There have been plenty of times I have reached out to a teacher on the other side of the world hoping for a super cool connection only to have it not work out due to time zone differences. It’s so disappointing to find the perfect connection, only to find out they are sleeping when you are in class. But, worry no more! Connections can still happen!
Here are a few ways to connect with no worries of schedules and/or time zones:
Flipgrid and Padlet
Flipgrid is a video discussion tool software designed to create an open platform for discussion and learning that does not require a physical classroom or live Skype/Zoom sessions. Students record messages and responses which removes the pressure of talking live because they can record and re-record until they are happy with it.
What I find to be the best part of Flipgrid is that you can use it when it fits your schedule and not miss out on connecting globally. And the recordings stay hidden until the teacher approves them.
Padlet is another digital tool that can help teachers and students in class and beyond by offering a virtual bulletin board. This digital notice board can hold images, links, videos, and documents, all collected on a “wall” that can be made public or private. This means that not only can teachers post on the wall but so too can students. Since the interactive space is easy to use and easily accessible from nearly any web browser-capable device, it’s a great resource for teachers and students.
I have used Padlet to put together multiple connections tied to one theme. For example, my students posted their favorite songs, and we invited others from Israel, China, and India to post their favorite songs. In the end, we had a collection of global music.
I don’t consider myself a very tech-savvy person, and I can use Flipgrid and Padlet pretty easily. So with that being said, I think they are very user-friendly. And I also know that both Flipgrid and Padlet are much more versatile and have so many more features and uses that I haven’t even gotten to yet.
Exchange letter writing and/or drawings through Google Docs and Slides
This is a great project I have done more than once, and the students love it! For me, this works great to weave into my Kindness Challenge for global connection. My students and the students abroad draw a picture of what kindness means to them – only drawn not colored in, leaving it looking like a coloring book. From this point, I scan the drawings into Google Slides or Doc and send/share them to the other school, and they send theirs through Google Slides. Each of my students receive a drawing to complete, add to, and color in. The school abroad does the same. After we have completed the other’s artwork, we send them back to the original artist – again through Google Slides. My students love receiving their artwork back and seeing how the other student completed it.
I did this project this year and layered it in with Flipgrid. After the students had finished their artwork, they met the other artist on Flipgrid where they left a recording of what they appreciated about what the other artist had drawn. This is always a winner with my students. And I must say, I love it too!
The Old Fashion Way of Communication: Mail
Have your students practice their letter writing skills by actually writing a real letter on paper! What?! Write? Yes, write with a pen/pencil. A letter on actual paper! Sounds so old fashioned, doesn’t it?
Find a school you would like to exchange letters and goodies with. I have filled the box with letters, drawings, pencils, post-it notes, candies (that won’t melt in the box), stickers, etc. The receiving teacher recorded her class opening the box and the students sharing their gratitude. My students loved seeing this and loved seeing their pictures and letters in the hands of other students across the world. Because of the video recording that was shared, my students could see and experience the exchange. That is an important connection piece not to leave out, creating empathy in our hearts and minds.
Use Resources Established for This Exact Purpose!
Collaborative global projects are a lot of fun, and it’s exciting to be working on the same project with another school across the world. iEARN is a great website to find another school to work with. For example, connect your recycling lesson with another country so that your class and the class abroad can get different views and ideas and work together. iEARN does the work for you and has the connecting schools ready and waiting. All you have to do is to put in your information and request.
The Memory Project is also a great organization to collaborate with. The Memory Project acts as the “middle man” and delivers your student’s artwork to other students in the world that are experiencing some kind of turmoil like political unrest, water/food shortage, etc. In turn, your students also receive artwork from the other students. The Memory Project also asks you to include a photograph of the student, which I think is a very enduring touch.
Both iEARN and The Memory Project do cost money. But, I also know most school districts have grants that you can apply to and receive funds to participate in these kinds of projects.
Now, the shortlist above, is just that, a shortlist. There are multiple ways to connect globally with your students. First, take your given lessons and see where you can include the global connections. From there, get creative and just do it! What’s your idea? What connections have you made? How can I help you? Please give me an email! I would love to hear of your connections. And I would love to help.