Photo attribution: Fredrik Alpstedt
My students and I love making connections with other students around the world. Our big focus this year in Social Studies is community. By taking part in these global project, the children are able to share information about our community and country with other students and to learn more about theirs first hand. Here is a quick overview of 3 projects that we are currently working on.
The first one is called the Edmodo Pen Pal Project and it is one that I designed and lead. We use a social network called Edmodo which allows teachers to create a private group that is closed to the public. Within that group, the children are put into smaller sub-groups and each week they chat about an assigned topic with their team members to learn more about them. We are currently doing this project with 3 other schools located in Washington State, Minnesota, and South Africa. Some of the topics we discuss include school life, favorite books, favorite games, foods, holidays, weather, etc. This is a fun way for the students to work on the Common Core Standard for Listening and Speaking which focuses on effectively engaging in collaborative discussions with diverse partners on age appropriate topics, building on others ideas and expressing their own clearly. At the end of the project, the children will create an “Eye Opening” digital display to share what they have learned from this experience.
We love using our Kidblogs to connect with other students and the Student Blogging Challenge is the prefect way to do that. This challenge runs twice a year (starting in September and March) and lasts for 10 weeks. Each week Miss W, a retired teacher from Tasmania, will give the students 8-10 different choices of blog posts that they can write around a specific topic. These posts help them learn to be better bloggers and to connect with other students. There are over 1,000 students registered at the present time from USA, Canada, Russia, Australia and China. Teachers volunteer to mentor the children which means they will leave comments a few times to guide the children in this process. The children are also encouraged to visit the blogs of other students in the challenge to leave comments and start conversations to foster learning. Last week our challenge was to write a post listing great places to visit in our state or country. My students chose a topic and then used Power Point to create a slide with a few facts and photos of those places. We saved the slide as a photo and then turned it into an online jigsaw puzzle using Jigsaw Planet Here’s a link to those puzzles if you’d like to try them. Jigsaw Puzzles about State and Country Not only did we have fun and learn more about the places in our area, we also talked about Creative Commons and how we can’t just take photos off of the internet and call them our own. Mrs. Yollis in California did a great experiment with her students that helped us learn more about why Creative Commons is so important. You can view that here: Creative Commons Video If the children wanted to use photos from the internet for this project, they used FlickrCC and gave attribution by listing the name of the person who took those photos on their blog.
Our last and longest global project is the Flat Connections project called “A Week in the Life.” In this project, we are connected with about 300 students from USA, China, Nepal, Thailand, and India. Students will be working in small groups on Edmodo to discuss one of these topics: school, leisure, language, clothing, environment, food, celebrations, housing, and transportation. The children will discuss and then take photos and video about that one topic to share with their group members from the other schools. They will collaborate to create one final digital project in VoiceThread showing images and facts about this topic and how it plays out around the world. All teams will upload their VoiceThreads to a project wiki (link in the beginning of this paragraph) so it can be viewed by all members of the project.
All of these global projects help my students and I learn first hand about the world around us. Places like South Africa, China, and India that were once just dots on a map, are now real people that they talk to and learn about. The children love seeing both our similarities and differences. These projects also help the children learn to respect and appreciate the customs, cultures and opinions of others.