Guest post: Global collaboration by Kathleen Morris

Kathleen Morris is a grade two teacher from Leopold Primary School, Victoria. Kathleen has an inspirational blog called Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom, where she shares her experiences, resources, and advice concerning blogging, global collaboration, and technology integration.

Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom

Kathleen has agreed to share her wonderful experiences with collaborating globally, in a joint post between Bright Ideas and Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom. We hope together we can inspire more teachers to make connections and open up whole new worlds for their students.

Below, Kathleen outlines her experiences from the first global collaboration in 2008 to now, showing that her classroom experiences of collaboration have become more integrated, frequent, and richer.

I created the following diagram to demonstrate how my involvement in global collaboration has progressed (tip: click on image if you want to see it more clearly).

diagram progress global projects

A summary of how I progressed with global collaboration

2008

Christmas Card Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with seven schools around the world and we exchanged Christmas/holiday cards.
PROS – Learning about all the different countries involved and their holiday traditions.
CONS – Lack of “real” connection to the classes and lack of technology used (the contact was slow!).

2009

Teddy Bear Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with a class in Canada. We exchanged teddies via snail mail and we “helped” the teddies write weekly emails to each other. We collated all the emails on a page on our class blog.

PROS – We learnt a lot about life in Canada; children learnt about email.
CONS – There wasn’t the chance for a “real” connection to develop between students – it was all through the teddy.

*****

Blogging Buddies: in our second year of blogging we began forming connections with many classes around the world. We would leave comments on our new friends’ blogs and keep track of what they were up to in an informal manner.

PROS – Blogging suddenly become more powerful, interesting and meaningful as we had a real international audience. Students began to learn there was a life outside of their neighbourhood.
CONS – All our interactions and learning was “ad-hoc”.

2010 – first half

Our relationships with our blogging buddies continued and expanded while we looked to more structured, self-organised and personalised projects.

Collaboration Corner http://collaboration-corner.blogspot.com
I created a blog with Linda Yollis in California. Our classes had got to know each other since early 2009 via our class blogs.
We called the blog “Collaboration Corner”. This was a place for the students to work on projects together and have rich discussions through commenting.

We had two main projects in the first half of the year:
•    Lunch Box Project – this complimented our “Food” theme. A child from each class took turns making a post about their lunch. They used a tool like Fotobabble to narrate a picture of their lunch. Some great conversations got going in the comments on healthy eating, food preferences, cultural difference with food, food groups etc.
•    Our School – the students used tools like VoiceThread and video to show their American friends around their school. The students made posts about the play areas, library, office etc. The students were really interested to compare how school is the same and different in Australia and the US.

PROS – The students got to really connect with their blogging buddies and the blog provided a window into their lives. Skype was used to enhance this connection such as our Skype breakfast party. A lot of content was learnt about food, time zones, schools, geography. A lot of reflection and new ideas also arose.
CONS – We were working together and learning a lot but what for?

2010 – second half

Ugandan Global Project http://ugandanglobalproject.blogspot.com
This is an idea I came up with because I loved how my students were learning and connecting with their buddies overseas but I thought something was missing. I knew we could take it further. I wanted my students to be able to use these global connections for a greater good; to raise their social conscience, help others and learn more about the world in which they live.

In this project, we set up another blog and invited some of our blogging buddies to join in. We had two Australian classes, three American classes and one Chinese class involved all working together to help out a school in Uganda.

The students were sponsored by their family and friends and at 10am on Friday 22nd October, all the classes around the world ran/walked for one hour to earn their sponsorship money.

Throughout the project all the classes involved worked on various tasks to learn more about Uganda and put up posts on the blog on topics such as
•    A day in the life of a student in Australia/USA/China/Uganda
•    A traditional song in each country
•    The run/walk event in each location
•    Time zones
•    Currencies

Behind these posts, the commenting was fantastic! The students (all aged 7-9) were involved in some rich conversations.

This project raised $20,000 which is making an enormous difference in the lives of our Ugandan friends.

There are also incredible flow-on effects still happening. A group of Americans who followed our project blog decided to volunteer at the Ugandan school. There are around 20 of them in Uganda at the time of writing and they’re making an invaluable contribution. Additionally, a teacher who read about our project contacted the school founder asking how she can help. The possibilities of these after effects are endless.

I feel that one of the ultimate goals of being a global citizen is to be able to work together for a common good, be understanding of others and have a social conscience. Through blogging, my students are developing as effective global citizens and I’m so proud of what they are achieving! I can’t wait to see where we’ll go next…

What next?

Needless to say, I want my students to be involved in more global collaboration in the future. I think a mix of informal collaboration and more structured projects works well. We’re now at a point where we don’t need to look at projects organised by outside agencies as we are part of a large international blogging community.

When it comes to projects, I like the idea of working on some projects that are simply designed to increase student learning and global awareness, while also aiming for perhaps an annual big project (like the Ugandan Project) where the aims go beyond individual student learning.

How to get started

If you want your class to connect and collaborate globally, I recommend you read this post by Edna Sackson “10 Ways to Create Global Connections

If you want to start in a more structured way like I did, there are many free and paid organisations co-ordinating global collaborative projects.

You might like to try…

http://www.globalschoolnet.org/

http://www.iearn.org.au/

http://www.theteacherscorner.net/penpals/

http://www.epals.com

http://www.ozprojects.edu.au

Good luck!

Thankyou Kathleen for sharing your knowledge, and providing the links to further information. As Kathleen says on her blog, please leave a comment if you would like to share your experiences with global collaboration.

We love learning – feature blog

Classroom teacher Nicole McMahon at St Luke the Evangelist School in Blackburn has developed a blog for her Prep class.

It would be great to make connections with others through our blog. In the Prep Classroom, we have commenced a blog sharing our learning in the classroom.

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At the moment it is in its very beginning phase but the goal is to have children using this class blog as a tool to reflect on their learning – not quite an individual PLN but rather a class learning network to make connections with the outside world. Being that the children are 5 or 6 years old, the content of our blog reflects this in its colour and creativity.

Nicole has set up blogging guidelines for her students and parents to ensure safety and respect for every student and parent. What a great space Nicole has created for sharing the work and learning of students. A bright and inviting space that showcases and celebrates learning. Congratulations Nicole!

i.Read

Susan Mapleson, a Teacher Librarian at Christian College (Senior Campus) Geelong has developed a very funky blog for lovers of literature. The i.Read blog is cleverly titled and has been developing nicely throughout the year.

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Susan explains how the blog came about:

I completed the SLAV PLN program earlier in the year and while this is not the blog I started during the PLN program is it the more meaningful and relevant blog I started along with Deb Canaway (the other Teacher Librarian here at the senior campus) during the year and includes many of the tools I learnt doing the program.

We started our blog for the students and teachers at Christian College Senior school and while we have not been overwhelmed with responses, certainly we have had many people access our blog.

It was aimed mainly at our Year 10 English classes who come to the Library usually at the beginning and end of the  term to borrow books. It was another way to interact with the students, promote the Library and recommend books to students as we only review books we have in the Library. Year 10 students had to write a book review as part of their English curriculum and also submit a brief version onto the blog. The positive of this task was that the students got a real buzz out of seeing their reviews online and for many it was the first time they had read and or contributed to a blog.

In the future we would like to have our staff also contribute to the blog and find more ways to encourage students to leave comments.

Congratulations Sue and Deb for creating a vibrant and attractive blog. Now that the blog has a good body of work, it will be easier to promote it in the new year.

Feature blog – Michael Jongen’s Web 2.0 and other library stuff blog

Our Lady of Mercy College teacher librarian Michael Jongen has been blogging since early 2009.

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Designed to help support teachers integrate web 2.0 technologies into teaching and learning, Michael explains the impetus for his blog Web 2.0 and other library stuff:

I attended a SLAV PD in March 2009, where Will Richardson argued that ‘Learning in the 21st century is all about networks and the connections we can make to other learners and teachers both in our communities and around the globe. But being literate in this new learning environment requires more than knowing how to read and write, it requires us to edit, publish, collaborate, create and connect in the process of building our own personal learning spaces’.

Inspired by this, I decided to blog and work with the teachers at my school and make them aware of Web 2.0 and its potential for learning.  This blog will be about how one teacher librarian raises awareness within his school.

The great thing about Michael’s blog is that he has customised it specifically for the staff and conditions at his school. Thanks for sharing your work Michael.

Verona Gridley’s blog

Verona Gridley, classroom teacher at St Luke the Evangelist School has developed a very good blog for reflecting on her professional practice.

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Verona explains how she views her blog:

I am happy to share my blog. I am into my second term of blogging and can’t believe my learning curve. It has become an invaluable tool for collaboration and learning in a contemporary world. Blogs are purposeful and flexible and definitely deserve greater attention in the classroom.

On my journey through blogging both personally and with my class many benefits of have become apparent over time. There are growing connections with readers that show the great advantages of being part of a network and receiving feedback from contributors within a broader community.

It’s always informative to read about blogs used for different purposes and Verona’s blog is a terrific example of a learning and reflecting journal. We are all the richer for her sharing it with us. Thanks Verona and congratulations on your achievements with using blogging with your students.

Digital Dewey – Pam Niewman’s blog

Clairvaux Catholic Primary School teacher librarian Pam Niewman has developed a bright, attractive and useful blog, Digital Dewey.

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Pam explains a little about her blog.

I’m happy to say my quest to learn as much as I can about Web 2.0 has been ongoing. I think I am finally beginning to realise the benefit of networking and collaboration – it took a while. It’s quite funny that you get to know people by their avatar. I will keep looking for these avatars to appear online.

I have no doubt that I will continue to develop my Web 2.0 skills, but I’m also keen now to get others at school enthused and start the process with them. Of course I am already working with the children in this way.

There are challenges ahead – a new Library to be built and developing my role as teacher librarian to suitably meet the needs of children’s learning in the 21st century.

Pam blogs regularly and includes examples of how certain social media tools have been used for learning. She has made several clever ToonDoo cartoons, an animoto and more. If you are looking for tips about resources to use for learning and teaching, Pam’s blog is certainly one to subscribe to.

Student blogging with Verona Gridley

Verona Gridley, classroom teacher at St Luke the Evangelist School has developed an excellent blog that acts as a resource for her students.

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Verona explains how she uses JuniorsJig with her students.

When our students reflect on what they have learnt in class, they are proficiently taking out some of their implicit understandings and clearly documenting it in the form of a blog. By both reading and commenting on others’ blogs, students start to learn from each other. A blog is a tool. It is a learning tool that can be tapped into by students, parents, and the global community.

Our Class Blog has enabled me to integrate all curriculum areas by promoting multiple literacies and skills. Through reflection on our discoveries and experiences we are able to share and deepen our understandings. It shows growth over time of our new learning, connecting with experts and finding out from broader sources.

There are growing connections with readers that show the great advantages of being part of a network and receiving feedback from contributors within a broader community. Our class has received feedback from all corners of the globe. When we received comments from beyond the school community a new digital dimension is opened. Overseas teachers, students and parents are taking the time to read our blog and leave meaningful and thoughtful comments.

Students are aware, that they are able to reach out beyond the schoolyard to share discoveries and experiences and in turn touch someone enough to leave a thought or offer a new perspective. Our young students can reach an authentic audience, that gives feedback and contributes new ideas and thus become part of a tangible global community.

I love the idea of students having a global and authentic audience and I believe that students take more care and effort with writing that will be read and commented on by a number of people. Congratulations Verona for providing this opportunity for your students as well as using your blog to communicate with parents and friends of the school.

Library dragon!

St Michael’s Grammar School teacher librarian Sally Bray developed a very good fiction blog and has kindly agreed to share her blogging journey with readers of Bright Ideas.

I originally began this blog as part of a Professional Development course looking at e-learning tools and web 2.0 in education. After some playing and making inane posts that even I wasn’t interested in, and some leaving it alone to fester in the back of my mind, I decided to use the blog to track and share my reading of Children’s and Young adult fiction (with the occasional adult book thrown in, just to prove I could still read adult stuff)!

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Over my years as a Teacher Librarian, I found my focus moving more and more to research and inquiry skills and ICT, with my reading of Children’s Literature falling by the wayside. I originally became a TL because of my love of literature, and I wanted to recapture some of that love, passion and sheer enjoyment of reading. Hence the blog.

I have spent numerous hours trawling through other people’s blogs, not leaving comments but voraciously taking their recommendations, thoughts and ideas and following up on them. Now I am giving some of that back! Many of the books I have read I have found through other Blogs and Twitter (it all depends on who you follow)!

I have always been a fantasy buff and dragon fiend, so now I have turned to similar areas of Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Paranormal and urban fantasy and romance seem to hold sway on my blog – with lots of vampire and werewolf action! Even my adult reading has taken on a decidedly fanged appearance… it has all come in very useful now. I have even used my blog as an example when showing students how to (or how not to) write blog posts and when leading discussion about different books  and forms of literature.

I don’t post as often as I should, but I do post the majority of my reading, often in batches! Please visit and enjoy! Oh – and leave a comment or two – I sometimes feel I am blogging in a void (except for my cluster map which shows a healthy amount of activity – Thank Goodness)!

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Thanks for sharing your fantastic work Sally. Your blog is bright and visually attractive and is joining my list of must-read blogs!

Feature blog – Glenys Lowden’s year 7 History blog

Lowther Hall AGS’s Head of Library Glenys Lowden has kindly agreed to share information on the development of her year 7 History blog.

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Glenys explains why there was a need for such a resource:

I have set up a Year 7 History blog for my class this year.  The main aim is to disseminate information to them through this source, have discussion when appropriate for tasks and include media content.

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It is great to see that Glenys is reinforcing students set tasks through the blog along with a range of resources. Looking at the number of comments from students, using the blog seems to be a popular way to learn. Another excellent resource from Glenys.