EQ: How can we embrace globally collaborative projects in our curricular areas to address this facet of 21st Century Learning?

When I read this question I think it is actually written backwards. It should be “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”

First, let me start by saying I don’t like the term “21st Century Learning” because in my head I think back to classrooms that were around when I was in university. Each “21st century class” was given one of the latest iMacs. I always thought that these were a waste of money because all I ever really saw them used for were Accelerated Reader tests. To be fair the tech was slow and the training for teachers was nonexistent. I think that we need a new term because I think a lot of teachers have images of pre-2000 things when they hear that term too. As George Couros mentions in his blog post 21st Century Schools or 21st Century Learning have schools really changed? He has seen some great physical changes but has the teaching and learning changed? We need a new term that isn’t associated with “stuff” that is thrown at/into schools.

So back to the topic at hand. “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. I think that technology and the connectivity that comes with tech plays a huge role in this. I was recently given a Geography Journal from a fellow teacher who had been sent it. It was the sort of thing that was supposed to pass from person to person than before May be sent back to the student. While it was a paper and pencil notebook, not a single person who had added to the journal did so solely with paper and pencil. Every entry had images, maps, and facts that the authors had used technology to make or find. I know that I had to Google many facts about Moscow in order to give the student the geography information that she needed. I did enjoy the paper and pencil aspect of it but I also told her that I was getting a hand cramp by writing it all out since I spent most of my days typing now instead of writing!

I wonder what could have been done to add to the journal. For example, could the Journal have been electronic? A Google Drive folder for example with a doc that each person made a copy of and wrote their entry on. Then pictures and facts could have been linked to interesting pages about the area for the student to explore. For the paper/pencil aspect, each participant could be asked to send the student a postcard from the location that they are at. The issue with this method would be the amount of data. The journal I had, had only about 5 entries. That is a manageable amount of data for a middle school student to sift through. Opening this project up by using something like Drive could overwhelm the student with data.

Doing this project electronically could help the project’s speed and collaboration. Electronic work means you aren’t waiting for a physical notebook to be mailed around. Also, electronic projects can allow for collaboration. For example, if a group of geography teachers did the project at the same time but in different locations, they could have each of their groups of students participate with each other. This could be done again with something like a Google Slide, Doc or Spreadsheet. Even apps like Book Creator or Explain Everything would work to make this project collaborative. Students could share draft projects with each other and build different elements together for a final collaborative book or movie.

So back to the question, “How can 21st Century Learning help us to embrace globally collaborative projects?”. Most certainly the tools of 21st Century Learning have made global collaboration easier. But I think that we still have the same issues we have always had, getting teachers to agree to participate. I have done several collaborative projects with teachers in different schools and the hardest thing is always getting ourselves as teachers organized and giving up the classroom time needed to complete the project. The timing is always an issue because it never seems like the two or more classes plan to do the activity at the same point in the year. But with the tool we have now like G Suite, we can more easily organize and share work across the world.

This connects me to an article that I read this week, What Makes a Question Essential? This article gives some great examples of some questions that would make a global collaborative project a great way to look at not only the responses but the perspectives of the responses. If two or more classes in different areas were to inquire into one of these questions as part of their collaboration they would produce something that would allow the teachers who are supervising it an almost unlimited amount of material to build upon. After all of the data was collected and shared time could be spent looking at that information and asking more questions. The collaboration could continue for an almost unlimited amount of time.