Creating Meaningful Global Connections….for Your Personal Learning Network (PLN) and Your Students!

As a school we have been globally connected with many schools through a variety of projects, not just this year but in years past as well. This year we have been continuing many global connections we have already made, while also connecting and making new ones. Our students love being a part of global projects like the Monster Project, Traveling Teddy Bear and 100 Word Challenge. We were able to connect with a school in New Zealand around our 100 Word Challenge program.

It has been challenging and rewarding connecting with so many people across the globe. Each project takes time to complete, from documentation, to reading to writing to making meaningful connections for the students with other schools participating in the project. All of this takes time, to ensure quality of work, over quantity!

After diving into and creating our Monster – Craftaraptor – we displayed him in our theatre for the students to enjoy. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep the momentum of staying in touch with other schools, after a project is done. However the Monster project make this easy with their Facebook group, allowing teachers to connect and comment on each others work. The time difference between these global connections is often what makes if hard to connect across the globe on a interactive live Skype. Once our monster was created and uploaded to the Facebook group – we continued to monitor and vote for the winning monster. It was hard to compete against the 4th grade class in New Hampshire – who created a ginormous monster that hung from the sunlight roofs in the school hallways. Pretty ingenious really.

We did make a connection with one school in Russia and not only did a mystery Skype, but also discussed our plans and strategies for the our Monster. Their teacher Anastasia and I connected multiple times over the weeks before our call to plan our connection, but also set our students up for the mystery skype. We sent photos back and forth to show each of our students, so they could begin the guessing routine of where these students might be. It was neat hearing the students discuss where they thought these students could be from, because in many ways the photos didn’t show too many differences in buildings and surroundings. You can check out the pictures and the messages Anastasia and I wrote back forth in my Russian Skype Call log.

 

Next, Millie, our Traveling Teddy Bear arrived from New Hampshire to stay with us for a few weeks, before she began her travel onto the next school in Beijing, China.  We have participated in this project since 2016, it’s neat because the program began as a small collaboration to test the concept. It started with just one teddy bear traveling through six classrooms in six countries. In 2017, the Traveling Teddy project took on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help spread awareness and ignite action. This was a neat addition to the project as it began to act as a platform and resource to bring SDGs into the classrooms of our youngest learners across the globe. The project is geared towards K-4s. We implemented with our K-5s. The project is extremely interactive and connects schools with the same bear and other bears easily through their website, containing blog links, bear itineraries, Skype guidelines and purposeful technology and engineering projects for the students, often made by the students as the bear travels around the globe!  For example, we had to work out how to create a QR code that can be linked to any type of media. We then had to print it out and stick it into the Millie’s passport for the next class to scan and learn more about our school.

And finally I have been communicating back and forth with a contact in New Zealand. Both our schools use 100 Word Challenge website to provide writing prompts to our students, who are then limited to only writing 100 words, with the prompt words in addition. It’s a great challenge. What happens is that we each post our comments in our school blogs, then each of our students will comment on each others blogs. This will go back and forth until New Zealand finishes their school year – which happens in just a few weeks. Then starting in the new year, our students will receive new partners and begin the process again. Each time we start the process over with the NZ school we film a flipgrid for the new partners so they can learn a little bit about who we are and what we like to do.

These global projects are amazing. They are time-consuming, challenging, exciting, and allow us to continually make new connections each year. Our students look forward to participating in them every year and ask when we will be beginning these activities. When we are able to connect with students across the globe, it’s always funny to hear the students questions, thoughts and reflections. When we break down these global walls and interact with schools and students across the globe it gives our student a sense that everything is just an email, Skype or message away from them.

These connections allow me, as an educator, to grow, learn and expand my own horizons. I love learning about new cultures across the globe with my students, showing them that the learning never stops and that making connections, friends and acquaintances at any stage of life, using any means of communication is perfectly normal (providing the content and learning is relevant)! With COETAIL coming to an end, but our global connections alive and well, our students have asked if we, as a school, can create our own global project. This year our theme is Social Change, so our students are particularly inspired by creating a project that would reflect this theme, educating students across the globe, inspiring others to connect and learn about whatever the actual project ends up being….because in typical Phoenix fashion…we are still in the developing and designing phase – which truly could take months to get a quality project that will truly have meaning and connection for our students, but also the global students that would participate in the project!

Thanks for the inspiration to push our students even farther!

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