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Friday, September 02, 2011

Fostering Global Connections in Education

Signing up for events and experiences usually forces me to learn more at a faster rate.  I dive into the experience--it's a little frightening at times, but if I give myself room for making mistakes and tread gently, the outcome is typically terrific.

ePals prompted me to take "the pledge" that I would incorporate at least one new global project into my curriculum this year. I took the pledge, then connected with a teacher from London to begin a penpal exchange.  I hope to get involved in a multi-school, international exchange as the year moves forward.  Last year my class exchanged letters with a school in Ireland, and it was a lot of fun.  ePals facilitates global connections for teachers throughout the world.

Then, I read Steve Hargadon's invitation to participate in a global conference, and since I'm currently in the the midst of updating my "What's Your Culture" unit, an introductory fourth grade unit on the broad meaning of culture, I decided to submit a proposal.  I knew the proposal would inspire me to complete this unit preparation with greater depth, technology and research-based activity.  "What's Your Culture" lays a nice foundation for our fourth grade's later units: Native American culture, Immigration, and United States Regions.  It also connects well to our animal adaptation/endangered species project as we discuss how animals, including humans, adapt for survival, and we learn about cultural aspects that affect both the protection and endangerment of species.

Finally, last night when I sat down to chat with some of my Twitter friends after a long day of prepping the classroom and curriculum for the year ahead, Jo Hart, an Australian educator, tweeted an invite to participate in an international audio Blackboard collaborate discussion related to students and social media.  It was a great opportunity to try out this venue that I've been reading about and thinking about in a safe, friendly way.  I logged on and "jumped into the waters of innovation" again.  Jo and the other participants, some who were also new to this media, were helpful.  I was left with new knowledge, many questions, a desire to participate again and a "can't wait" attitude about having my students participate in a similar forum as I know they'll love it!  I can already imagine their eyes widening and their hands waving to share questions and comments.

Hence, a new tech journey has begun.  I am writing and sharing this with you because I know that many are wondering about and/or planning global connections for their students in the year ahead.  I also know that sometimes it can be daunting to "jump into" new realms particularly in the tech world, and I wanted to encourage your ease and availability to this potential.

I'd love to hear what you're doing in this regard. I know that teachers in the grades above me participate in similar curriculum and ventures, and I believe our elementary curriculum should complement their efforts.  Also, I know that many colleagues near and far have participated in wonderful international exchanges with schools and students throughout the globe, and I hope you'll share your links and stories with me as I develop my knowledge and skill in this area.

Thanks for listening!  Thanks for sharing!  I'll keep you updated on the projects above.