5 Tips for Global Collaboration in Education
Gone are the one-room schoolhouses of another era. Gone, also, are the days when it was enough to go to the classroom next door and "steal" a creative idea from someone in your department (it's still fun, though). You have the potential to be connected as never before - beyond your team, department, school, and district.
Thinking and engaging globally shouldn't prove overly difficult or become another chore on your already extensive list of "to do" items. This is your opportunity to engage in collaboration that is limited only in ways of your choosing. Global collaboration in education is just that—the chance to join the global community of educators and invigorate your teaching. Here are five quick tips on how to accomplish this.
1. Pick Up Your Pen, Sketch Out Your PLN
As the kids would say, Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are a thing. They represent opportunities for professional learning and collaboration beyond your immediate, in-person professional network. A strong PLN includes social media connections, educator blogs, and similar sources, and helps make you a truly "connected teacher." This is particularly important if you are the only teacher in your area of specialty or work in, say, a rural area with limited access to in-person resources. A robust PLN can help reduce your sense of isolation.
Start by deciding which sources are going to be the most useful for you in terms of both accessing and sharing (one hallmark of a true PLN is that they are two-way streets). Would you rather use Twitter or Facebook? Do you regularly follow another educator's blog? Are you a podcast junkie? Make a list of the specific ways in which you want to connect, as it will help you define and commit to your new PLN.
2. Blog It Up
Inspiring and insightful educational blogs abound. Jennifer Hogan's The Compelled Educator is one of my personal favorites. Search for and follow a blog or two that you think will be the most interesting and professionally useful for you. When you learn something new, share it with at least one colleague. Find out something interesting about the middle school brain? Share it with your middle schoolers. Now everyone is building global connections, all thanks to the use of your PLN.
As you get more comfortable with the format and tone of educational blogs (there are a ton to choose from), consider writing your own blog post and submitting it to your favorite blog as a guest author. Many blogs welcome and actively encourage guest posts, and it will help you make a personal connection to the person whose work you have been reading. When you are ready, consider starting your own blog. The global community will benefit from hearing from you as we all become stronger educators together.
3. Actively Engage with Content
Go beyond amassing a collection of links or other information that exists in silos, partitioned off from other resources. Become an active curator of the content you discover from your globally collaborative efforts. One helpful site recommends three steps to effective content curation: Read the content, editorialize (annotate, synthesize with other content, etc.), and—critical in our field—share information with others, while being clear about authorship credit. Remember, the wide availability of content online is helping to save you from professional isolation. Help save others by interacting, not remaining passive.
4. Apply for a Travel Grant and/or International Fellowship
A combination of professional and personal travel can be incredibly fulfilling and the perfect way to recharge your batteries during the summer months, collaborating with educators near and far. Many local school districts, nonprofit organizations, and more offer travel grants and/or fellowships for educators. In most cases, all you have to do is apply and provide a few letters of recommendation.
I once applied for a local faculty grant to travel to Germany, Austria, and Poland. I spent a week with an Austrian host family, toured several schools, visited World War II memorials and (in an incredibly sobering experience) prison/death camps, and more. Upon my return, I was prepared to present my experiences to my colleagues in the social studies department and enhance relevant lesson plans for my students.
Today, I encourage my teachers to seek similar opportunities - they are plentiful. One member of our social studies department just applied for a fellowship for the Keizai Koho Center's annual Study Tour to Japan. I was happy to write a letter of recommendation on his behalf - don't be shy about asking your administrators to support you!
5. What Can Your LMS Do For You?
Your school's learning management system (LMS) is likely already set up for more powerful forms of collaboration than what it is being used for, including common assessments, video chats, content curation and resource development, and more.
For example, you and your colleagues could store and curate global content gleaned from your respective PLNs, then synthesize and share them with one another, all within your existing LMS. Additionally, you could video conference with teachers at another school or in another country, build a connection with an international partner school, or engage in more formal professional development.
The whole point of global collaboration in education is to be able to bring your extended professional sphere to bear on student learning. By engaging with educators all over the nation and around the world, you will find so many more things to "steal" that your colleagues and students will love. So think globally, act locally, and share, share, share!
What did you learn about global collaboration in education? Let us know on Twitter @Schoology