Going Global

[Back in what seems like the Dark Ages of Educational Technology I was seeking international partners for students to work on global projects. Here’s a Hechinger Report that shares a variety of opportunities for students to help solve global problems.]

Tech Smart


A student in Uganda communicates with her learning partners in New Orleans. Photo: Theo Niyirinda

This fall, after getting to know each other in online video exchanges, some Ugandan high school students told a group of students in New Orleans that most Ugandans have no reliable electricity and use candles or lanterns after dark. Over the following weeks, the students worked together to build solar-powered lights. An education technology startup called Level Up Village supplied both schools with solar cells, batteries and LEDs, along with 3-D printers to fabricate the housings, tutorials on electricity and computer-aided design, and an online workspace for posting notes and swapping ideas.

Global learning initiatives like this are booming, because the technologies that long made our world seem smaller are finally at the point where they can seamlessly make classrooms that much bigger. For years, educators have wanted to teach “global competency”—meaning a grasp of international issues and the ability to work with people around the world. Until recently, however, virtual border crossings were typically one-time extravagances pulled off in a handful of elite schools.

Now, growing computing power, accelerating broadband, social media and virtual reality are bringing global education to the masses. Schools are connecting and collaborating globally in all sorts of ways, ranging from Tweets and Skype sessions to full-blown online global learning platforms, most of which will be up for discussion in the webinars and keynote speakers of this week’s online Global Education Conference.

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Face-to-Face vs. Online Learning: Why Is It Either/Or?

[For a period of time there was a debate about online learning. Today there’s a growing acceptance of the value of “blended learning” where students work collaboratively in real time, but also build their knowledge and skills online. In this Edutopia article Matt Levinson, the head of an independent school, explains how Global Online Academy provides his students with an online community of colleagues to work on projects. In Pittsburgh the World Affairs Council has played a similar role connecting schools to counterparts around the globe.]


In the film The Intern, a 70-year-old senior citizen named Ben Whittaker (Robert DeNiro), applies for a “senior” internship with a fashion tech start-up experiencing explosive growth. The interview process requires him to submit a video. Uncertain how to make a video, Ben enlists his nine-year-old grandson and wows the company with his warmth and personality. Ben gets the job.

He brings real-life experience to his new role, and his high EQ brings dividends to the company’s fast-moving, over committed CEO, who learns to appreciate and value Ben for his sincerity and integrity. His “old school” approach finds him in a suit and tie each day, while his younger colleagues wear t-shirts and don’t shave. Ben’s charm is that he is skilled at and values conversation.

In “Reclaiming Conversation,” a recent New York Times op-ed piece, Professor Sherry Turkle writes:

But it is in this type of conversation — where we learn to make eye contact, to become aware of another person’s posture and tone, to comfort one another and respectfully challenge one another — that empathy and intimacy flourish. In these conversations, we learn who we are.

And in The Intern, Ben challenges CEO Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) to learn who she is through conversation, listening, and empathy.

As schools continue the march into online and blended learning, there’s much to take away from the lessons of Ben Whittaker. The approach doesn’t need to be either face-to-face or online. It can be both. With a growth mindset, we can be open to new ways and modes of connecting.

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Collaborative Learning Spaces: Classrooms That Connect to the World

[I serve as the co-chair for the CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee. One of our future reports will look at Remaking Learning Spaces. Here’s an Edutopia article that outlines innovative ideas and technology to make those spaces more collaborative and global.]

October 16, 2015

Photo credit: Brad Flickinger via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Editor’s note: This post is co-authored by Fran Siracusa, co-founder of and educational technologist for Calliope Global.

As citizens of the world, students in today’s classrooms seek global contexts for learning. Opportunities for networked and international collaborations are bringing both the world to classrooms and classrooms to the world. With a focus on international standards of instruction, globally-minded programs inspire students to be curious through investigation and reflective in analysis of thought. These pathways lead to the development of cultural literacy by allowing students to examine issues of global significance through interconnected sharing of experience and exchange of ideas. Collaborative learning spaces empower students to work with each other and with students in classrooms of the world to assume multiple perspectives, explore alternative solutions, and thoughtfully solve problems.

By examining the landscape of the classroom, educators can design collaborative learning spaces that will support the teaching and learning of skills needed for the interconnected world of today and tomorrow. By seamlessly connecting pedagogy, technology, and space, teachers can create spaces that promote social learning and maximum engagement. These collaborative classrooms are alive with action — teaching, learning, innovating, creating, making, and exploring. Innovative learning spaces can encourage both individual and collective voices, and, through use of emerging technologies, they inspire students to become skillful curators of their digital worlds. Though there cannot be a single universal blueprint for designing a collaborative learning space, teachers can use the goal of global collaboration to inspire classroom design that allows for connected sharing and learning.

While there are many design ideas that could help drive this transformation, we suggest the following three as a starting point.

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