The Internet has made the world smaller. Teachers can now collaborate with classrooms around the world to expose different culture to students. Two educators listed just a few of the advantages of investing in a globally connected classroom during a recent webinar hosted by EdWeb.
- Working with students from a different culture motivates students. One easy way to connect globally is through email pen-pals. When students write letters to one another, they no longer see writing as a chore – it’s a communication tool that helps kids learn about a peer from a different culture. Teachers say students write longer and more in-depth accounts than if they’d been given an essay prompt.
- Connecting globally sparks curiosity and independent learning. When a pen pal describes something unknown, like a famous cultural site or exotic animals, students have a personal reason to satisfy their curiosity by researching other cultures.
- It’s easy to incorporate core curriculum lessons into global collaborations. For example, a teacher could require that students use metaphors or write persuasively by trying to convince their pen pal to come and visit. Tasks that would feel disconnected from the real world feel concrete to students who want to maintain good relationships with their pen pals.
- It encourages problem solving. Students want their pen pal to understand what they’re saying and if their writing is unclear, they’re more inclined to be more clear. Teachers say international pen pals create a real audience that students care about, making them more willing to take suggestions, edit and rewrite.
- Students become more worldly. By connecting with students their own age in very different cultural contexts, students learn to be more open-minded and tolerant of difference. The strangeness of another place becomes interesting, not threatening. Students at one school in Mali had to travel to a distant Internet café in order to write their emails, but they did it because they were committed to their pen pals and excited about communicating with people living in a very different place.
International pen pals may be the most straightforward global collaboration available. But there are other services connecting students to one another through internet-based projects like book reviews, political discussions and virtual field trips.
3 RESOURCES TO START YOUR GLOBAL COLLABORATION
- Epals is a free resource that allows educators to easily find other classrooms interested in collaborations. They also partner with educational institutions like the Smithsonian and National Geographic to build relationships between adults with expertise and students.
- The Interactive Educational and Resource Network (iEARN-USA) connects youth around the world to one another to promote cultural understanding and learning. The site allows educators to design projects that fit curriculum requirements and focus on building a global community.
- The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) connects classrooms through videoconferencing. Educators can list the kind of interaction they’d like on the website and teachers elsewhere can pick a project they are interested in pursuing.