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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Free Sunday: Global Education Networks

Well, summer has officially impacted the blog! I am bringing you an overview of several global education networks two days late courtesy of a week of nice weather and a captivating book that won my attention for the better part of the week. So, without further ado - let's take a look at how you can easily connect your students with classrooms around the world!

Keeping with the global theme for the week (inspired by some graduate assignments, as well as the World Cup fever that is captivating the nation), I am going to highlight 3 global education networks that you might consider participating in with your students during the upcoming school year.


ePals

Retrieved from ePals.com 


A free global education network that provides users with the ability to create their own project or join an existing one. Teachers are also able to peruse classroom profiles and invite them to join their projects. A project workspace is created by the project leader once their project has been reviewed by an ePals moderator. This space has a variety of Web 2.0 tools including blogs, file exchanges, and a wiki. Both students and teachers can log-in and participate as individuals and as a class unit.

Strengths
  • Free membership
  • Can create project or join pre-established one
  • Can search for partner classroom rather than just projects
  • One-stop collaboration space filled with Web 2.0 tools

Weaknesses
  • Vetting process seems to leave an abundance of un-matched projects
  • US based network - creates an overabundance of stateside classrooms/projects



Schools Online
Retrieved from schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org
Powered by the British Council, SchoolsOnline is a global network for educators worldwide. It uses a comprehensive registration process to assist schools in finding partnerships for global collaboration for students of all ages. While several projects, such as the one described below, are available teachers also have the ability to create new projects and design collaborative spaces for global interaction. The network is accessible to both teachers and students.

 Strengths

  • Free membership
  • Foreign based network - greater number of global participants
  • Vetting process includes administrator approval - promotes follow-through/commitment from members
  • Offers classroom/school partnerships lasting longer than one year


Weaknesses

  • Extra pre-planning required to gain and submit administrator approval



iEARN

Retrieved from iearn.org

iEARN is a fee-based global education network that is organized and run by offices in several host countries. iEARN allows for teachers to submit global collaboration projects once a year. Projects are then approved to appear in the annual project book published by iEARN. Members of iEARN can then view the collaborative workspaces for projects and get involved themselves. The collaborative space is accessible by both students and teachers.

Strengths

  • Set catalogue of projects published annually (reviewed and improved each year to guarantee quality and purpose)
  • Fee-based membership promotes follow-through/commitment of participants
  • Curriculum-Integration Toolkit

Weaknesses

  • Fee-based annual membership of $100/classroom or $400/school


Global education networks can be instrumental in facilitating global learning opportunities for your students. They provide a real-world experience that is highly interactive on the behalf of the students that should not be ignored by educators. When working with the youngest of learners it can sometimes be challenging to embrace these types of projects when our students are still focused on learning to read and write, count, etc. But, it is also an important time to build a foundation for cultural and global understanding and awareness.

If you are still hesitant to participate in a global education network, consider adapting one of the many projects as an in-class activity (many of the projects have explicit lesson plans for this) or consider joining a project for observation purposes before involving your whole class (be sure to let the project leaders know you are observing not participating). Ultimately, for young learners you might find the best way to get involved is to find a project that covers a short time-span and participate in it as a whole class without worrying about each individual student logging on to participate.

No matter what you decide to pursue, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the number of projects and partnerships out there that are realistic options for the early childhood classroom!