The end of my school’s academic year is barely a month away, and I’m looking in two directions. Firstly, backwards, to the recent past of learning, planning, collaborating, failing and succeeding (probably in equal measures). Secondly, forwards, to the future: the next academic year and beyond. Looking back at the previous sentence I realise it won’t sound as good as Buzz Lightyear’s mighty line but, hey.
So what does the future contain?
The 2012 Horizon report is yet to be released; however, its recently published communique repeatedly uses the word “global” in its overview. The preview highlights ten areas in which education and learning are being most consistently affected, focusing on “truly international” trends in technology.
The references to “a rise in informal learning” (#9) and the creative solutions to “challenges of access” (#7) particularly capture my attention. If I am to step into my next academic year, and step into the future with my students, I want to connect them with other students around the world. If it is to be a truly “global” collaboration, I believe it to be more beneficial that they connect with as wide a variety of learners as possible.
One of the first steps will be to consider where global collaboration is needed. This year I’ve taken encouragement from students making connections beyond their immediate world. This has been achieved through their blogging, as well as the opportunities for community interaction that our school provides.
Earlier this year a connection was forged from an unexpected need. My Grade 11 class were studying the novel ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. After several discussions and arguments regarding the correct pronunciation of characters’ names, we decided to find out for ourselves. One student emailed the author, another conducted online research, and I emailed a colleague’s contact at a school in Nigeria. Despite not using email, the teacher painstakingly handwrote each name phonetically. This was scanned by the school principal and sent to us. In return, my class created and signed a ‘thank you’ card representing the purple hibiscus flower. This small exchange changed the way the student interacted with the text: suddenly there was meaning beyond the page, and a need to reach out to another country.
For effective global collaboration, not just connection, I would draw upon Kim Cofino‘s comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide to Global Collaborations. I also intend to make the most of the extraordinary range of international events that my school is hosting next year. Students can learn so much from each other, just as there is so much I can learn from colleagues around the globe.
Further reading (viewing!): watch an excellent conversation with Alan November: The Myths and Opportunities for Technology in the Classroom (New Learning Institute on Vimeo). His points about the student as a contributor to the community resonate with me.