Monday, May 10, 2010

Global Cooperation

This assignment involves the exploration and comparison of two global cooperation sites. I chose to review and

Epals is a safe way to communicate, connect, create and collaborate with local, national and international classrooms. This site claims to be the world’s largest K-12 learning network; it is a project oriented site. The site has easy to navigate tabs for projects, teachers, collaborate, students, and families.

National Geographic is a partner in creating this global community. The projects are standards-based and concentrate on topics of global interest. It is extremely easy to choose a project. Some topics include digital storytelling, global warming, people and culture, and natural disasters. Once a teacher has chosen a topic of interest, Epals makes it easy to “connect to classrooms.” With a click of a button, you can search locally by zip code or go international by searching for a specific country. The world is at the teacher’s fingertips! The site provides forums for connecting to classrooms, on-going projects, and epals wanted. In addition to searching for an existing topic, teachers are able to publish project ideas of their own.

Once a topic is chosen and the teacher has found a classroom to connect with, Epals offers suggestions to the teachers for working out the logistical details. The site suggests creating a timeline and choosing the order in which the classrooms will communicate. There are a few pairing possibilities. Teachers can decide to communicate teacher to teacher by the class preparing one letter together. Teachers may decide to pair the students up individually or have groups of students communicate with other groups of students. Customizing the lesson to the specific needs of the two classrooms is also an option.

GlobalSchoolNet is a content driven collaboration. Science, math, literacy, and communication skills are at the forefront of their mission. Another goal is to foster teamwork, prepare students for the workforce and create multi-cultural understanding. The site is more overwhelming than Epals. There are several main programs including Doors to Democracy, International CyberFair, and Geo Games. GlobalSchoolNet claims to have the largest data base for a project registry. Teachers are able to search by “date, age level, geographic location, collaboration type, technology tools or keyword.”

The website is rather congested. The graphics are distracting from the actual content. The site is in the process of converting to a new format; this could be one reason that everything seems just a bit jumbled. Despite that, the variety of programs would encompass something for every classroom. I liked the Doors to Democracy program. The focus is “to encourage middle school and high school students around the world to produce web projects that teach others about the importance of international affairs and diplomacy.” The project is more of a contest and has a $2,000 scholarship as a grand prize.

Both sites focused on communication, connecting, creating and collaborating. GlobalSchoolNet had more of a content focus while Epals had more of a concentrated focus on global interest. I would be more inclined to use Epals. The design of the site was well organized. In choosing a project, these were columns reviewed: Project, Topic, Essential Questions, Overview, and Community.

If I were teaching in the classroom currently, I would use Epals to focus on a project on natural disasters. I would search for a community in Tennessee that has just experienced flooding. I would connect with them to provide my students with a first hand account of what it is like to experience a flood. This could be expanded to other areas of the world that have experienced floods, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters of interest as they pertain to my classroom curriculum.

I really liked the “Who We Are” project on Epals. I would take it a step further and incorporate this project with another tool that we explored earlier in the term, Skype. ( For the Epals project, the idea is to have the two classrooms collaborate on the question “What makes me who I am?” The Epals recommendation for this project is that “through email exchanges, students learn about the daily lives, cultures, climates and geography of children who live in other regions of the world.” I propose that the collaborating teachers of the two global classrooms adjust the project to include skype sessions. Students could email their pen pals but also have a chance to see them “face to face.” What an amazing way to bring international cultures to life in the classroom! Also, skype would be fun to use around the holidays. I could do a lesson on exploring Christmas around the world and connect with different global classrooms. The students could prepare a synopsis of their customs and share with students from other countries without leaving the classroom!

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