By Jennifer Williams
With increased interest in models of learning that emphasize learner-centered instruction and the construction of deep understandings of the world, teachers and students are seeking out practices that move learning past walls of classrooms and that harness the power of the global experience. Digital age technologies not only are allowing for students to develop an awareness of global issues, but they are actually enabling students to access the world and work together to address and solve problems of local and global significance. By developing these cultural frameworks, global-ready students are able to investigate communities and participate as world citizens--developing key soft skills of grit, empathy, problem solving, and perspective taking. More, our students empowered as global collaborators are finding authentic ways to create, question, and communicate in multiple formats and for multiple purposes.
As part of a three-part series on empowering students in the process of learning, pathways to connect students to the world were discovered and explored through a collection of three digital stories as shared through Nearpod and Sway technologies. From a virtual handshake to the development of work to impact our world through social good, you are invited to add to these classroom stories and empower our world of students as global collaborators.
The start of any relationship can begin with a handshake. For Technology Coach Billy Spicer, Mystery Skype’s are the perfect type of virtual introductions. Currently working with teachers and students in the Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 in suburban Chicago, Billy finds that opportunities like Mystery Skype calls are great ways to help teachers to get started on becoming globally connected classrooms. With Mystery Skypes, students use multiple forms of communication, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and are able to apply geography knowledge, map skills, and questioning techniques to locate partner classrooms. After the initial calls, his classrooms keep the learning going by participating in shared writing experiences, collaborative science investigations, and social media messaging on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. By moving beyond textbook understandings of our world, teachers and students like in Billy’s schools can reimagine the definition of “classmate” with new friends of the world.
Once students form connections with classmates of the world, they can leverage technologies to connect in shared experiences and inspired discussions. Courtney Kofeldt, a Supervisor of Educational Technology at PA Leadership Charter School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, works with students in cyber and blended learning environments. Her teachers and students work to make connections with international audiences through a process of searching for and sharing in knowledge. Courtney’s students connect as part of global teams in activities such as collaborative literacy projects. As “ePals,” students in global groups study short stories, work on collaborative writings, and apply digital citizenship skills. Through these real-world experiences, Courtney finds that her students are able to discover their passions and find their voices. And, by hearing how others from around the world respond to stories, her students are able to better understand new perspectives and see life through additional lenses. Following her experiences as a global and digital educator, Courtney believes teachers should model the importance of being a global collaborator by stepping out of comfort zones and creating connections themselves.
With growing availability of sophisticated digital tools in education, teachers today have access to cutting edge resources for bringing students to the world and bringing the world to students. Virtual explorations and rich multimedia features can allow students to be a part of immersive worlds that before were not easily accessible. Nearpod VR Field Trips allow students to go on virtual reality adventures to world destinations. Students can “dive” into underwater coral reefs, can become museum docents at The Louvre, or can brave the aboriginal Jenolan caves in Australia—with Nearpod VR, the world is literally wide open. The newly released Nearpod 3D objects also extends the interactive experience of Nearpod lessons giving students access to 360º views of amazing locations in our world today and in worlds of the past. Through these modern forms of learning, teachers can create opportunities for students for meaning making and narrative construction through shared perspective and shared experience.
With developing understandings of our world and access to stories of distant communities, students can move beyond passive participation to actively contribute through projects of purpose and passion. Charged to make a positive impact in our world, students can interact and work together to examine ways to give back and make a difference in the lives of others—and the difference is without a doubt not determined by age. Seven-year-old Mia Clayton is dedicated to carrying out her dream to “change the world.” Mia, a second grade student in Victorville, CA at the Endeavor School of Exploration, is the founder of Mia’s Boxes of Love charity where she raises funds and collects toys and other items for homeless families. Mia was first inspired to make a difference after seeing a homeless child in her neighborhood several years ago. Soon after, she saw Kid President speak about his Socktober Program, and knew she needed to be involved. Over the past two years, Mia and her organization have collected almost 10,000 pairs of socks, and for this year’s campaign, she is hoping to collect over 12,000 pairs. Though little in size, she is big in impact. Her advice to anyone who wants to help people—just go do it!
Work for Social Good
As students begin to connect to distant areas and diverse global cultures, issues of our world will quickly become real in oftentimes very personal and powerful ways. As teachers, we have an extraordinary responsibility to create pathways for our students to engage in work for social good. Classrooms offer spaces for conversation of equity, access, awareness, and equality through the eyes of our students. Inspired discussions can progress into dedicated efforts to bring peace through education with students empowered as knowledge constructors, innovative designers, and global collaborators. With shared stories of our world as the start, our students can inspire the needed change and good to spark a "future of great!”
For more information on how to donate socks to Mia’s Boxes of Love and support her efforts to collect 12,000 pairs of socks, please visit: https://miasboxesoflove.org.
Educators seeking projects for social good can explore topics as offered by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs.
Please join the conversation and share your classroom stories and Nearpod+Sway experiences on social media with the hashtag #sharedstories.
Part 1: Students as Knowledge Constructors
Part 2: Students as Innovative Designers
Part 3: Students as Global Collaborators