How To Connect Your Students Globally

4 10 2009

Cross-posted on the TechLearning Advisors Blog

Two weeks after returning from the Flat Classroom Workshop in Hong Kong, I am still inspired and energized about what learning could (and should) look like.

The key component for me was connecting students, both face to face and virtually, from a variety of backgrounds to work together to solve a common problem. Although we might not have the luxury of bringing together diverse groups of students every day, we certainly have the capability to connect them using technology. No matter what subject you teach, I truly believe adding a global component is not only possible, but necessary to prepare students for our increasingly connected world.

As Fernando M. Reimers writes in Leading for Global Competency:

Good educators know that the real world is ever more interconnected and interdependent. We all share in facing such planetary challenges as climate change, health epidemics, global poverty, global economic recessions and trade imbalances, assaults on human rights, terrorism, political instability, and international conflicts. We also share opportunities for global collaboration in such areas as scientific and artistic creation, trade, and international cooperation. These challenges and opportunities define the contours of our lives, even in their most local dimensions. Yet in spite of growing awareness of the importance of developing global skills, few students around the world have the opportunity today to become globally competent.

As exciting and enriching as globally collaborative projects are, it can be a daunting task to start one on your own. Even if you have a great idea, you might not always know how or where to find the right partner(s). Ideally you would know the people you’ll be collaborating with personally before starting a project, but sometimes you don’t have that luxury.

So, here are a few ways you can get started:

Window shopping

These social networks are great places to start looking for teachers who have planned a project and need collaborators, or just a place to see other projects and how they work. I always like to start with a little “window shopping” before I jump into my own project – often someone else has already started something that will work perfectly for me!

Find a Geographic Focus

If you’re looking for a classroom in a specific country or city, try exploring the network of international schools around the world to try to find teachers who might be interested in working with you. These schools are often well-resourced, well-connected in their country, and offer a western-style curriculum. Even if you’re looking for a local school in a different country, international schools can be a great way to start making international contacts. You might want to start with this list of international school teachers who are blogging and/or on Twitter.

Ask the Professionals

A few weeks ago I was honored to be part of a panel on Global Awareness hosted by Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon. I certainly felt like a small fish in a big pond speaking alongside the directors, presidents, and chairs of so many well-respected and established organizations dedicated to connecting teachers and students around global issues. If you’re looking for an organized, formal connection with other classrooms, these would be a great place to start:

Build Your Own PLN

It can be difficult at first, but developing and expanding your own personal learning network may end up being the most rewarding professional development of your career. Connecting regularly with individuals and groups that can push your thinking, support your learning, and collaborate on projects both in and out of the classroom means that you are learning what you need, when you need it.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the plenary session of the AIS ICT Integration Conference coordinated and led by Chris Betcher. As a member of the closing session, alongside 5 other amazing educators – Sharon Peters, Matt Montagne, Toni Twiss, Tom Barrett, and
Cindy Barnsley – I noticed that all of us described using technology to make a positive impact on the world.
These are the people I want to be learning with! And it all starts with simple steps – commenting on blog posts, participating in online conferences, joining regular online live events. These two posts might help you get started:

Jump In!

Once you have an idea that will work and a classroom (or two) to connect with, get started! This post outlines the process I go through when beginning a new project: A Step-by-Step Guide to Globally Collaborative Projects.

Final Thoughts

Oftentimes, when I’m working with teachers new to technology, I end up suggesting a project idea which is easy, fast, and convenient, just to ensure that they (and their students) have a successful experience. But, now, after leading the Flat Classroom Workshop, participating on the Global Awarenes Panel, and joining the AIS ICT Integration Conference, I’m reminded that these globally collaborative skills and experiences are critical. Even if global projects are not always the easiest or the fastest to plan, and even if they don’t always work out perfectly, this is what we need to be doing with students and teachers on a regular basis. With the right approach, using technology in the classroom can be about making the world a better place.

Works Cited

Reimers, Fernando M. “Teaching for the 21st Century: Leading for Global Competency.” Educational Leadership, ASCD, September 2009, Volume 67, Number 1.

Peace on Earth image by cayusa



22 responses to “How To Connect Your Students Globally”

    4 10 2009
      Lisa Parisi (19:15:31) :     

    Great post. It is one to share. Thank you for the realistic how-to.

    4 10 2009
      Silvia Tolisano (19:28:40) :     

    You make it so easy for everyone to jump in Kim!
    Your clear step-by-step instructions, help, ideas and links are giving everyone a head start when planning projects to connect their students globally. Thank you!

    4 10 2009
      Jonah Salsich (21:02:09) :     

    Thanks once again Kim!
    I have been getting resources together for a mini-PD workshop at my school about fostering collaboration, and you have done most of the work for me.
    I would add Global SchoolNet to the “window shopping” heading.
    Their project registry is quite good.

    5 10 2009
      Mike Rush (07:32:46) :     

    What a blog! I’m so glad I found you. My gosh, I’ve got a ton to learn from you. I taught at an International School in The Netherlands years ago. AFCENT International School. I’ll be coming back here lots to read and grow.

    Thanks for making this blog.

    Teacher Food

    5 10 2009
      Louise Winsor (09:22:20) :     

    Thank you for this great leg up into the world of connection and collaboration. You’ve made it easier for newbies, like me, to find and make connections. I’ve realised that for me making connections with Asia makes good sense and you’ve provided loads of leads that I can follow and develop.

    5 10 2009
      Chelsy Hooper (22:45:14) :     

    Great tips! Now just to get the teachers I work with to buy in…

    7 10 2009
      Jennifer (22:17:08) :     

    Hey Kim,

    Great post! I am going to use part of your post for my Advanced Computer Applications class. I would love for my students to see how an effective educator can leverage technology to break down the walls of the classroom.

    7 10 2009
      Kristina205 (23:30:39) :     

    There are so many things that technology can be used for in the classroom but I think this is the best idea i’ve heard so far! Using technology to connect students with other students around the world is so exciting! I hope to teach in a Spanish Immersion school when I graduate college and using these tools to connect my American students with Spanish speaking students would really be awesome. I really enjoyed reading your 5 Tips for Creating a Global Classroom and First Steps Toward Becoming a 21st Century Educator. They showed me how technology can be used to expand children’s outlook on the world. I will definitely reference these tools when I get started to teach. Thanks!

    8 10 2009
      Lizzie Hoeksema (09:54:40) :     

    I absolutely love the idea of using technology to become more globally involved. I think that in many ways technology in the classroom is a very big step forward– however becoming more involved in the rest of the world is one advantage that is usually overlooked. Many students, especially younger, only know about the rest of the world from history classes, or if something huge happens that affects America. Making American students more involved in the rest of the world is a huge perk to technology in the classrooms.

    25 11 2009
      ddeubel (11:45:04) :     


    thanks for all your wonderful guidance and getting teachers motivated and thinking “globally”. I believe it is the cornerstone of teaching and really needed – the world is becoming smaller and for the sake of peace, we need to get to know, “the other”. So many valuable lessons there.

    As an EFL teacher – our subject lends itself hands on to this challenge and call. I’m really looking forward to technology even making it more and more easier to connect globally. You might be interested in my own global project – Project Peace. Teachers from around the world make videos of their classroom to spread peace through music. … we need more teachers particpating!


    8 12 2009
      Angela Suk (01:41:28) :     

    This is a great entry! It’s wonderful to see the efforts you have taken to enrich the lives of your students. It’s very inspirational and motivational!


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