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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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 Edutopia.org 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.

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Comments (56) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Nancy Faulk's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am just wondering if you have access to computers in your classroom, or do you have to schedule time in a "computer lab"?

Nancy Faulk's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach 2nd year Spanish at a high school in Vancouver, WA. (9th - 12 grade) This looks like an amazing opportunity and great idea! Is there a charge to join your class? Do you foresee the students participating mostly on their home computers; and and a certain time? or were you envisioning during classtime?
Awaiting your reply,

Nancy Faulk's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for sharing these links! I teach 2nd year Spanish at a high school in Vancouver, WA. I think my students would be very interested in the KidWorld KeyPals and ePals sites. (do you recommend both of them for 14 - 17 yr. olds in the 2nd year of a language?)
Anxiously awaiting your reply,

Cathy McDonald's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am fortunate enough to have ten computers in my classroom. As anywhere we occasionally have technical difficulties. Also on the Brazil end, they have problems with the internet from time to time. When that interferes with our SKYPE chats, we go to TappedIn. Because it has threaded discussion, the kids can respond to each other at any time -- not necessarily synchronously. We have worked the past year using one webcam (which my dog ate), but I replaced it immediately. We will be purchasing more so that there can be more one on one between the students.

Bill Belsey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks so much for your support Rae. If you have a moment, please visit our class Website at http://www.coolclass.ca or send me an e-mail to mail@coolclass.ca. It might be fun to do some things together with our students.

Bill Belsey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you very much for your kind words of support and encouragement Wanda!

Yours in friendship and learning,

Bill Belsey

"Canada's Coolest Class!"

Arts School's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a great initiative! With the immerse Internet and mixed reality experiences coming into swing.

Katie Baker's picture

Even though many of us didn't have these same type of learning opportunities when we were in school, doesn't mean that we shouldn't educate ourselves on the new technologies that can enhance our teaching and thus student learning.

Technology is so much more than simply using the computer to word process...it is now an instant communication and collaboration tool. Just yesterday I was showing my students some of the various uses for iChat. If teachers are willing to become knowledgeable about the technologies, then they can encourage their students to use them as ways to creatively complete projects and make their learning more meaningful.

In past years, I taught third grade in Ohio, and the science standards covered rocks and minerals. Fortunately, my husband is related to a geologist. Unfortunately, he lives in MA, and I live in OH. By using iChat my class of third graders was able to communicate with this expert regardless of the physical distance. My students LOVED the project, and still talk about it to this day. It proved to me that technology should be a major part of teaching and learning!

Jennifer Peglow's picture
Jennifer Peglow
Nineth grade science teacher from Biglerville, PA

Hello! I am new to edutopia and have 9 news of teaching experience. I just transfered to a new school district that is 1:1 at the high school where I teach (I am a 9th grade science teacher). I have been selected to participate in a committee that will further help us expand our use of technology with the students and embrace some Web 2.0 tools. Currently my district is very traditional and honestly a bit nervous about relaxing the limits to which students can participate in some real world experience with the technology due to student safety and security. Part of this panel that I am on serves as a vehicle to break through some of these boundaries while keeping sound educational practices and ethical values for our students.

With that said, I LOVE the idea that you use MySpace accounts with your students. What limitations/obstacles did you run into with regards to student safety (if any)? What roles do the teacher(s), administrators and parents play (if any).

I am very curious as to how other school are jumping over these hurdles. We have the technology but not the freedom in some cases to really use the 1:1 program as we should. Any insight is VERY appreciated!

Jennifer Peglow's picture
Jennifer Peglow
Nineth grade science teacher from Biglerville, PA

It is worth it! You will be amazed as to how many students will actively seek out time to post a response!

On a side note, I am interested in how you handle parent concerns with regards to student safety in a social medium site. I ask since I am helping to collect data for my school as this is a great concern. Your help is appreciated!

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