Global Projects and Digital Tools: That Make Students Global Learners

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Back in 1988, the dean of the school of education from the City College of New York was visiting London, and she met with the director of the Polytechnic of South Bank (now called the South Bank University). The director, Lady Perry, informed the dean that she had just moved across the street from the Mayflower Pub. Enchanted by the name of the pub, Dean Posamentier questioned if that had anything to do with the famous ship bearing that name. Lady Perry remarked, "Why certainly. The captain was a regular patron there."

The ensuing conversation revealed the differences in what school children on either side of the Atlantic are taught about the event. In England, the passengers of the ship and their reasons for leaving the country are emphasized, whereas in the U.S., their arrival is highlighted. Realizing how nice it would be to enable children from both countries to better understand both sides of the story, The Global Education Telecommunications Network project was born. This project linked school children in New York with children in London using the best available and most cost-effective technology at that time: email. Within a short time, at least a dozen countries joined the network, and classes around the world were learning using email.

Now, 20 years later, the technology is far better, and the need to make our students 21st-century and global learners is so important. We are finding that more and more classrooms around the world are participating in collaborative global projects. The world has changed greatly since 1988, and so has the use of technology in the classroom. As teachers begin to prepare their students to succeed in the global marketplace and society, they are integrating international content into the curriculum and linking students to other students to teach them the values of other cultures.

Today's students are truly digital learners. Outside of school they are texting, using cell phones, creating social networks on the internet, and playing interactive games online; they often do all of these things at the same time--multitasking. They expect to use some of these tools when they are in school. Teachers can create new learning opportunities for students and turn classrooms into the 21st-century global classroom when they integrate technology into the learning environment. How can teachers begin to create such environments?

USING NEW TECHNOLOGY TOOLS

Although it is important for students to acquire new technology skills, what is more important is how these skills can strengthen and enhance classroom instruction. At the very least, students need the skills to allow them to engage in meaningful global collaborative projects. These include the following:

* Internet basics such as searching, evaluating, citing internet resources, and developing appropriate and ethical use policies

* Using the internet for access to information, experts, and other students

* Creating and designing websites to publish student work

* Using desktop videoconferencing

* Using Web 2.0 tools to create interactive, collaborative environments

Teachers can collaborate with other teachers around the globe using a variety of technology tools. For examples, ePals allows for safe student emailing and blogging. Using the ePals tools (www.epals.com), teachers have access to more than 130,000 classrooms in 80 countries. Teachers can also use other communications tools such as Skype (www.skype.com) to bring free video-conferencing into their classrooms in order to see students around the globe; they can also set up blogs so students can communicate and collaborate on project topics. Examples of how a blog was used to do projects between Japan and India and Japan and Chile are found at http://culturequestindia.blogspot.com and http://culturequestchile.blogspot.com.

Google offers teachers and students Google Docs, a variety of free, easy-to-use online tools (www. …