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Global PBL projects connect students across continents

Global project based learning (PBL) is an exciting way for students to connect with peers around the world to dig deep into a topic, collaborate on research and share their learning across continents.

“We know from neuroscience that in order for kids to learn something, they need to have an emotional connection to the content,” says Michael Soskil, head teacher and curriculum coach at Wallenpaupack South Elementary School in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania. “There is no more powerful way to make that emotional connection than by doing good for others. With global PBL, students can identify a problem in the world and work to solve it.”

Exposing students to global collaboration also builds cultural understanding, communication skills and knowledge and awareness of the wider world, said Michael Furdyk, co-founder and director of innovation at TakingITGlobal. “This isn’t just about ‘soft skills.’ Given the increasingly global nature of most companies and global challenges, collaboration across countries and cultures will be a critical aspect of our students’ future ability to be productive and successful in their careers.”

These days free and low-cost videoconferencing tools, such as Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts, make it easy for students to collaborate on research, tackle an issue of concern and and solve problems with their peers around the world. 

That’s why the ISTE Conference & Expo offers an array of sessions dedicated to this topic, include panel discussions, workshops, BYOD sessions and posters.

Here’s a glimpse at what’s in store at ISTE 2015:

Connect, Research, Explore and Create Anywhere with Global Collaboration
Listen to U.S. and African educators describe their recent global learning projects. They’ll discuss the projects, the technology they use, and the learning and teaching behind the collaborations. 
 
“In two clicks, your students can have face-to-face interaction with kids on the other side of the globe,” said Michael Soskil, one of the presenters for this session. “It’s more powerful learning than reading out of a textbook, and once teachers see the impact and power it provides students, they’ll never go back.

Global Project-Based Learning in Technology-Enabled Classrooms
Learn the key elements involved in PBL, with a focus on designing an effective driving question to engage students in creating powerful projects. You’ll also gain access to a free global collaboration platform to learn how to technically manage global PBL projects.

A shorter version of this session, Take Your Classroom Global: Strategies for Student Engagement and Global Impact, will be offered as a BYOD event. Another panel, Global Encounters: Bringing Students Face to Face with the World, will showcase examples of videoconferencing-driven projects for student engagement on real-world issues.

Demand is driving the multiple learning options. “We’ve seen an explosion in interest in global collaboration over the last two years,” Furdyk said. “We speculate this is because many educators who may not have previously felt comfortable creating a learning project across borders have seen so many examples from their peers and students who have inspired them to get involved in one.”

Global Communication and Collaboration in the Elementary Classroom

Teachers from New York and partner schools will explain how web-based communication tools can be used for PBL in science and social studies in grades K-6. Presenters will talk about specific projects and discuss synchronous and asynchronous tools to augment global PBL.

“Those who attend the workshop will leave with tools they can use to reach out to partners globally,” said Andrea Tejedor, director of technology at Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery Central School District in Highland Falls, New York. “For example, PresentDotMe is a tool that allows you to upload a PowerPoint and speak about your presentation using a split screen.”

Digital Humanities: A Collaborative Research Model for High School U.S. History

Stop by this poster session to learn how three high schools in Hawaii, Long Island and Lower Manhattan collaborated on research into the history of whaling. Each school researched its local whaling history and the impact on the development of their communities. Then the three schools compared and contrasted the histories and linked them to broader historical trends.

Distance Teaching for Greater Understanding and Learning

This poster session explores Soskil’s videoconferencing project between students in northeastern Pennsylvania and students in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Regular videoconferencing sessions between schools built cultural understanding and guided students’ learning throughout the year.

“Our students made videos using hands-on materials the students in Kenya didn’t have to learn math. In exchange, they taught our students Swahili by video. Teachers from all over the world saw the videos and wanted to participate, so more classes jumped in with other ideas,” Soskil explained.

From Sydney to Pennsylvania and Back Again: Collaborative History Projects

This global PBL poster session explores how student teams from Sydney, Australia, and Pennsylvania collaborated using wikis and Skype to complete a history project.

Use the search tool on the ISTE 2015 site to fine more global PBL sessions. 

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