Few students in the United States today have any memory of a time before the Internet. With a world of interactions (both good and bad) a mere click away, it is crucial to prepare our students for a connected existence that values respect, awareness, and collaboration with others from diverse backgrounds – in essence, to make truly global citizens.
How can it be done? By harnessing the power and design of many familiar apps and websites, teachers can bring this global diversity and collaboration into their classrooms. In fact, by simply pairing a few tried and true tools with new or more obscure apps, you can deftly combine curriculum-based and global learning. Let’s take a look at a few online application pairings that will help your students learn how to communicate on a global scale in multiple modalities while building their 21st century technology skills.
If you don’t already have a classroom Twitter account, you should create one today. Twitter is a fantastic tool for connecting directly with public figures whose work you may be studying, like authors or political figures. You’d be surprised how many times you can get personal responses from influential figures.
One great way to enhance your use of Twitter is to follow the #mysteryskype hashtag, which lists other teachers from around the world who are eager to connect with sister classrooms abroad. Together, you can set up a time for your classrooms to Skype with each other. Mystery Skype suggests you play a game of 20 questions to guess where the other classroom is located.
Before your Skype meeting, students should come up with questions to ask, like those provided here. Some teachers like to assign jobs to students, such as call greeters, answer loggers, bloggers, and photographers. If the classroom you connect with is far away, and you can’t Skype during school hours, you have the option to leave video message. You could extend the game over the course of a few days or weeks. Once the game is over, your students will have new, international friends to connect with on future projects.
While Mystery Skype is a great way to find a sister classroom, the Google Hangout tool is more robust and comes with more fun add-ons, like sound effects and screen animation. It can also host multiple classrooms for bigger meetings, and you can even archive sessions on YouTube through Hangouts On Air, so absent students and parents can catch up on the day’s action.
While you can use Hangouts simply to chat with foreign pals (that’s educational on its own!), you will take your time together even further by playing an educational-based game on a platform like Kahoot while you do so. Kahoot allows teachers to create quizzes, questions, discussions, and surveys, which students can answer using any device. In both global classrooms, the Kahoot game can be projected onto a screen, while all students can join the game with their devices and play against each other individually or as teams as they race to the top of the leader board. You could even pair your students with other students in the sister classroom – a great idea for teaching students how to collaborate across cultures and time zones.
Kahoot has a simple, drag and drop interface for quiz and survey making, so you can encourage students to collaborate in creating their own Kahoot games. International teams can use Google Hangouts to meet and design quizzes for others or challenge each other to complete the Kahoot game they’ve created. Now that’s truly global collaboration!
Many teachers worry about using Facebook with their students, and some schools block access to the website on campus. But while digital distractions are certainly a concern, there is great opportunity in meeting students where they are with the applications they already know how to use – and Facebook is just that kind of application.
In fact, with 864 million active daily users, Facebook provides a little too much opportunity for connection – a fact you can again combat by fostering a relationship with a sister classroom abroad. Together you and your counterpart teacher abroad can create a closed group on Facebook where only invited students can engage in discussion in private settings. Then you can lead the two classrooms in collaborative discussions or give students a topic for their own discussions or projects to work on. Closed groups can be used to do everything from discussing books every student has read to collaborating on solving-problems.
Once an online discussion has been established, take the interaction even further by arranging for students from both global classrooms to connect via appear.in, an application that allows eight users to video chat at once. No logins or installs are required, making it perfect for classroom use. Once you name your chat room, you can send the access link to the other classroom across the globe. Or, if you are connecting with multiple classrooms, one user from each class could be in chat room together. Using appear.in, your students can pick up the discussions they started having in Facebook and bring them into real life.
Tumblr is a blogging site that allows users to easily compile and curate photos, videos, gifs, text, weblinks, mp3s, jpegs and other forms of multimedia. A Tumblr account could be shared across students in multiple classrooms, allowing them to work on a project from different parts of the world. Each group member can post media related to the topic the group is researching.
From there, other group members can use Skitch to comment on the media posted. Skitch is an application from Evernote that allows users to edit photos and snapshots with shapes, arrows, and text. Students can caption pictures, circle important items, or annotate PDF documents posted by others within their group. Together these tools will allow students to communicate visually and receive feedback from others.
Teachers everywhere have made great use of Pinterest as a place to collect links about topics like classroom organization, lessons, and book lists, and to connect with one another. You can also use the platform to share boards that relate to topics that you’re studying with students. For example, if your class is studying Edgar Allen Poe, each student can make a Poe board and collect information about the author. Each student’s board will be different depending on where they search for information and what they choose to collect. To extend your reach globally, students across classrooms could share one board, so that multiple people can contribute to the collection of information.
Once groups of students have done their research, they can pull relevant links from Pinterest into Padlet, a virtual piece of paper on which users post and organize images, videos, documents, and text. Because Padlet lets users drop content anywhere on the page, students can use the app to collaborate around what information should be grouped together, how information is presented, and what information should be discarded. Together, Pinterest and Padlet allow for international groups of students to begin the research process together. From there, you might have students provide feedback on their global peers’ research papers. Alternatively, if the approach to paper writing is too different in your sister classroom, you could compare papers afterwards and note those differences from a writing perspective. This will be a great cultural lesson, and an interesting exploration of craft.
When it comes to tech tools, maybe one is the loneliest number. There are so many ways to combine technology into meaningful, collaborative, global workspaces for your students. By connecting your classroom with others around the world – and connecting tech tools to each other – your students will develop as learners and global citizens. Working in solidarity with their international peers, your students can lead the way toward global change.