I frequently get questions for teachers and homeschoolers about how to incorporate global learning into lessons fin early education. Margaret Powers is the Lower School Technology Coordinator for The Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA. She has an amazing web site called Tech for a Global Early Education, that is chock full of valuable resources. Margaret is passionate about global education for early childhood, and using educational technology to connect with students around the world, and shares some of her tips and resources with us today.
1). Tell me about what you teach, and your goals for your class.
I’m a Lower School Tech Coordinator, working specifically with students and teachers in Pre-K through 2nd grade. At my school, this means I teach a variety of topics, sometimes in a computer lab setting but more often in students’ classrooms. We are working towards an increasingly integrated model of technology, which means that I meet with the teachers in grade teams to plan projects that will connect with and enhance their existing curriculum. Then, I work with students in small groups or as a whole class to engage in interactive and collaborative projects where technology is intentionally used as a tool for creation and learning. Projects can range from using Prezi in Pre-K to help students map their community to Skyping with New Zealand (as seen in the first picture) to using Google Glass to show a Kindergarten perspective of their classroom. Each of these projects allows students to learn a number of embedded technical skills (opening a file, resizing an image, adding text or symbols, etc ) but in a manner that’s more meaningful than learning them in isolation.
My goals for my students are for them to redefine technology from something they consume to something they create and to empower them to use technology as a tool for communication, creation, and global collaboration. I use the ISTE NETS*S and 21st Century skills as guidelines in creating projects and goals and work hard to ensure that our work helps students build connections and relationships both locally and globally.
2). In your opinion, why is it important for our youngest students to begin to develop global awareness?
As a Reggio-inspired educator, I have a deep respect for the abilities of our youngest students. I believe that if we provide them with opportunities to connect with others and develop a greater awareness of the world they live in, they will show us insights into how we can all communicate and grow together. I have constantly been impressed with the work young students do when collaborating with students in another country or from another culture, particularly when I ask them to reflect on the experience and share their discoveries.
If we don’t allow young children to be exposed to different parts of the world and ways of thinking and living, then they will not have the chance to engage in these projects, form these important global relationships, or discover the value of working with students who have different perspectives and ways of being. I think it is our job, as educators, to help these experiences take place so that as our students grow older, they can start seeking out similar opportunities for themselves and sharing their knowledge and experiences with others.
3). I get emails from teachers and homeschooling parents who would love to incorporate global learning into their lessons, but they do not know where to begin. These might be teachers who do not have a twitter account, don’t write for a blog, are not on facebook, etc and yet they have an iPad to use in their class and don’t know what do do with it besides the apps/games. Do you have any advice for what they can do as a first step?
Yes! I love being asked how parents and teachers can start incorporating global learning in their lessons because there are so many exciting but manageable ways to get started! I would suggest educators start slow when making global connections. Don’t try to reach out to everyone but instead find one connection that you can build on that will allow your students to form a meaningful relationship with students in another place. This connection could even be one town away, just start somewhere.
Also, remember that while technology is a powerful tool for global collaboration, other methods work well and can be easier to get started, such as mailing letters or postcards. If you have an iPad, you can look for apps that allow your students to explore other places and cultures without traveling, such as Barefoot World Atlas or the Flat Stanley app. You can also plan virtual field trips using Google Earth and other apps or websites.
Once you’re feeling more comfortable integrating some aspects of global learning into your lessons, I would encourage you to join the Global Classroom Project (GCP) community. It’s much easier to connect and collaborate when you have a support network. The GCP Community will provide you with a list of other educators around the world who are interested in connecting and a list of projects you can join depending on what fits your goals and interests. You will also have a chance to use new tools like Twitter or blogging to follow the community and begin making broader connections.
You can also check out the Tech for a Global Early Childhood Education site I created which is full of resources and teacher stories to help you get started “going global”!
1. Global Classroom Project – I love that this project is run by other educators and allows anyone who is passionate about global education to participate freely so teachers can connect their classrooms and students around the world. One of my favorite projects done through the Global Classroom Project was the scrapbook that came to us from New Zealand and traveled on to Canada after our school added a few pages to share what our community and classrooms are like in Pennsylvania.
2. Twitter – I have found this to be the most effective #edtech tool to find new global connections and facilitate projects because by using a hashtag like #globaled or “globalclassrom a tweet can easily spread beyond my network to educators around the world. I also find support, resources, and tons of new ideas by participating in conversations on Twitter about global collaboration.
3. Mystery Skype – This is a great way to engage your students in an interactive exploration of another place without having to travel. You can use Skype to connect with another class and have them try to guess your location while your students try to guess their “mystery location.” Through this process, students learn about geography, culture, and get to know students in another part of the world.
4. iEARN – Although my school has not partnered with iEARN yet, I have heard from countless educators about how much their students learned by doing global projects through iEARN. The organization is very supportive in helping educators get started with connecting their classrooms and integrating global learning.
5. Kindergarten around the World – A few of my teachers are joining this project this year and I have seen some amazing collaborations happen as a result of it. Students get to know one another by tweeting with a partner class and through that connection can develop greater global awareness and understanding of other students.
5). Where can we see how other teachers of young children have integrated global education into their class?
When you’re first getting started with global learning, it can be hard to imagine what types of projects are possible or are being done right now. Check out these resources to read some stories from other teachers and see some of the global projects my students have completed:
Thank you so much Margaret! The resources you’ve offered here, and continue to offer on your web site are phenomenal! This is a true testament that even our youngest students can begin on the path towards global citizenship and engagement. If our readers have questions for Margaret, please leave them in the comments or visit her web site.