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Learning, sharing and collaborating globally in the early years: Stories from the Global Classroom Project

By Michael Graffin, with contributions from Deb Frazier, Heidi Echternacht, Julia Skinner and Pru Thomas

 

Are you interested in learning with the world, instead of just about it? Are you curious about how you can use technology to extend your classroom learning experiences? Wondering how you can meet the Intercultural Understanding components of the new Australian Curriculum? Welcome to the Global Classroom Project!

Imagine a group of first years in Ohio, USA, reading about countries around the world as part of an inquiry study. One child questions information in a text about India. He takes the book home and asks his family (who are from India) about his discoveries. The next day he rushes in the door, eager to share his findings. ’I asked my dad about schools in India and he said this information is not true in all parts of India.’ The simplicity of this discovery changed the thinking of the class, and ultimately classrooms around the world, as it inspired his teacher, Deb Frazier (@Deb_Frazier), to ponder these questions:
Wouldn’t it be great if our class in America could talk with other classes around the world? What if we could talk about our lives with classrooms in other countries?
From a single tweet and blog post (bit.ly/TheBeginningGCP), the first Global Classroom Project was born, bringing together 7 classes from 5 countries to share a little about their lives and cultures with the world.http://globalclassroom2011.wikispaces.com

We’ve built a global community

Today, the Global Classroom Project has grown into a vibrant online community, involving hundreds of K–12 teachers, ICT specialists and global education leaders from 42 countries around the world. Through our online ‘conversation spaces’, we’re exploring new ways to connect, learn, share and collaborate beyond classroom walls, enabling our students to ‘learn with the world, not just about it’. In 2013, we’re working with Govinda Panthy and the Open World Cause, helping to secure the future of the pioneering SAV School in rural Bhaktapur, Nepal.

Teaching and learning beyond international borders

‘Kids are never too young to learn that 
they are part of a big world, and as one of my students commented this year, ‘We might be different in some ways, but I think mostly we are the same’. It is my hope that our connections as young people will help grow some tolerance and understanding. When these kids are adults, what a good world we can look forward to.’
Pru Thomas – Year 2 Teacher (NSW, Australia) http://elplates.edublogs.org/

If there is one thing our #globalclassroom teachers have in common, it is a willingness to connect, explore and share their learning with colleagues all over the world. Age, experience, geography and ICT skills are no barrier to teaching and learning globally—the only requirement is an open mind. When you register for the Global Classroom Project, you’re granted access to our online community spaces on Skype®, Facebook® and Twitter®. By dipping into and contributing to the 24/7 conversations in these spaces, teachers can easily build new friendships, access free online professional developments and explore teaching and learning opportunities which transcend their classroom walls—and international borders. Through our blog and wiki, you can find international connections and access exciting projects and cultural exchanges suitable for your year level. We help teachers connect and collaborate globally—all we ask is for you to take the first step and say ‘hello’.

Why do we connect and collaborate globally?
In the words of American #globalclassroom students:
‘We’re learning to collaborate so we can get bigger ideas! We noticed when we listen to others our thinking changes and grows.’ (@Frazier1st)
By flattening our classroom walls, we are developing our students’ natural curiosity about the world around them and their place within it, helping them become culturally aware, collaborative global citizens. These ideas are enshrined in the new Australian Curriculum, and it’s a journey that begins in the early years.

How can I get involved?
Here at Global Classroom, we’re here to help you take your first steps beyond your classroom walls. Start small; engage in an online community and find a project which fits your curriculum. Enjoy the journey—you’ll never look back.

Global classroom projects for the early years

Flat friends/Mascot exchanges (K–3)

Flat Friends and Mascot Exchanges are a simple but extremely effective medium for encouraging young children to learn about the world, and share a little about their lives and communities through their interactions with a ‘Flat Friend’ or stuffed toy mascot. Teachers can join up for an existing exchange, or initiate their own using our Flat Stanley directories. For full details go to http://bit.ly/GCPMascots
To explore what it looks like in action, please visit http://flatrosie.edublogs.org (2012) and http://bit.ly/FlatFriendsCanada (2011–12)

Edmodo Penpals (Grades 2–3)

The Edmodo Penpals project is an opportunity for students to connect and converse with children of similar ages around the world, within a private Edmodo group. This project requires teachers to take an active role in organising and moderating student discussions about special days, school uniforms (hot topic!), family etc. This has proved to be one of our most successful #globalclassroom projects ever.
For more information, please visit http://bit.ly/EdmodoPenpals2013

Mystery Skype® (K–3)

Mystery Skype® and Mystery Google Hangouts (for when Skype is blocked) involve children using world maps & yes/no questions to identify the location of a mystery class/guest. This extremely engaging activity helps build children’s communication and mapping skills, and gives them a glimpse into other cultures around the world.
You will find detailed instructions and our growing Mystery Skype® contact directory at: http://bit.ly/GCPMysterySkype

The 5 sentence challenge
Julia Skinner (@TheHeadsOffice) – United Kingdom
Following in the footsteps of the 100 Word Challenge (100wc.net), the 5 Sentence Challenge is an international writing project for the early years.
Children are invited to write/blog a 5 sentence response to a fortnightly theme/picture prompt, and receive international feedback. The comments have a huge impact on students’ motivation, confidence and achievement in writing. Learn more at fivesc.net

Other early years 
#globalclassroom projects

The Global Lunch Table – 
http://thegloballunchtable.wikispaces.com/
The Sunny Thought Project – https://thesunnythoughtproject.wikispaces.com/
Kids Speak 2012–13 (TBA) – http://bit.ly/KidsSpeak2011-12
Save the Rhinos Project – http://saveourrhinos.wikispaces.com/
Special Events Newspapers – http://specialeventnews.wikispaces.com/