Name and Position: Thomas Stanley, Educational Consultant
School or Organization Name: Project Learning Corp
Co-Presenter Name(s): Rick Kazee, George Breaz
Area of the World from Which You Will Present: Las Vegas, Nevada
Language in Which You Will Present: English
Target Audience(s): Teachers and administrators
Short Session Description (one line): Going Global is fun, educational but has some do's and don'ts to it.
Full Session Description (as long as you would like):
One of the most exciting activities that the internet allows a classroom to do is connect with other groups from around the world to do collaborative projects. How do you do this? What are the best type of projects? How is it possible to make them meaningful with such a vast array of schools, cultures and time zones? This presentation is designed to give teachers and administrators tips on how to organize, conduct, and evaluate online international collaboration.
Many times teachers go into projects without understanding the positive activities that can be done and the problems they may encounter. Technology, language, and time issues are only a few of the considerations that should be a part of the planning process. Working on projects that are academically oriented is also a key consideration. The work needs to be cross curricular in nature and more than just a discussion. Organizing these kinds of projects takes careful planning on the part of both parties.
It is fun to do, just don't make it a frustrating experience for you and your students.
To me this is one of the five key relationships of online/blended learning - Student-to-community activities that help break down the digital walls of the online classroom!
Why take the time to create student-to-community relationships as an important part of an online classroom experience? After all, most of students' just want to get the information and get out of the class. The question that teachers should consider is how rich an educational experience can the online classrooms create for a student?
What students should be provided with is an educational experience that enables the them to become a part of the globalized world. As a part of this community experience an ability to organize their online experiences and lessons to such a degree that they are in touch with experts or peers outside the digital classroom. This is an invaluable encounter for real world learning.
International, national, and local educational events will enhance an online/blended learning experience. All subject matters can be included in these projects and most of the lessons are cross-curricular in nature. It is not too difficult to coordinate these lessons, they are fun to do, and not too time consuming.
Teachers should think of their lessons as an extension of what people do in their communities; these lessons can be used by Social Studies, English, Science, Math or any departmentalized class or as a cross-curricular program. By using outside resources it will spark your student’s imagination and become a unique, important part of a child’s educational experience.
There are a number of the international, national, and local activities and groups that you can work with to do exciting academic work. International projects require a great deal of patience but are well worth the time. There are many resources and three of the best political organizations that have wonderful projects are the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, and the European Union. In my classes I have done projects with each of these groups and the students have always been impressed by the excellent work of the people who are a part of these organizations. These institutions like to use video conferencing, which presents some special issues, Polycom or desktop video conferencing and it makes the process so much richer. Some private associations or groups that have also been very useful, and productive include: Project Harmony (http://www.projectharmony.com/) , I-earn (http://www.iearn.org/ ), and the Global Connections and Exchange program (http://www.connect-bangladesh.org/component/option,com_frontpage/It... ) that is sponsored by IREX (http://www.irex.org/programs/gce/index.asp ) are all excellent resources for online cultural exchanges. South Australia’s online schools are also a rich resource, this program uses “mobile Centra Activities” and they helped organized a world wide Oceans Acidification online conference that included schools from the US, Australia, Europe and Asia. There were some of the worlds top ocean acidification experts who worked with our students during this conference and project.
Next, there are a number of national projects to engage in, such as, the Where the Water Goes project from JDL Technologies, I-Earn’s resources, and Clark County School districts (Nevada) own Forever Earth Project (which had live synchronous broadcasts from Lake Mead as a part of the program and was used by students from Virginia, Canada, and Nevada. The Center for Disease control and NASA are two outstanding resources that have interesting projects that enrich the classroom. All the US Senators have access to desktop video conferencing, too.
Locally, my students were engaged with the Nevada Southern Water and Air Quality Authorities, we worked with the Desert Research Institute, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the National Park Service, Las Vegas Wash committee, and the Bureau of Land Management. We have also worked with the Nevada Bar Association, the Nevada Highway Patrol, the Metropolitan police departments on street crime issues, and domestic violence groups. The activities with these groups included real-time as well as online work for students. It is a win-win situation, the community gets excited about these projects and it definitely engages the student in becoming a better citizen. .
No matter what the project it is important that teachers create a solid lesson plans that enable the student to be accountable for all of the work they do. These projects either drive the unit or are integrated as a major resource within the lesson of study. When the student is done with the unit they are responsible to present their ideas to “experts” or publish what they find on the web and then reflect on what the response to their ideas has been by community “experts.”
When doing these projects there are technical, academic and time issues that come into play. The technical support from your IT staff is critical for success; academic discussions with the teachers interested in doing the projects is a vital factor too, and the ability to create flexible time slots for interaction is also a challenge. It is all worth it, the student feedback from these projects makes it well worth the effort it takes to overcome these challenges and problems.
Next year why not engage your class in a number of new and exciting academic adventures. If you break down the digital walls of the online/blended learning classroom there will be a much richer academic environment for all students and teachers in your program.
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