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How to Go Global in Your Classroom

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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Given the level of technical sophistication of today's students, why not use technology to extend the classroom and collaborate globally?

Today's digitally connected world presents challenges and opportunities never before seen. To be successful in the workplace tomorrow, students must know how to interactively collaborate with peers locally as well as globally.

As educational expert Kathy Koch writes, "This generation of students is unlike any we've educated before, because they have been raised in a world drastically different from their parents and most teachers."

As I mentioned in a previous post, Envision Schools uses project learning to help students master academically challenging content in a collaborative fashion.

Students collectively write papers using Google Docs, as well as script short films and Web sites. It's a low-cost way for students to work in teams, share ideas, and use class time effectively.

Another example of how technology can be used to expand the classroom is at Stanford University's Institute of Design. There, Professor David Kelly invites industry experts to give presentations on YouTube that students must view before class. Experts are then invited into the classroom, where students can spend the entire class period asking questions and learning more.

But experts and student peers needn't be physically present for effective collaboration to take place. For instance, in one American high school, students collaborated with peers in Singapore to create a Web site promoting tolerance. Students divided up their assignment, shared documents via the Internet, and created a finished Web site that provided resources and lessons to teach tolerance and stop bullying.

This not only helped them master rigorous academic content, it also gave them firsthand cross-cultural perspectives they otherwise wouldn't have had. The student team received an award from Oracle's ThinkQuest Education Foundation that recognized the value of their Web site and collaboration.

How are you using technology to expand the classroom and encourage global collaboration? Please share with us.

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Comments (56)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Alyssa OBrien's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

At Stanford University, we are also attempting to expand the classroom through the Cross-Cultural Rhetoric project, or CCR ( For the past four years, students in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford have been meeting other students in the virtual space of the video-conference or the blog, and the students love it! Our work started as a research endeavor, funded by the Wallenberg Global Learning Network - the very mission of the grant was to use technology to extend the classroom and collaborate globally. So we submitted our proposal in an effort to find new technologies for the classroom that would improve teaching, enhance student learning, and foster global collaboration. In four years, we designed and built "Collaboration Stations" in Wallenberg Hall that would allow for small-group collaborative work using video, audio, chat, a writing space, a recording space, and internet portals. (Thanks to Bob Smith and his team!) We also developed a pedagogy and set of best practices that are available on our website for all to use.

Four years down the road, we have moved from connecting students in one class at Stanford with one class at Orebro University in Sweden to now connecting students across five continents. Our international partners include the American University in Cairo, National University of Singapore, Uppsala University in Sweden, Khabarovsk State Academy in Russia, University of Sydney, University of Lausanne Switzerland, and potentially new partners in Korea and China.

But we are still learning! We are in truth a small project run by lecturers who teach the required writing classes but who want to give our students the opportunity to collaborate with real audiences. Now, our students analyze advertisements and political cartoons together, they present research to each other, they exchange feedback on their writing assignments, and most of all they learn about each other's cultures and perspectives through an open exchange of ideas.
Through CCR, we can now create virtual classes constituted of students from many countries and cultures. The purpose of such connections is to equip students with the communication and collaboration strategies they need for ethical engagement in an ever-changing world. From a practical perspective, students take on active roles as global citizens: constructing new knowledge, analyzing and understanding culture through its artifacts, and extending global learning beyond the sphere of individual or national boundaries.

We're always open to new partners or sharing the research and practices we've learned. Thanks for this blog entry - we've enjoyed learning from all of you.

Alyssa O'Brien ( or Christine Alfano (

Mary Ellen  Paradis Boudman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

All this computer work is useful if it is verifying an individual's sensory verification.
If the work is not sensorily verified we are creating confusing tho' artfully creative ideas ONLY.
The sensory verifications are continuously being overlooked and will become our fall into the pit of disappointment... and the anger that follows. Project based learning is not enough ---
"Understanding is only as accurate as the association with the REAL (sensorily based) thing?
Let's keep it simple...?

Barbara Capps's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a single mom/teacher I'd like to give you my personal insight as to why only 10% of US college students. Parents in the US are already stretched financially trying to just get their children through college while in other countries of the world (say, Spain) a college education is absolutely free. (A co-worker from Spain informed me of this fact.)When my sons and I filled out their FAFSA to try to get financial aid, the governments idea of 'aid' was loans despite their great grades, but due to my supposed 'mega' teacher's salary. Because of this one son works and goes to college full-time, the other works part-time and attends full-time. Neither they nor I have had a vacation in years because we choose their college education over travel in even the US much less abroad.

Barbara Capps's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

At the website you mention, , it costs $150 for a single teacher per year. At it is absolutely free. I've used it extensively in my 5th grade room. My kids especially enjoy (and learn from!) the Math fraction lesson videos.

Barbara Capps's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Project learning is absolutely possible in the third grade. I'm not sure who loves it more, me, the class, or thir parents. In addition to total class projects, for years and years (I've taught 32 now!) I either create or purchase projects that each individual students must work on when they finish their work. I make them in booklet form and put copies in a pocket portfolio each with a cover they must dazzle and embellish to take ownership. Making 3-4 different projects at a time helps me individualize the work inside for multiple intelligences. Actually, this is one of the most fun and creative part of my teaching for me because the sky is the limit for what I can write into each project.For the last 10 years adding technology into the projects has increased the kids interest and the compliments flow from parents due to their kid's excitement. Feel free to contact me personally for more detailed "project based learning" project ideas.

Mary Anne Duthie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I currently teach learning support Algebra I in a suburban Philadelphia school district. Does anyone have ideas on how to use Global connecting in the Math class? or ideas on projects, etc. that would engage the students? Our only access to computers is through a library lab that I could possibly reserve for 1x/week. Thank you for your help.

Sharon Padget's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would love to have my ELL Biology class be your pen pals!!!!! Please contact me at

Sharon Padget
Ottumwa High School
501 East Second Street
Pulaski, Iowa 52501

We can get access to Skype so our kids can talk to each other face to face. We can set up a blog on my wiki so the kids can talk to each other and practice writing. Let me know if you are interested :-0)

John Stallcup's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Take a look at (flash animated version of India's high school math curriculum) now used by 85% of students in Singapore, the Mass Department of ed for teacher training and a number of school districts to help students and teachers with high school level math. Take a look at which is basically Kumon on line for far less money. The founder Steven Yang's comment to the national math advisory panel is worth a read.

All the best

John Stallcup
Co Founder
Napa, CA

Laura L's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

You are kidding, right? I do not believe that a principal would write as you have with misspellings, poor mechanics and grammar.

Suzanne Brown's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not sure how to make this work, either, but I would like to get my students more connected on a global basis. Let me know if you're interested in working with an 8th grade English class in a small, rural school in the Midwest.

Suzanne Brown
Iva E. Wells Middle School
Seneca, Missouri 64865

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