Global collaboration projects, which allow students to work with peers across state and national boundaries, aren’t just fun. They can also address several of the ISTE Standards for Students, including Digital Citizen, Global Collaborator and Empowered Learner.
Although it can seem daunting to get started, such projects don’t have to be time-consuming and complicated.
Pernille Ripp, a seventh grade teacher at Oregon Middle School in Wisconsin, took “a spark of an idea” — to connect students and teachers worldwide by reading one single book aloud — and turned it into a successful global collaboration project. Now in its seventh year, Global Read Aloud has connected more than 2,000,000 students globally.
If you’re ready to jump into a global collaboration project, Ripp offers a few simple steps to set you up for success:
Find your passion and purpose. Passion drives the energy and dedication you’ll need if obstacles present themselves during the course of the project. Consider where something will naturally fit into your day because you already have a lot of passion for it.
Pick a focus. Will your project support reading, writing, speaking or another component of instruction? Narrow your focus to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Similarly, decide in advance how much time you have to dedicate to the project. First-timers should start small.
Check in with students. Make sure that your students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with others outside their classroom or school. There are times when students don’t want others involved, and educators should respect that.
Similarly, be sure students are actually ready to collaborate and can mind their manners.
“You need to have community in your classroom before you set them loose on the world,” Ripp says. Do they know how to behave on a Skype call? Have you practiced working together, say with an in-class project, to avoid student embarrassment or awkward situations during a live collaboration?
You gotta believe. Believing in your idea is essential for getting others on board. Your conviction will convince others to spend time doing the project.
Find your people. Educators should be connected so that their students can be connected, Ripp says. To make your project work, reach out to your PLN on Twitter, Facebook, Skype in the Classroom, email or even just a face-to-face conversation. If no one jumps on board, it’s time to rethink your idea.
Dream a little. If your project concept is a little loose when you start seeking collaborators, that’s OK. True collaboration means all partners have a say in the project. As the creator, you should be prepared to figure out the details with your partners. “So you have to have a dream and an idea of what it may look like, but do leave room for others’ dreams as well,” Ripps explains.
Let go. There will be times when things don’t go according to plan. Count on it. That happens with learning and teaching. Allow your project to take its own path and resist the urge to shut it down if it takes unexpected twists and turns.
Existing projects to join
If starting from scratch seems overwhelming, there are lots of innovative projects you can join. It’s the easiest way to give global collaboration a try. Find projects at Skype in the Classroom, or check out Projects By Jen, which features hundreds of projects and resources for PK-6 teachers.
“The work has been done for you. You are already part of a community, and there are guidelines and timelines in place,” Ripp says. “And, when you’re part of something bigger, it opens the door to the next project.”
Try one of these ongoing projects to get started:
Global School Play Day. This is an effort by two California brothers, Tim and Scott Bedley, to restore childhood play.
Teapot Project. This math-related project challenges students to create a box to fit an oddly shaped teapot that will protect the pot as it travels to another country.
Holiday Card Project. Now in its ninth year, this project teaches writing, geography and math skills through the sharing of holiday cards worldwide.
Winter Around the World. This is an effort to share stories, songs, poems and illustrations to create a collaborative digital global winter story.
The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms (ever!). This global sing-along took place for the first time in October 2015. The event attracted 27,000 students in 1,000 locations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and beyond.
This is an updated version of an article that was published on Nov. 23, 2015.