‘Using technology to Connect Humanity’
One of the real benefits of using technology is that it allows teachers and students to unlock humanity. Issues, cultures and histories from over the horizon can be brought alive in the classroom. Building the humanistic connections allows for deeper empathy and encourages more serious thought, research and cognitive processing. Indeed it encourages a deeper sense of learning. There are a plethora of researchers, educational theorists and futurists who can speak eloquently on this topic but the issue for the teacher in the trenches is how do you turn this contemporary theoretical paradigm in a working practice?
Practical Advice for the Globally Connected Classroom:
Virtual Field Trips/Excursions:
These are just gold. From my little primary school in the leafy suburbs of Sydney we have been able to connect with researchers in Antarctica and scientists in New York. These events not only generate enthusiasm for learning with your students but it also allows you to create memories that will last for many years. A nice by-product is the support from parents for these groundbreaking initiatives. What is more surprising is how often these AMAZING experiences are free or very cheap.
My top 5 virtual venues are:
1- Australian Antarctic Division – Their twitter account is@AusAntarctica
2- The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) – Link to their Virtual Visits Site
3- The Colosseum – 3D History Tours – Not live but still interactive and a great way to promote writing in literacy or stimulate discussion in history – 3D History Site
4- Dart Connections Australia – Using Video Conferencing software like (Jabba) to connect classes with a multitude of museums and significant sites.
5- Drive a Prototype Mars Rover on a martian Landscape. Contact the Powerhouse Museum and take Part in theirMars Lab Program
Connecting with Individuals (experts):
Not great on a particular content area? No worries, why not just skype with an expert in the field. Conference with a politician while teaching about government, connect with a scientist like Dr Karl Kruszelnicki or one of your favourite authors. I personally know that Jena Ball from the #NotPerfectHatClub movement and author of 5 novels is happy to connect via Google Hangout with any class around the globe.
Connecting Classes and Students (Three Initiatives)
1. One of the greatest initiatives that came across my path in 2014 was #culturebox . Amjad Ali initiated the movement and at its core is a beautiful message where classes from opposite ends of the world connect and learn about the cultural differences (and similarities) that they have. I was paired with Mike Watson and the project was so successful we have decided to continue it with our new classes in 2015. If you would like to join Round Two of culturebox click the link HERE
2. Team teaching. We all know the theoretical benefits of connecting with other teachers and sharing our professional expertise (while sharing the load at the same time). Why not do this via Google Hangout? You can easily connect with other classes studying the same topic and the possibility of have students emailing or sharing joint work on Google Drive leads to endless possibilities.
3. Simultaneous work. Keep pace with another class that happens to be studying the same novel as you. Have teachers email set tasks or use educational social media software like ‘Edmodo’ to have tasks set and marked while existing in different countries. Imagine having your students discuss the traits of a character with children in another country. The enthusiasm and interest in the book would be immense!
I spent way longer writing this post than I intended on and I hope it is useful. I truly believe that this style of teaching is the way forward. I would like to take a moment though and dedicate this post to Mark Weston PHD who has been an inspiration to me and so many other teachers around the world as we collectively find our way through teaching in the new paradigm.
If you have any ideas or favourite connected activities please feel free to share them with us.