For some reason I never gave a second thought to the novelty of interacting with people on the screen from across the world. It always seemed to be normal. Two years ago I had three kids in my room while I was testing a Google Hangout with Kory Graham (@Korytellers). They were mesmerized, in part because she was talking about reading Winnie the Pooh and three 6 year-olds had a really hard time hearing an adult say “pooh” with a straight face, but mainly because she was a real person talking to them from almost a thousand miles away.
Just a year later my class had become experts in video chatting with classes from all over the world. They were familiar with the operations for appear.in and Google Hangouts. They were curating information about the places they’d been, and they were directing where they would like to “visit”. Talking with other kids, sharing their projects, and learning about the projects other kids were doing, quickly became something my kids LOVED. When they had the opportunity to talk to other kids from around the world, they always learned something valuable. Every class project took on more meaning for them with the question, “Are we going to share this with another class? Those kids in Minnesota? Or maybe that class in Delaware?” That was when I realized how special connecting my class with the world had become. They were not only engaged, but they had understood that there was a world far beyond the tiny town most of them had never really left. Most importantly, they were developing a solid understanding that while people everywhere are different, there is so much common ground from which they can build.
These legs are the base upon which developing global connections can be built. Not only do you create a higher level of engagement, but you help kids understand their world in a way they previously did not. You are giving them more than just a lesson, you are giving them a connection to a world many did not know existed. Many of students will never see far off places and experience what the world has to offer in person. You aren’t just sharing a lesson, you are sharing the world.
I had the opportunity to share the global project my students created at ISTE16 in Denver. During the 90 minute poster session I shared everything from the experiences and reflections of my kids to the tools we worked with to create the project and the troubles we had. I spoke to dozens of teachers during that time and almost all of them had the same question: “How did you find the classes you talked with?” “Twitter mostly,” I’d reply. They would give me a look of defeat before deflating a sighed “oh”. It was then I realized that the response I got from teachers at ISTE was from some of the more tech “willing” teachers. If they were deflated by the idea of finding connections on Twitter, what would the “regular” teachers do to connect their classes?
The answer I could think of was simple, they were not going to do it. That answer wasn’t good enough. After seeing how powerful it was for my students to have the opportunity to share their learning with the world, it was something I felt all students should have the opportunity to do. It left me with the question: How might I make it easy and efficient enough to connect with another class that almost any teacher would be willing to do it. If only it were as easy as a Google search!
When I was applying for the Google Innovator Academy in Toronto, this became my platform. I was dedicated to making this simple enough for anyone to do it. Over the course of the weeks leading up to the Academy and the three days in Toronto, The Global Audience Project was born. Now, all that is left is to continue making it a thing. It exists, but it is now my job to spread it to enough people that it becomes self sustaining. It will start with the early adopters. It starts with the people who are already sharing projects. Ultimately, if I can build enough support for it to become a significant sustainable resource, then the Global Audience Project can start to make the real impact on helping classrooms connect.
Find out how you can share your projects, be an audience, volunteer to coach, find a coach, share your story, and soon find a database of project ideas by visiting www.globalaudienceproject.com.
Ed. Note- There are many global collaboration projects happening out in the education world right now. Along with the Global Audience Project there’s also Rock our World led by Carol Anne McGuire, Global School Play Day led by Scott and Tim Bedley, and many, many Mystery Calls going on… (ITM episode here: http://www.
Brian Costello is in his 7th year of teaching in Southern New Jersey. Brian started his career as an instructional aide before going on to teach Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd Grades. He is an avid writer, blogger, and Twitter user. He recently published his first children’s book, Will McGill and the Magic Hat. Brian speaks at Educational conferences on topics including educational technology, leadership, communication, and professional development.