Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grade 2 Goes Global - A collaborative project between the US, Austraila and S. Korea

The student's in Ms. Cullinan's grade 2 class took part in a very exciting project this school year. They made a connection with a class from Australia and another from South Korea. Ms. Cullinan organized the initial connection with a school in Australia through the EPALS network.

Here is a blurb about Epals taken directly from their site:

??"Since 1996, ePals, the leading provider of school-safe collaborative learning products for K-12 students, teachers and parents, has been dedicated to helping learners from around the world connect and interact with each other online in a safe, educational environment. ePals connects teachers, students, parents and educators from around the world, enabling them to communicate and collaborate on academic and cultural projects and establish international friendships.

Our global community reaches more than 600.000 educators and millions of students in over 200 countries and territories. ePals technology enables these learners, who speak over 136 different languages, to connect, share, collaborate and learn."
One of the features of Epals allows for a teacher to create email accounts for each of his or her students. The email accounts are managed and moderated by the teacher. Through a very easy to use interface, the teacher can read, modify and approve or deny all incoming and outgoing emails to each student account. This allows for a very safe and secure email session for each student.

Students are paired with a student in another country or school. Through the use of email exchanges students can discuss cultural and school differences, take part in a discussion regarding a global issue, discuss curriculum topics or book reviews. In some instances students take part in a multi-part collaborative project.

Ms. Cullinan and Mr. Walker worked together to create a web portal to coordinate the exchange between these two schools. A Wikispace wiki was created to serve this purpose. On the wiki each school created a page of general information, images and maps to identify their school. The wiki was also used to post digital stories that were created by each school to showcase where they live and their schools. Around the time of the creation of the wiki a third school from South Korea joined the project.

The project was a success. Students in each school were able to gain knowledge about the cultural differences of each country through personal contact with other students. The school year has ended before we could move the project forward.  Future plans include video conferencing and group discussions on topics of interest.

Global collaboration between students is a key 21st century skill. It is requirement in the workforce today that employees are trained in collaborating with individuals of various cultures. We are living and working in a global society or as Thomas Friedman has  written "The World is Flat". By exposing our students to opportunities such as these we are broadening their knowledge of cultures and developing their ability to collaborate with others to share knowledge. The experience for our students and faculty is invaluable!

If you are interested in setting up a similar project for the next school year please contact me directly. I will be happy to help!

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