Friday, 1 January 2016

21st Century Learners in a Global Classroom

Last year my colleague Michael Frey and I began a project called 21st-century Learners in a Global Classroom. Our goal was to connect our two local classrooms at different schools to other classrooms around the world. What we hoped for was to move beyond having one-off connections, and have a longer commitment to work together on projects started with these classes over the entire year. It was a big undertaking, and was not without its challenges. As time went on we discovered some people were unable to put all the extra work in to make the project successful. We started with several classes but ended with two classes that stuck with us the whole way through.

One class was in Busan, Korea and the other class was in Mexico City Mexico. What was really neat was Michael and I had no connection with these teachers before starting this project. It was through social media and the natural desire of all the teachers involved to make connections for their students, that we had the opportunity to meet. Over the year-long project Richard Campbell from Korea, and Jose Louis Gutierrez from Mexico worked with Michael and myself to collaborate and give students opportunities to work together in a meaningful way.

We started with having the students share about their culture, but moved on to look at world issues happening around the world today. Our students were introduced to Human Rights, something I've never taught before. It was very interesting to see how concerned the students became about injustices around the world, and how to make them better. It gave them a better understanding of the big world that they live in. This was especially beneficial for my class, as they are from a small school in a rural community.
The book that best helped my Grade 3/4 students understand best was the book “We Are All Born Free” by Amnesty International.

Thanks to tools like Google Hangouts,, Google Sites, Kahoot!, and Minecraft we were able to connect students and allow them to work together on various projects. One of the projects the students produced was a book about Human Rights from their perspective. This book was worked on by students from Busan, Korea, students from Cambridge, Ontario, and from New Dundee, Ontario. Here are a couple of excerpts from the book:
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On our World Class Learner's Blog (shared writing space for students from Korea, Mexico, and Canada) one of Michael's students really seemed to get the idea about Human Rights:
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Near the end of the year, the final project with students from Mexico, and Canada was to create websites together that shared about the indigenous peoples from our different countries. One of the highlights for me, was walking past a group of students who were doing a video conference with students from Mexico, screen sharing and showing how to build a sub page in Google Sites. They were working with the students from Mexico, and deciding how to set up their website they were working on together, while also teaching them some of the better ways to use Google Sites. These were eight and nine year old students. We have to be careful not to sell a student short! Here is a video of the students helping their partners from Mexico:

In a perfect world, all the classes would have worked together at the same time on the same projects. That didn't happen, not because we didn't want it to, but because it was too much of a challenge with holidays, different times zones, and reporting periods to make it work. It was through the extra efforts of all the teachers involved, and the eagerness of the students who were excited and interested to work with different students that made the project work. It is been my honor to work with all the people involved, and I carry forward the important lesson that there's a great deal of power and value in a teacher’s efforts to connect through social media and technology. It allowed us to move beyond the four walls of the classroom, and to make learning an exciting opportunity for everyone.

This project wouldn't have been possible without the Ontario Government's TLLP Program. It is an annual project-based learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers. I urge you to apply to this program through your school board if you work in Ontario.

Here is a link to the website we built to share our resources:

Here is a link to the slideshow we used to present on our project:


  1. Congratulations on your project - it is great to see the positive impact when students (& teachers) are given the opportunity to collaborate, connect and share their ideas - well done to everyone involved but especially to you & Michael for having the idea and energy to make this happen

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