening this project up by using something like Drive could overwhelm the student with data.

Doing this project electronically could help the project’s speed and collaboration. Electronic work means you aren’t waiting for a physical notebook to be mailed around. Also, electronic projects can allow for collaboration. For example, if a group of geography teachers did the project at the same time but in different locations, they could have each of their groups of students participate with each other. This could be done again with something like a Google Slide, Doc or Spreadsheet. Even apps like Book Creator or Explain Everything would work to make this project collaborative. Students could share draft projects with each other and build different elements together for a final collaborative book or movie.

So back to the question, “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. Most certainly the tools of 21st Century Learning have made global collaboration easier. But I think that we still have the same issues we have always had, getting teachers to agree to participate. I have done several collaborative projects with teachers in different schools and the hardest thing is always getting ourselves as teachers organized and giving up the classroom time needed to complete the project. The timing is always an issue because it never seems like the two or more classes plan to do the activity at the same point in the year. But with the tool we have now like G Suite, we can more easily organize and share work across the world.

This connects me to an article that I read this week, What Makes a Question Essential? This article gives some great examples of some questions that would make a global collaborative project a great way to look at not only the responses but the perspectives of the responses. If two or more classes in different areas were to inquire into one of these questions as part of their collaboration they would produce something that would allow the teachers who are supervising it an almost unlimited amount of material to build upon. After all of the data was collected and shared time could be spent looking at that information and asking more questions. The collaboration could continue for an almost unlimited amount of time.

The French Ladies

Last week I was lucky to have been able to once again host some teachers from a school in Lyon, France. Cité Scolaire Internationale is a school that is interested in developing their iPad program to help make it as effective as it can be. My relationship with the teachers at this school started three years ago when Emily sent a message to the International School Teachers group on Facebook.

Emily very casually sent a message out, asking if anyone in Europe with a 1 to 1 iPad program would be willing to have some teachers come for a visit. I responded, and that was three years ago.

This year I hosted three different teachers. Sarah came on Monday and Tuesday, Chloe on Wednesday and Julie on Friday. Because of the nature of the their school these three “french ladies” as I kept introducing them, teach several different grade levels. Luckily for them my week is very spread out so they were able to see a variety of classes. Also it was a great time to come as it was the beginning of a unit which is generally a time that I introduce new things. This week I introduced the grade four and five blogs.

Sarah, Chloe and Julie were also able to see around the school and talk to other teachers about language and how it is taught in our school. As their focus is on English language learning with their students, I hope it was helpful for them to be able to see some of how language is embedded into our curriculum.

What I love about these visits is that it gives me the opportunity to share ideas with teachers. I was put on the spot at least once when I was asked, “What would you do for …”. I love that! I love having to think of a way to help a teacher embed technology into a lesson in a way that they may not have thought about before. All three of the teachers asked me about Book Creator, which is one of my favorite apps, it is so versatile. I was able to give them a new way to consider it as a resource and well as show them some of it’s new features.

Through talking to them I can see that they are on the cusp of being ready to implement the Google Apps. They were able to see how we have implemented it and how ingrained it has become as both a word processing system as well as file storage.

Since I began using Google Classroom this year it has made such a difference in the way we manage the documents that the students are using. For me it has improved how I manage the work that is turned in to me. It gives me one place to go to find documents from a class, not just from everyone who has shared it with me. I also like the fact that I can write out the directions so that the students aren’t responsible for remembering it from only listening to it. I think as well it has helped me plan lessons better by allowing me to share the resources that I used both in the lesson and during the lesson.

I think that the next visit needs to be me going to Lyon! Hope to see you soon, ladies!

Visit to Dar

On Tuesday, I was able to visit the International School of Tanganyika.  I was a guest of my friend who teaches in the fourth grade.  I was glad to see that she has a set of 6 laptops in her room full time. She had been ill the week before so I offered to show her kids Timetoast, as she is doing a unit of inquiry on Ancient Civilizations.

So we borrowed some laptops from a neighbouring teacher and I quickly showed her students the website.  They were excited to give it a go.  They looked for dates in books that they had related for their unit and worked on putting them into their timeline.

And of course as always with tech, issues started immediately!  Even though I have had at least 16 signed into one account before it started saying too many people were on.  No worries, sorted that by using my school’s log in.  We also ran into the issue that the students were finding lots of BC dates which Timetoast doesn’t accept.  When we explained that they would just have a to read their timelines backwards, they were like “Okay!”.  The students just rolled with the punches!

One thing that I did notice this time was that Timetoast has added a collaboration feature which I am excited to give a shot when I get home!