Building Global Partnerships – Part 1: Finding Connections

A little while ago, we came across a thought provoking blog post from Jennifer Klein, exploring the sometimes complicated, but rewarding world of global connections and collaboration. With Jennifer’s permission, we are re-publishing the post as a series over the next month or so, with the intention of starting a conversation with the wider #globalclassroom community. We hope you will take the time to read through, and share your answers to our reflection questions in the comments below.

This originally appeared (in its entirety) here – Global Partnerships: Strategies for Connecting your Classroom with the World

Copyright Shutterstock. Used under license.

Copyright Shutterstock. Used under license.

PART 1

Teachers trying to globalize their practice often ask me how to develop a successful, socially responsible collaboration with a teacher, classroom or sister school elsewhere in the world.  To be honest, I’ve been frustrated by how many potentially excellent partnerships I’ve seen tank over the last few years, so I no longer promise anything beyond making introductions and sharing strategies.  There is no magic wand in this work–there is a lot of trial and error, a lot of struggling and risk, and a lot of work involved in building a successful global educational partnership.

But there’s also no question that students are moved by real human connections more than anything else we do in our increasingly global classrooms, so it’s worth trying to bring authentic partnerships into that mix.  In this article, I’ll explore a few strategies which I hope might help educators build their own partnerships successfully, though I hesitate to suggest that I’ve figured out the perfect formula–I hope readers will share their insights in the comments as well.

Look first to existing networks, relationships and organizations for your ideal global partner.  

Finding a good partner teacher, classroom and even sister school community can be much more of a crap shoot than most global educators would like to admit.  Even wonderful, established organizations like iEARN and TakingITGlobal–and well-developed programs for partnership like Flat ConnectionsChallenge 20/20 and Global Partners Junior–have plenty of train wrecks in their track record.  The bottom line is that it’s hard to develop a deep and collaborative relationship with colleagues in our own buildings, much less with unknown strangers across the planet.

I’ve found that the best partnerships come from existing connections in the teacher’s life and extended community.  Have any of your former colleagues moved to work in schools in other parts of the world?  Did any college friends end up doing unusual work globally?  Have current colleagues taught abroad or do they know people who are doing so now?  These questions can lead to much more personal, individualized connections–and are more likely to succeed because they will more likely spring from the vested interest of both educators.

I also know plenty of educators who have found good partners by advertising under the #globaled and #globalclassroom hash tags on Twitter, however–my point is just that deep collaboration requires full investment on both sides, and this isn’t easy to find.  In terms of finding like-minded educators, I love the yearly online Global Education Conference, and its year-round community network hosted by Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon.  The conference community functions as a Professional Learning Network, offering a forum throughout the year for seeking global partners and sharing project ideas, and the conference itself often leads to new connections and collaborations (recordings of previous years’ sessions are available on the community pages).  Similarly, international webinars and e-courses such as the one I teach for TakingITGlobal for Educators can be an ideal forum for developing projects, getting feedback on project ideas, and finding a global partner with similar interests.

Establish your partnership based on socially responsible and culturally responsive foundations.  

One of my biggest concerns about global education is the tendency of educators in the developed world to see the rest of the world as something to be explored for the sake of their own curriculum.  There’s a level of exploitation suggested in this common paradigm, if not intended, which leaves one partner classroom working for the benefit of the other.  Mutual benefit and opportunity is key to a socially responsible and culturally responsive partnership, and this requires that both educators come to the table with an empty plate.  What I mean is that educators need to approach their partners as equals, with a willingness to start the conversation without too much of their own personal agenda, with a curiosity about the needs and interests of the other teacher.  The best partnerships grow out of collaborative, equal dialogue between educators–and students.  Furthermore, mutually beneficial projects, such as having both communities work on a problem they share, can go a long way to helping our students see that global education isn’t about saving or even helping others so much as collaborating toward a better world for everyone through the gifts each person brings to the table.

Educational consultant and friend Tim Kubik and I wrote on the topic of avoiding exploitative, even imperialistic forms of global partnering in a simultaneous blog posting in Fall 2012.  We agreed that the biggest danger of global education is the emerging paradigm of developed schools exploiting less-developed communities for their educational advantage in a way which dehumanizes the less developed by suggesting they don’t have as much to offer a global collaboration (see Tim’s “Global Education as THE Dialogue Among Civilizations” and my “Our Messy World: Learning From and With, Not About”).  If we want students to stop “othering” and start seeing the world’s cultures as possessing a richness and history we can learn from and engage with, we have to start by making the global relationships themselves more important than any educational or curricular agenda.

Partner your classroom for the sake of authentic connection over “exotic” cultural differences or distance.  

It’s important to notice–and avoid–an “exoticism” mentality if it starts to emerge.  I often work with educators, for example, who insist on finding a global partner from the most distant and/or culturally different country possible, usually in the developing world–not because it’s relevant to their curriculum but because it feels more exotic or “gritty” than partnering with a Canadian school, for example.  However, this mentality can often exacerbate social inequalities rather than combatting ideas about “the West and the Rest,” and in doing so can end in projects which go directly against the equal partnership goals of responsible global education.

Global educators can’t be blamed for wanting to develop something unique and far reaching for their students, but it’s also important that students learn about poverty and difficulty in our own societies.  The “glocal” education movement asks us to consider important global questions on a local level:  Could your students learn as much about collaborating to end poverty by partnering with a food bank in your own city?  Could they connect to ancient cultures and reach the same level of inter-cultural skills and relationships through a trip to the American Southwest as much as a trip to Peru?  Most of our challenges are shared, borderless challenges, and understanding that helps students stop abstracting issues like poverty and conflict into something which only happens outside of North America–and in doing so opens new avenues of action and engagement in global change at home.

Reflection Questions

  1. What challenges and obstacles have you faced building global education partnerships?
  2. What strategies and communication tools work well for finding, and most importantly maintaining your global connections?
  3. How do we ensure partnerships benefit both educators and classes in the exchange?
  4. Can you share some examples of successful, inclusive partnerships which have fostered collaboration for a better world?

We look forward to reading your comments below, or if you’d like to blog about them, we’d love to share your reflections here.

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Posted in Global Classroom, Jennifer Klein
5 comments on “Building Global Partnerships – Part 1: Finding Connections
  1. […] Finding a good partner teacher, classroom and even sister school community can be much more of a crap shoot than most global educators would like to admit. Even wonderful, established organizations like iEARN and TakingITGlobal–and well-developed programs for partnership like Flat Connections, Challenge 20/20 and Global Partners Junior–have plenty of train wrecks in their track record. The bottom line is that it’s hard to develop a deep and collaborative relationship with colleagues in our own buildings, much less with unknown strangers across the planet.  […]

  2. I’m going to add my thoughts here, as this is a topic which is close to my heart.

    As many people know, I’m a relief / substitute teacher, with few opportunities to actually implement global partnerships in my own classroom.

    I’m the first to admit that most of my personal global projects have been one way, due to limitations of time and not being in my ‘own’ class. I have spent the past few years developing connections and relationships, but actually working them into the day to day reality of my classroom is something I’ve yet to explore.

    I’ve learnt a great deal through conversations and observation, and know that my future partnerships will focus on developing the deeper connections over time. I have seen #globalclassroom teachers do this, and flourish – with an enormous impact on their students’ learning.

    Perhaps the must fundamental lesson I’ve learnt, and one I try to share, is that global collaboration is about working with people, not the technology. There is little point in regular one-off connections, because they do little to support student learning long term. The relationships are what matter, and I look forward to helping my future students discover the power of those relationships …

  3. […] you missed the earlier posts, you will find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. This is the third and final […]

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