Creating Global Connections – A Workshop for North Shore’s Lower School Teachers

On Friday, February 16th, I was given the opportunity to present to our Lower School teachers. While brainstorming with our Lower School head, Pam Whalley, it was determined that I should focus this session on how to create Global Connections. If I may say, it was a wonderful presentation full of wonderful ideas which has already lead to fruitful conversations during lunch and electronically with teachers. With this posting, I am reviewing the material presented to the faculty so that the teachers in our Middle School and Upper School, as well as you, the blogosphere at large, can benefit from the presentation. My links that I created for the presentationcan be found at

Opening Presentation – a conversation with Julie Lindsay
We were fortunate that Julie Lindsay (E-Learning Blog) consented to open our session, via a skype conference. Julie is the educational technology specialist at International School Dhaka, Bangladesh. She was inspirational, not only because we actually opened the session on creating global connections by participating in a global connection, but because she gave wonderful advice and guidance based upon her experiences.

Click here to listen to our 19 minute conversation (Right-click to download) or you can subscribe to my podcast’s rss feed.

Websites Julie highlighted during her conversation:

Global SchoolNet Foundation

iEARN – International Education and Research Network

Technospud Projects

In addition, Jim Jim Heynderickx, the Director of Technology at the Oregon Episcopal School, highlighted a few other places to begin to make global connections in his blog K12 Converge in anticipation of his presentation at the National Association of Independent Schools Conference in a few weeks:

The Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections: this is the site I used in the early nineties to connect my Washington, DC students with two classrooms in other states.

The Classroom Connection Program links Social Studies and Language Arts classroom internationally.

The ePals Global Network claims to have the largest community of classrooms collaborating with each other.

The Wisconsin Department of Education has a nice site with a collection of sources for teachers who wish to build international connections, with links to CEARCH, KidLink, and the Peace Corps Worldwise Schools.

Passive Collaborations
The easiest way for an educator to begin to create global connections is to utilize the tools that will enable them to publish their and student work to a global audience. Working collaboratively passively is a non-threatening way of making your first steps. A teacher usually can take work which is already being done within the context of their current curriculum and with a few additional steps and a little time, can package that material using one of the new tools begin the global collaboration.

One of the easiest ways to begin participation is to find other projects and teachers and simply joining in. For instance, if your students are already writing stories in the classroom and you want them to collaborate with other students, you can post them to Clay Burell’s 1001 Flat World Tales Project. By recording what types of clothes and games that students play, students can enter the information into Chris Craft’s Comparing Our World Project. There is a minimum amount of commitment needed to participate in these projects once you find them.
The web 2.- tools that you can use includes blogs and wikis. Examples of projects that we are implementing using these tools include:

North Shore’s 11th Grade Blog to support their junior research project

North Shore’s Middle School Blog to support a global awareness unit

North Shore’s US History wiki to support visual storytelling project and new sound poem unit.

North Shore’s AP US History wiki to support visual storytelling project.

Chris Crafts’s Comparing Our World Project

Clay Burell’s 1001 Flat World Tales Project and associated 1001 Teacher’s site.

Darren Kuropatwa’s Expert Voices Wiki to connect those wishing to collaborate (added 2.19 – for more info, see Julie Lindsay’s posting)

In addition to blogs and wikis, there are some fun creative tools that teachers can use to create products which can encourage collaboration. Teachers can upload video to Google or YouTube, pictures to Flickr begin to receive comments. Teachers can also locate videos and images using these tools to support their curriculum. There are currently great examples of the use of GoogleEarth in a Foreign Language classroom and to teach grammar that have recently been uploaded.

Teachers can also use applications such as BubbleShare, PhotoStory, or SlideShare to take the pictures or PowerPoint presentations already used in the classroom. Some of these tools allows students and teachers to record a narrative track on top of the imagery that they have put together to share their thoughts and stories. Chris Craft has posted many of his PowerPoint presentations to support his teaching of language on SlideShare. You can find material that you may be able to co-opt and re-purpose. I know that I will see Chris’s PowerPoint on Pompeii begin used by our fifth grade teachers since it contains pictures of ruins of Pompeii.

Active Collaborations
Once you are comfortable with passive collaborations, if you find a willing partner, you can create an active collaboration. These projects take more time to plan but the payoff is much greater. One of the best examples of an active collaboration is the project that Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay created, The Flat Classroom Project. As Julie noted, it takes twice the time to plan and prepare for this type of project than it does to execute it.

How do you find projects and partners
The way that you can expand your network is to become active and involved using these new tools. Set up a account. Begin to tag the websites that you want to return to using this tool, so you can organize and notate the sites you visit. You will also then have bookmarks that are machine independent. Use the functionality of the site to see what others have saved that share a common interest. Connect and communicate with those users who seem to have similar sets of favorite sites. Search for keywords of units you are covering to see what others may have selected for their resources.

Another way is to become active in the blogosphere. Begin by reading the blogs of others. You can set up an aggregator such as Bloglines or my current personal favorite, NetVibes and collect new feeds via RSS. Find a few blogs and see what those people are reading. Look for suggestions. Read the comments and see if those individuals have their own blogs. Yes, this takes time, but I can personally testify that this is the way that I have made many of my contacts.

If you are really willing to move forward, create your own blog. Use it as a place to reflect on your teaching. Others may find it and be willing to share their thoughts and comments with you. Once the connections are made, then you can use them to expand your network.

Whenever I find a project, blog, wiki, or podcast that I want to utilize, I always contact the creator. By doing so, you let them know that they work that they created is valuable to someone and it allows you to establish a new relationship. It is through these new relationships and networking that you find out about other projects and resources. It is through sharing and communicating that we expand our world.
It all starts with you and your willingness to take the first step. It can be scary, but the reward far outweighs the risk.

Side note
When discussing RSS, I did update the teachers about Aaron Swartz, one of the co-authors of the original RSS 1.0 specification. He was a student of many of the teachers in attendance.

6 thoughts on “Creating Global Connections – A Workshop for North Shore’s Lower School Teachers

  1. Thanks for the plug, Vinnie,

    For the record, though, the idea of the 1001 Flat World Tales is not just, as you write, to “post student stories” on our project.


    We already have students from Denver editing and giving feedback to students from Korea (HS), and Middle School kids from Canada collaborating next week with Middle School kids from Malaysia.

    Hanniibal, Missouri 10-year-olds have written stories that as yet have no respondents, though Julie or Karl may be hooking us up soon.

    I hope this makes the 1001 Flat World Tales project clearer to your readers. It’s far more than your characterization of it, and far different. Only the best stories will be “published” at all. The point is not the publication, but the use of the writing process and global connectedness afforded by wikis and blogs.

  2. Vinnie, I came home tonight to write a blog posting about connecting globally to try and tie some of these ideas together and help the kindergarten teacher I mentioned in my Skype session with you. However, after having read your comprehensive post I am going to write very briefly and then link to you! Good luck with continuing to foster collaborative learning.
    Just wanted to mention one other new initiative that you may already be aware of. That is Expert Voices with Darren Kuropatwa. See my blog post
    It is in its early days but has great potential. Your teachers may like to have a look and contribute.

  3. Came over from Julie’s blog – this is an excellent, simple overview of how to start collaborating globally. I’m going to pass it on to my colleagues that are starting to become interested in making connections :)

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