Multimedia Schools - March 1, 2009
Online global classrooms empower educators to leverage the power of social networking to create curriculum that is more interdisciplinary, more effective, and more relevant to students' lives. An
effective online global classroom brings students from diverse geographic, cultural, and economic backgrounds
together to share information, resources, and experiences, preparing them to become effective, compassionate
leaders in adulthood. The global classroom represents the future of learning, and the future is now!
This article offers a nuts-and-bolts guide for developing a global classroom, using TakingITGlobal's virtual
classroom platform as a model. It begins by describing
TakingITGlobal for Educators, or TIGed, and how it works; it then offers a step-by-step guide for educators who want
to establish or modify their own online global classrooms.
TIGed (www.tiged.org) is an international community
of globally minded educators, a database of global education resources, and a suite of online classrooms designed especially for teachers. Currently, the TIGed
community comprises more than 2,500 teachers at more than 1,000 schools in 71 countries.
TIGed was established by TakingITGlobal.org (TIG), an online global education and leadership site for youth with more than 4 million users and a membership of more than 225,000 individuals from 200 countries. Using
TIG, individual young leaders can create groups and projects, blog, share resources, participate in projects with nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and other partners, learn about events and opportunities, engage
in public policy processes, and more.
TIG's success comes in part from the fact that its tools were built by
youth (the majority of TIG's staff members are recent university graduates who are younger than 30) and are
user-friendly across many platforms.
In developing TIGed, educators were consulted in order to adapt TIG's social networking and collaboration
tools within a teacher-moderated online learning environment.
TIGed is a user-friendly, Web 2.0 platform, with the kinds of project-based learning initiatives and practical
tools that teachers can use. It is the recipient of several
awards, including the Tech Museum Award for Technology
Benefitting Humanity in the education category.
Since 2006, TIG has learned a lot about what teachers want, what students need, and how to build sustainable
global classroom projects. Much of this learning has come from teachers, students, and curriculum developers
who have shared their experiences. This feedback has helped in understanding the diversity of technology
infrastructure in schools and the core educational issues facing teachers.
HOW TIGED WORKS
Using TIGed, teachers can create virtual classrooms with the student safety and learning management features
they need. Teachers choose which tools to integrate into their virtual classrooms based on what is most appropriate for their students, learning objectives,
and projects. Available tools include blogs, podcasts, maps, digital-image galleries, interactive discussion
boards, live video chat, guest speaker access, online file space, and more. Bookmarks can be imported from TIG
or the social bookmarking tool Delicious directly into TIGed classrooms. Aclass-videos feature enables teachers
to feed YouTube, TeacherTube, or other online video service accounts into their classrooms.
TIGed is both a toolset and a curricular resource.
TIG often works with partners in a number of specialized areas
to create online curriculum that takes an interdisciplinary, interactive approach to current world events. TIGed offers several thematic classrooms, multilesson multimedia teacher toolkits developed in partnership
with other organizations to provide innovative ways
of learning about specific global issues. Educators can opt to adopt the curriculum or simply join TIGed and use
the online classroom tools to build their own projects and course plans that fit the needs of their classrooms.
By becoming part of the TIGed community, TIGed
teachers can also share their ideas and experiences, comment on best practices, connect with global educators
around the world, and receive online tech support.
GOING GLOBAL IN FIVE EASY STEPS
The challenges in taking your classroom global may include budget constraints and institutional resistance in a system where change often happens at a snail's
pace. You'll want to quickly establish a successful curriculum that delivers results, inspires passion for learning
among students, and improves performance. And it
needs to be a user-friendly program that engages both students and teachers.
Whether you are just beginning to develop a global classroom or are modifying your existing online classroom,
the following guidelines may be of use.
Step 1: Identify Your Needs
Your project goals will depend on the needs of your classroom, your community, the requirements of your
district, and many other factors. Start by creating a wish list and strategize the best ways to achieve your goals using the technologies available to you. Then, develop a plan for meeting your immediate goals and longterm
Case Study: Rural School Connections. Elementary school teacher Dave Meehan from Greytown, New Zealand,
identified the need to connect the often-isolated rural schools in his region. He saw the educational advantages of linking all the classrooms across the community
and used TIGed to achieve this goal first and foremost. Children from different rural schools in the community
are connecting online in a TIGed classroom and are currently working on an action project about the
quality of local waterways. Now that the rural schools in his own region are interconnected, Meehan's project has expanded to include
cross-cultural exchange between his online regional community of classrooms and rural youth in other parts
of the world.
Meehan notes, "It's really important that
these kids can find other like-minded youth so that they can begin to see themselves more as world citizens."
Step 2: Know the Technology
Your students will have a lot of questions about the capabilities of the online classroom. They will inevitably
want to try new technologies, and you want to be both open and informed to make your online classroom the best
experience it can possibly be. Try not to overrely on your technology team; instead, enroll in a short course or online
tutorial on the technologies you want to use. You may also find that your students are able to teach you a lot about new and exciting online tools.Platform flexibility is
In addition to your own school's technology, you will need to think about the needs and limitations of the other classrooms you will be connecting with. Lower-income schools and schools in developing nations will need to be able to view and interact with all of your content, or the relationship will soon break down.
Case Study: Survivor Galt/Survivor Uganda.ATIGed classroom
connected a class in Lennoxville, in the Canadian province of Quebec, with students attending a community
school at an orphanage located on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. Teachers Jennifer Meagher and Zimbe Moses took the time to create several online
classrooms to explore the capabilities of their students in the online space before embarking on an interdisciplinary,
experiential learning relationship.
When the Canadian class learned of the poverty experienced by the students in Uganda, they were inspired to
raise funds for the orphanage through an award-winning, 30-hour online marathon called Survivor Galt/Uganda.
The fundraiser worked because the educators were comfortable
with the technology, and it was user-friendly for a spectrum of browsers and connectivity capabilities. Your
program can truly fly, " notes Jennifer, "if you put your
structures in place and do your research."
Step 3: Recognize Your Students' Knowledge!
As Wikinomics author Don Tapscott writes, "the networking
power of information communication technologies has enabled youth to have powerful new tools for inquiry, analysis, self-expression, influence, and play. They are shrinking the planet in ways their parents could never imagine." (Tapscott, 1998: 3). With the rise
of so many technologies for self-guided learning, the nature
of authority (knowledge=power) is transforming. This can be a terrifying prospect or a thrilling opportunity,
depending on what type of teacher you are.
Case Study: Ayiti Online Game. Educators and TIGed chose
to directly engage students in developing a thematic classroom and online educational game about life in
Haiti. Youth at South Shore High School collaborated with partners Global Kids and Gamelab to develop Ayiti,
a role-playing video game in which the player assumes the roles of family members living in rural Haiti. Players
must balance various goals, such as achieving education, making money, staying healthy, and maintaining
happiness while encountering unexpected events. The Ayiti game is connected to a thematic classroom toolset, allowing educators to guide their students
through an interactive learning experience that includes
playing Ayiti. It is an example of a youth-driven project that effectively uses the skills of both educators and web developers to make the students' creative efforts a learning tool - one that speaks the language of youth while raising consciousness about global issues.
Step 4: Build Partnerships
Education today is about building partnerships within and beyond the educator's district in order to make
optimal use of resources and technologies for your classroom. Through your networking efforts, you can find
guest speakers who can share their expertise with your class, access resources and knowledge related to global
issues, and create innovative collaborative online projects that appeal to your students and make use of
the best in curricular development.
Case Study 2: The Orange Revolution Project. TIGed teamed up with TEACH Magazine and Advanced Broadband
Enabled Learning (ABEL) to create the Orange Revolution Project, a thematic classroom that explores Ukraine's move toward democracy in 2004 and 2005.
The project consists of three comprehensive lesson
plans, assessment and evaluation tools and rubrics, curriculum links, a teacher's guide, and an online simulation.
Employing the simulation, students stand in the shoes of various figures who took part in the Orange Revolution and see the influence of their decisions on
the outcome of the events.
Step 5: Make It Sustainable
It is crucial to provide proper training so that the program is easy to use, particularly for teachers who
may be resistant to new technology. An online manual for using your classroom platform is also essential for
succession, as new teachers become involved with global
Case Study: TIGed. The TIGed platform was specifically designed to be primarily do-it-yourself so that educators are given the background needed to use the tools on their own. TIGed offers online video tutorials and a user's manual
on a number of key project components, including setting up a class; adjusting class settings; managing lists;
setting up assignments; posting content; sharing lesson plans; and setting up collaborations between classrooms.
It is also possible to receive personal assistance by contacting
the education program directly.
Global classrooms don't just teach the core curriculum; they also teach the sense of responsibility necessary to
meet the challenges of the 21st century. War, climate change, and the current crises of public health and the
economy impact us all. Global classrooms bring out the best in our students, giving them both structure and flexibility,
independence and a sense of place in the global community. They are a cornerstone of the change we need.
You and your classroom have the power to be a part of that change.
Katherine Walraven is educational program director for TakingITGlobal. Her email address is Katherine@