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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

Christina Mills's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Technology is a new frontier that can no longer be ignored in the realm of education. If teachers are not willing to get on board and realize the possibilities, then they are clearly not meeting the needs of today's youth.

I am a secondary language arts teacher, and technology is quickly becoming the norm in my classroom. I have used everything from a cell phone to study for vocabulary to dabbling in blogging. I cannot even begin to express the new level of learning that has emerged within my classroom. Students are excited to learn, and for the first time it is on their home turf, the global world. In this case, it is apparent that educators are dealing with a new type of learner who requires inquiry and project-based learning. An expert in the field of education, Dr. David Thornburg, refers to this era as the communication age. He says that this era is defined by the Internet and is marked by "increased collaboration and social constructivism". In this case, education has fallen behind the times.

I feel that teachers are very much afraid of the unknown, and even more afraid of losing control of their classrooms to a virtual realm; teachers are no longer the sole arbitrator of their students' work. Bringing technology into the classrooms means students collaborating at a global level, and suddenly teachers do not know how to confront this new medium. With this being said, I cannot disagree with being suspicious and concerned with this new frontier. However, teachers cannot just choose to ignore this new learning experience because then they are not fulfilling their obligations as educators. The best advice that I can give is talk with fellow educators. There are many teachers who have already experienced the ups and downs that technology presents; therefore seek their advice on how to correctly integrate technology into the classroom.

Now that technology is in my classroom, I wouldn't go back. My students are excited about English for the first time, and the possibilities for learning are limitless.

Dianna Wissinger's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for a simple article on this complicated subject! I am currently taking a class that relates to this, Merging Educational Goals with Multimedia Projects. It is challenging for me due to my not being in the traditional classroom setting for 20 years. I met my first Smart Board this spring while doing long term subbing in second grade for a teacher on maternity leave!

I would be interested in learning more about using animation and/or videos in class. If anyone has experience or advice, it would be greatly appreciated.


Terry Smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In the last few years it has become easier and easier for teachers at any level to connect with other classrooms to create learning situations for students. Those situations can be as simple as sharing email, photos, or time lines, or creating digital stories or videos agreed upon by international collaboration of the teachers involved, later turning over the responsibility of the next project to the students. Teachers only need to search for a project, join it, then begin talking to the other project participants - interesting things can arise as often does between educators sharing ideas. An example is with Taiwan, but it could be anywhere. I connected with a school in Taiwan via the University of Missouri in 2003. The Taiwanese school has now been doing project with my classroom for the last six years. The relationship has expanded my knowledege of the Chinese language such that it is included in the vocabulary work of my students every week; all kids can count and write in Mandarin, as well as using about 40 common phrases - and they love it. Project work has included the study of butterflies, solving world problems,how to cook favorite foods, fiction writing, wedding customs, and coral reefs. Work has been shared using blogs, podcasts, video, scanned art, and mailed surprise boxes. The crowning event of the project relationship was being invited to travel to Taiwan with students twice to an international summer camp. The biggest surprise was that the Taiwan school funded 3/4 of the trip. Projects can be a classroom way of life, and adding the global connection just increases the fun and significance all the more - everyone grows.


Ashley Spence's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am in a master's program at Walden University and we are exploring the use of Web 2.0 in the classroom. I am a third grade teacher, so some of the great ideas such as using Google Docs to collaboratively write papers, and even using YouTube to view videos cannot be done as easily as they can in high school. I would love to try a blog with homework questions and answers, and even lessons retaught and questioned by kids, but I am concerned about my schools low socio-economic status, and the fact that many students don't have computers at home. I wonder if the extra effort is worth it if some of the children won't be able to take advantage if it.

I want to check out project learning in more detail- I think that sounds like something even third graders could do- and maybe we could do it in school to avoid the problem of no computers @ home.

Lorna's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Your post was simple yet informative. Thank you.

I am currently taking a class on integrating technology in the classroom and I totally enjoy it, despite the fact that I find it quite challenging. However in order to help my students to be competitive in the society in which we live (which has become more technology dependent then ever before), I must relinquish my fear and apprehensions and embrace the idea of increasing the ways in which I can incorporate technology in my classroom.

Allison Berglund's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently enrolled in a masters program at Walden University, and technology is our current focus. Three years ago, I was just beginning to hear about the various types of technology being considered for use in our district. I had absolutely no idea what a Smart Board was, how a Document Camera or CPS could be utilized, and I was terrified at the idea of blogging. I had no idea how to create that type of atmosphere into my classroom. I must sound like I have been a teacher for 30 years, but quite the contrary. I have been teaching for 11 years, and am just beginning to feel comfortable with what technology is providing to my classroom and the students I am teaching. I suppose this has to do with the pace in which new forms of technology have begun to emerge. It is truly extraordinary!

I am pleased to report that in the last few years, I have learned how to successfully implement many of these technologies to enhance learning in my classroom. My instruction has been transformed, for the better, and the connections I have been able to create between students regarding their learning is awesome.

I am in the process of learning more information about blogs, wikis, and podcasts, and am quite thrilled, however a bit cautious, to jump in and utilize these technologies with my students. Richardson sternly urges, "before you attempt to bring these technologies to your students, first be selfish about their use in your own learning practice" (2009, p. 8). I intend to learn as much as I can about these forms of technology, so I may implement them with absolute confidence in my classroom. The students truly will be the better for it.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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