This post has been updated on February 16, 2020.


More and more teachers are using online tools to connect their classrooms globally. Specifically, there is a range of ways teachers are using technology to connect their students — in an organized education-specific manner, with classrooms in other parts of the country and the world.

What are the benefits of trying this new global approach to teaching? Is it worth the effort? Some research shows that it is well worth the effort and tends to enhance:

  • Technological literacy
  • Global mindedness
  • Communication

Let’s explore which technologies teachers are using to create globally collaborative classroom projects.

eTwinning

This is a European initiative that enables any school based in Europe to connect with any other school using bespoke web-based technology driven from the eTwinning Portal. Currently the projects pairs over 191 000 schools, and eTwining boasts over 74 000 projects spanning from Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean, to Iceland.

The technology is not only a portal for communication, but also a fully fledged learning platform that provides teachers with a toolkit with which to design global collaboration projects across a range of subjects, and share them with other teachers.

Among some of the winning projects (eTwinning awards prizes every year for stand-out projects) are:

  • ATOM (A Taste for Maths) conducted across six countries targeting 12 – 16 year-old students.
  • The Active Book Club – a cross border book club, where students collectively choose an English book to read, explore and discuss.
  • Does the Earth have Borders? A project for students studying and debating the ethical, legal, historic and economic issues to do with migration.

The Global Read Aloud

Once a year — usually around October (so you are well in time to sign up for this year if you wish) — thousands of teachers across the globe sign up for a very simple project: they read the same book aloud. The project started with 150 students and has grown to over 1 million!

Over a set six-week period, each teacher reads the same book — selected per grade. The books are carefully selected (see this year’s selection here) through a somewhat democratic process involving networks of previous readers. The team also tries hard to get the actual author to make time to interact with the classrooms reading their book.

The program is really open, and the website has many resources; through the years teachers have found using a range of technologies helpful in making these connections including:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Padlet
  • WriteAbout
  • Kidblog

iEARN

The International Education and Resource Network (iEarn), is is one of the oldest online collaboration tools in education, dating from 1988, and currently has over 2 million students participating in global projects everyday. As a non-profit organisation that tries to align its goals with the UN’s Sustainable Goals, iEarn’s projects aim always to contribute not only to students becoming globally minded, but also to becoming more responsible, empathetic and aware of the challenges the global community faces.

These ambitions are born out by the types of projects you will find there, for instance:

  • Don’t Waste, Create: A project that can be adapted across all grades, which features modules such as: Weeds for Healing, Upcycling and Urban Gardening
  • Solar Explorers: A guided tour of solar energy that culminates with students making their own solar cooker, and sharing their designs with other students.
  • Global Math: A way to see Math as a unifying global language. Among other things, students use secondary math skills to compare the symmetry in their surroundings, compare regional temperatures, model population growth in their countries, gather statistics about their communities and measure the size of Earth.

Connecting classrooms

I have literally only scratched the surface on how technology is enabling the globally connected classroom; and teachers can use even more fundamental tools such as Skype, Outlook, Google Docs and Facebook to create organic networks of their own that create more specific connections.

A final word on “culture”: it is tempting, in a globally collaborative classroom, to focus on the differences between say, your classroom in Arizona and a classroom in Iceland, and its fun for students to compare national dress, foods, daily activities etc. However, a caveat: a number of research projects are trying to examine and construct a truly global curriculum; they warn against the pitfall of highlighting our differences rather than our similarities. If you are serious about enabling your students to become globally aware citizens, start your reading here.

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