I would like to thank Ed Gragert, Executive Director of iEARN-USA and creator of Connect All Schools, who graciously allowed me to interview him for this article. He encourages schools to share their global experiences and learn from each other.
In 1988, the non-profit organization iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) matched 12 schools in Moscow with partner schools in New York. As the schools began to collaborate on projects, the teachers and parents noticed significant improvements in other areas of academic life: the students read more, discussed global issues more, and their interest in studying other languages increased. The project was a success, and in 1990 iEARN expanded multilaterally by launching 9 additional country program.
With 46,000 teachers, and 2 million kids participating daily in projects located in over 130 countries, their k-12 on-line network is the largest of its kind. iEARN has shown that kids learn better and increase their global awareness when engaged with their real peers around the world.
With iEARN and other educational agencies, schools around the world have been getting involved in projects to make their classroom more global: hosting students from other countries, introducing new language programs and global curriculums, skyping with partner schools in other countries, and other initiatives that increase global awareness. These international experiences have far-reaching implications: not only are students forming friendships and building cross-cultural relationships, they are engaging in the essential skills of critical thinking, and working in a team. Yet, while teachers and classrooms were building successful programs, there was not a central gathering place to share and learn from one another. In March of 2011, this unmet need disappeared with the creation of the Connect All Schools initiative.
In 2011 Ed Gragert, the Executive Director of iEARN-USA, created Connect All Schools to allow teachers to tell their stories of how they have connected their classroom to the world. His ambitious goal is that all schools in the United States will be connected with a school abroad by the year 2016. He began by working with the US Department of Education and the US State Department to convert existing data into a usable database of every school in the US. Next, Mr. Gragert and iEARN brought together 100 incredible organizations that connect students to the world through exchanges, video-conferencing, on-line collaboration, global curriculums, world language instruction, and culture treks.
The resulting platform is a place where educators can share what they are doing on a school level to bring the world to their classroom. Teachers can find examples to replicate and organizations that will help them as they read others’ stories. Everyone is invited to visit Connect All Schools and create a log-in, find their US school location on the map, and post their story, videos, texts, photos, and links for others. Parents are invited to share as well, and encourage their schools to internationalize their curriculum. While this project started using the database of US schools, people from around the world can benefit by reading the stories and implementing the ideas at their schools. In addition, separate projects are in the works to develop similar databases of schools in Ireland and Australia.
Do you have an exciting project your school has done to increase global awareness? Or are you looking for ideas to do so? Visit their web site today for more information.