Global Collaboration for Elementary Students
Iregularly reflect on how well I sup- port my K– 5 students’ global aware- ness. Have I helped them realize
that they are important members of
an increasingly connected society?
I began my career as a third grade
teacher at St. Joseph School in Hilo,
Hawaii, USA. At the time, I thought
my students weren’t as globally aware
as they should be. Our first experience
connecting with learners elsewhere
was with a class in Maine, USA, via
Skype. My students loved it. We ended
up connecting with a dozen third
grade classrooms from all over the
United States that year.
The Skype sessions were engaging because we were learning about
other people and felt empowered as
we shared our culture and lives. But I
knew it was only the tip of the iceberg.
There was literally a world of connections in front of me.
In 2010, when I became a K– 5 technology teacher at the Kamehameha
Schools Hawaii campus in Keaau on
the island of Hawaii, I was excited
about being able to support global collaboration for many more students.
Since then, my first graders have created time-lapsed movies to compare
seasons with students in Vermont,
USA; my second graders have taught
Australian students about native endangered animals; my third graders
have collaborated on digital stories
with third graders in Wales; my fourth
graders have chanted in Hawaiian for
students in New Jersey, USA; and my
fifth graders have exchanged cultural
knowledge with Cree students in
Canada and learned about cancer and
health from high school students in
Clearly, technology tools are helping students understand that we have
a special place in this world and have
much to share and learn. Through this
growing number of alliances, a few
have stood out as model global collaborative projects.
The Baltimore Project
In the fall of 2011, Michael Fort, a
specialist in the Office of Instructional
Technology for Baltimore County
Public Schools, in Maryland, USA,
contacted me through the Skype for
Educators ( education.skype.com)
website. He was looking for schools
to work with on a variety of projects.
He connected me with Dana Novotny,
a technology integration teacher at
Cromwell Valley Regional Magnet
School of Technology. We established
partnerships between first, second,
fourth, and fifth grade classes, all of
which were valuable experiences for
our students. A truly special relationship, however, emerged from our fifth
grade students’ collaboration.
Skype. The first thing Novotny and I
did was create an opportunity for our
students to develop relationships. Using Skype as a communication tool,
we kicked off the introduction with a
“mystery” Skype session. Our classes
tried to figure out where the other class
was located by asking questions and
studying a map. This clue-based activity built excitement for the students and
supported their natural curiosity about
other places. We asked geographical
questions and were finally able to guess
that our friends lived in Maryland,
more than 4,000 miles away from us.
Edmodo. Although purposeful and useful, Skype sessions do not alone make
for meaningful global collaboration.
To build on the relationships established during the mystery Skype session, we used Edmodo, a secure online
environment where students and
teachers can communicate, collaborate, create, and share. In Edmodo, the