Last year I ran two professional learning sessions: one at Braemar College on iPads and Collaboration, and another at my school on global collaboration and creating global citizenship. Having only an hour and an hour and a half respectively, it was really only an introduction to the tools available. You can check out the presentations and the resources used at the links above. Resources, however, are only half of the solution. The other is actually implementing it in a classroom. Below, you will find information on how to actually make it happen.
Choose ONE tool at a time
There are so many wonderful tools out there to try that it can be difficult to choose just one. Some schools use Skype, others use blogs, others join global projects (such as iEarn). If you try to implement two or more tools at a time both you and your students will become overwhelmed. Research the tools that you are interested in and choose one that will match your school resources and your class’s needs. Once you have explored that tool, you can always experiment with a second, third or even fourth tool at a later time.
In order to implement the tool you choose successfully, you must know how to use it first. While you do not need to know absolutely everything when you introduce it (there is always room for learning with your students), you need to know the basics. Do you login with a class account or individual accounts? Does it work on the students’ devices? What misconceptions may the students have with the tool? Practice a couple of times without your students to iron out the obvious creases.
Include the tool in your planning
You will only ever use a tool if it is in your planner. Even with the best intentions, it is easy to forget the morning check of your class blog, or to organise another Skype meeting with an international school if it is not in your planning. School life will always get in the way of technology if it is not made a priority. As soon as you can make a connection with your curriculum or inquiry topic, link in the global connection you want to make, including any of the time you will need to plan and set up the task.
Teach the tool and the skills
When implementing any technology, the students need to be taught how to use the tool and the skills they need to use it effectively. There is definitely a digital native myth; you cannot just assume students will know how to use the tool well. Spend a lesson (or several, in the case of more complex tools, such as blogs) teaching the purpose of the tool and the skills needed to use it effectively. This will significantly decrease any potential classroom management and technological issues when using the tool throughout the year.
Patience and persistence
Lastly, just as when teaching anything new, you must have patience. This can be difficult with all the talk of students ‘just understanding’ technology or expecting tools to work exactly the same way every single time. If something does not work the first time, that does not mean it is a failure. It may just need more practice time, or the students may need additional skills. At the very worst, it may be the wrong tool for your circumstances, in which case you can always choose a new tool and try again.
If you cannot find another class to collaborate with, look in new places – there are always a number of global projects and new ways to meet teachers from around the world. There are a list of potential global projects here. Persistence goes a long way to ensuring your global collaboration is successful.