Monday, 13 January 2014

Reflections on Global Collaboration

We seem to be two-for-two when it comes to scheduling IGNITEd sessions on days when the weather makes the roads treacherous. Our first session, on design learning and the maker movement, saw several participants unable to make it due to highway closures. Our second session this past weekend on global collaboration only had 4 of the 12 registered participants gather in Little Current after a night of freezing rain.

But instead of hampering the organizers' efforts, this actually served to demonstrate just how powerful collaboration across the miles can be. Six participants were able to join the Adobe Connect room our guests had set up and still participate in real time. We asked questions on behalf of others, linked up via Connect, Twitter, GHO and GoogleDocs, and all managed to be inspired by our guests and their experiences.

Mali Bickley and Jaclyn Calder (@jaccalder) joined us remotely from Newmarket and Penetanguishene respectively, to speak with us about the benefits and possibilities when it comes to engaging students in social justice, and working with other students around the world. Mali, one of two co-ordinators for iEARN Canada, started us off with a quote by Jennifer Corriero, co-founder of Taking it Global:

"I wonder... if young people were actively engaged in all aspects of society, and thought of themselves as community leaders, problem-solvers, role models, mentors and key "stakeholders"... how would the world change?"

How exactly would the world change?
We heard wonderful stories of students who started an Earthwatchers project - collaborating with other students to monitor an assigned plot of rain forest land for clear-cutting activity - in science class, but continued monitoring their land long after they had finished the course.

We heard of students who started reading ingredient lists and refusing to buy (and forcing their parents to not buy) products that contained ingredients that were not sustainably harvested.

We heard of students who began speaking out against war - not because "war is bad" but because they learned first hand through discussions with other students about the effects of war on their schools, homes and families.

And we learned that connecting our students with other classes around the world can be as traditional  as exchanging letters (or books or artefacts), or as 21st Century as sending GarageBand files back and forth to compose truly international music or teach students how to speak English over a Google Hangout.

With the digital tools at our disposal, and access to organizations like Flat Connections and iEARN, the connection part becomes easy, while the content of our collaboration can suit whatever needs we have for our various classes. How amazing is it that we can take our students around the world and have them make a difference in another student's life!!

It is often easy to always look elsewhere for experts in the field, but we should never forget about the wealth of experience local colleagues can also share. We were fortunate to have two teachers with us who could tell us more about Skype in the Classroom and the Flat Connections projects (as well as their pros and cons), and share their resources with us.

Regardless of the amount of global collaboration experience each participant had prior to this session, I know that each of us came away with not only a new idea or two to try, but also the excitement that comes from working/planning/discussing with enthusiastic colleagues. Thank you Mali and Jaclyn, and all our participants for making this another great IGNITEd session!