Julie and Vicki’s first global project came about because upon meeting each other for the first time, they soon realized that Julie’s students in Bangladesh and Vicki’s in Georgia were reading the same book: Thomas Friedman’s, The World is Flat. They also realized that this coincidence presented an awesome learning opportunity for their students, to read and discuss a book about globalization, with students reading the same book form another part of the world. This experience turned out to be incredibly valuable for their students, and so they decided to take their project further, expand, guide and share, so that students from all over the world could also benefit from global learning experiences.
Are Julie and Vicki the first educators to break down school walls in this manner? Definitely not. However, what Julie and Vicki did differently than others, was to synthesize the competencies necessary for effective global collaboration. Both in their book and in their projects, they scaffold collaborative learning experiences, by detailing each project element and its purpose, discussing necessary digital citizenship responsibilities and identifying potential obstacles.
Although I’ve implemented a variety of global learning experiences for my students and have certainly seen their value, I never truly considered how they helped develop students’ respectful and ethical minds. In thinking back to these experiences now, I can see how they did. The first global experience we participated in was the Eracism Project, now called Global Youth Debates. In my reflection about the experience I discuss collaborative speaking and listening skills, understanding of other perspectives and cultures, and habits of mind, however I never saw how at the heart of these competencies, especially with respect to global collaboration, is respect for others and ethical understandings.
In addition to this first experience, we participated in another Global Youth Debate debating the use of plastic water bottles, a virtual debate with another NJ middle school (these are my students and I totally miss them!), the Global Read Aloud, and collaboratively reading Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, I’ve also created projects which didn’t work out all that well, including The Global Mock Newbery and The Unbounded Book Club.
Just the other day a teacher asked if I had any ideas about a learning experience for her students after they finish reading Flush. I right away though of reaching out to another school to discuss environmental issues, shared my interest through Google+ and Twitter, and found a couple of interested teachers, one which just finished reading the same book. The difficult part however, is always timing. We can connect asynchronously, if time of day doesn’t work out, however there’s often curricular constraints, for example the students at my school just started reading the book while the other school’s students just finished. Yes it’s not always easy, but when it works, global collaboration makes learning real, meaningful and awesome.
The Future of Education, “Julie Lindsay & Vicki Davis on Flattening Classrooms”. Youtube. July, 16, 2014. Web.