Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Connections all around the world using technology!

Guest Post by Elaine Hirsch

Thank you Elaine for creating another great blog post about several different technologies which can be utilized to connect classrooms around the world!

Using Technology to Connect Classrooms Worldwide

In today's global marketplace, it is more important than ever for students to learn how to connect and communicate with people around the world. Whether a student is in high school, college or even completing a masters degree, they can benefit from exposure to diverse cultures and global projects. Not only does collaborating with other schools provide new learning opportunities for students, but it is also a great opportunity for teachers, as it provides them with alternative perspectives on the subjects they are teaching as well as chance to develop lessons plans with other educators.

Electronic Pen Pals

One method of getting students interested in other cultures is by assigning them a pen pal. Use a website such as epals.com to locate a school in another country with students that are around the same age. Students can then write to their new friends on a weekly or monthly basis. It's a good a idea to develop a rubric to ensure students write about the topics you want them to learn. Besides letting students “meet” kids in another country, having pen pals is great for students in foreign language classes as it allows them to practice writing in the language they are learning. Students can even practice speaking the language by setting up video conferences with their pen pals.


Skype is a telephone and videoconferencing tool that teachers can use to show their students people from around the world.  Use to service like Edublogger to locate other schools around the world that are signed up with Skype. After pairing up with a partner school, let the students discuss their environments, similarities and differences. Students can also work on a project in their respective countries and then demonstrate the projects to the students from the other country during a video conference. Not only will this allow students learn about other countries, but it will also help students develop relationships with students from other countries and develop brainstorming ideas for collaborative projects.

Collaborative Projects

Collaborative projects are another great way for students to get to know others around the world. For example, a school in Delaware participated in a history project in which the students gathered items that were common around the time of a shipwreck that occurred in 18571. On the anniversary of the shipwreck schools from all over the world shared their projects with each other. Likewise, students can also partner up with students from other schools to share literary works or digital projects.

Forums such as Blackboard are often used for these types of projects. Additionally, Epals also offers an extensive list of projects that allows teacher to find and pair up with other schools to complete a project. Projects vary greatly from completing written works, encouraging diversity, sharing information about cultures, and exploring math and science problems. Students can also study factors that affect people all around the world, such as politics and the economy. Students can also complete webquests online, which will allow them to learn about other countries and customs.

Virtual Tours

Virtual tours offer another opportunity for students from around the world to learn together. Many virtual tours can be completed independently at the teacher's and students' convenience, making it for teachers to incorporate them into lesson plans. Tours can also be scheduled in advance in which schools from all around the world can hear information regarding a country or museum. This type of project helps connect multiple schools and provides students with the opportunity to hear and ask questions in real time.

Students use new technology everyday and educational progress should reflect this dynamic. Using services like Skype and Blackboard  to complete projects will not only allow students to work with other young adults across the globe, but they also give students the chance to learn about issues on a global scale, improve their foreign language skills and become familiar with social customs around the world.

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