TRUE Confessions of a “Global Classroom Teacher”!

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” 
~ Albert Einstein

What follows are my TRUE confessions as a “global classroom teacher”. Oops … did I say that? I meant “reflections”! Ahh … well … maybe this will be a BIT of BOTH!

I have JUST completed my SECOND year in a “flat classroom”. What does THAT mean, you ask? Well, for the past two years, I have been FORTUNATE enough to have been BLESSED with piloting a classroom blog. It came about innocently enough … as a way of sharing the connection we made, the year prior, with an NGO working in Peru. Along with my partner Tannis Emann, who was taking her Masters, we began to delve into some of the amazing classroom learning being shared through Twitter. Suddenly, it struck us … blogging would be a PERFECT way to share our Grade Three learning journey! True confession #1 … prior to that … I had NEVER given blogging a first OR second thought. Yup, you read that right … we were SHOCKED to discover that people had been blogging with their classrooms for YEARS before we tentatively began to wade into the water. I STILL can’t believe that it took me THIS long to discover the POWER of a learning with a global audience once you have flattened your classroom walls.

Connecting and learning with the world = engagement + deep powerful learning.

Connecting and learning with the world = engagement + deep powerful learning.
Photo by Global Grade 3s

True confession #2 … it’s not always easy. This is where the “frogs” that @iEARNUSA talks about come in! Often, you have to eat a  LOT of frogs, as @iEARNUSA so aptly says! There will be problems … Skype connections won’t always work, technology will fail. Sometimes your PEOPLE connections aren’t as reliable as one would hope. These are all FANTASTIC learning opportunities for our students. I like to call it “grace under fire”! That’s not to minimize the frustrations this can create, because these issues can ALL cause angst. But, as Einstein so brilliantly stated, “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” With persistence, patience, passion, perseverance AND occasional perspiration, the ENTIRE adventure is absolutely worth it. I will NEVER go back to teaching alone within four walls EVER again. There, I said it. I am a complete and TOTAL advocate for blogging with children. I firmly believe that the YOUNGER they start, the SMARTER they will be … responsible, aware, safe GLOBAL citizens with a CLEAR insight into what it means to be a MEANINGFUL member of the GLOBAL community.

There are SO many incredible books out there to help you learn ABOUT the world ... learning WITH the world DEEPENS that learning. Photo by Global Grade 3s

There are SO many incredible books out there to help you learn ABOUT the world … learning WITH the world DEEPENS that learning. Photo by Global Grade 3s

After all, connecting and learning with a global audience provides both you AND your students with immediate experts in the field … it’s like a global PLN, (professional learning network), for your classroom. Who WOULDN’T want that? This global connection, whether it’s from comments left on your blog, or people you are Skyping with, can push the learning within your classroom deeper than you could have ever imagined.

True confession #3 … it’s OFTEN messy. Learning IS messy. When you pursue student questions, you connect with experts in the field, you learn … and …  INEVITABLY … you walk away with MORE questions. Talk about personalized, meaningful and engaging learning! FURTHER pursing their questions and curiosities is where the passion, enthusiasm for learning, personalization for your students and deeper understanding comes in. It’s a WIN win situation. Again … who WOULDN’T want that?!?

True confession #4 … time will ALWAYS be an issue. For us, it was finding a balance between the prescribed curriculum mandated by our Province AND pursuing, in depth, our inquiries and global “focus”. From the beginning, it was ALSO important for us to model effective skills for replying to our readers … and … this commitment gained us some faithful and INSPIRING readers who OFTEN pushed our learning even DEEPER. You would be RIGHT if you recognized that THIS commitment ALSO took time. This was truly time WELL spent! Surprisingly, although there was amazing learning shared in each of the posts, even DEEPER learning frequently occurred within the comment section through our interactions with readers!

During these two years, my students and I have been TRULY blessed to interact with and learn from the BRILLIANT Ross Mannell. Although a retired teacher, this AMAZING man frequently leaves comments for children on their classroom blogs. When I say comments, this does NOT do them justice. As a matter of fact, Ross has a SPECIAL blog he writes to provide students with EXTENDED comments. IMAGINE my students’ SURPRISE at reading this extended comment … AND receiving a VERY treasured surprise in the mail … all the WAY from AUSTRALIA! Echidnas have nothing what so EVER to do with our curriculum. But, animals and life cycles sure do, and … you should have SEEN the fingers flying on our iPads, as students conducted FURTHER research on our new echidna! The excitement in discovering MORE about our new class pet, Spike, was palpable!

A SURPRISE pet ... all the way from AUSTRALIA! Photo shared by Ross Mannell

A SURPRISE pet … all the way from AUSTRALIA!
Photo shared by Ross Mannell

Although time will always be an issue … many, MANY skills can be woven in and THROUGH each and EVERY global classroom  and blog post experience. For us, having a global audience … an AUTHENTIC audience … increased our skills AND our desire to write. It was THRILLING to see students begin to develop their voices … and slowly gain command of “reeling the reader in”! Although our blog has primarily focused on issues in Social Studies … Ross has helped us to delve even DEEPER into some of our SCIENCE and MATH curriculum. I am SURE that, because of his thoughtful and detailed replies to us,  SOME of these bloggers may EVEN become GEOLOGISTS!

Scree samples from New Zealand ... thanks to Ross!

Scree samples from New Zealand … thanks to Ross!

True confession #5 … it is SO worth it. If you haven’t tried blogging with your students … do! I have NEVER looked back. Instead … I look FORWARD, in GREAT anticipation of where this journey will lead us.

It is NEVER too late to connect your classroom globally. Go on ... GIVE it a try! Photo shared by Global Grade 3

It is NEVER too late to connect your classroom globally. Go on … GIVE it a try! Photo shared by Global Grade 3

I wonder:

  • what is one of the most POWERFUL lessons you’ve learned through blogging with your students?
  • what are some of YOUR true confessions as a result of becoming a “global classroom teacher”?
  • what advice would you give to someone THINKING about flattening the walls of their classroom?

This blog post has been cross-posted on my professional blog: Professional Ponderings of a Lerd.


KNOCK Those Classroom Walls DOWN!

WAIT a minute … before you take that TOO seriously, PLEASE continue reading. Put that sledge hammer down … we’re not talking demolition … we’re talking global connections! That’s right … you can’t BUILD global connections without FLATTENING those CLASSROOM walls!

There is something SO empowering when students feel personally invested in their learning journey!

There is something SO empowering when students feel personally invested in their learning journey!

This month, our #globalclassroom chat will focus on the POWER of blogging with your students. We are SO fortunate to be teaching in an age when the SKY is the LIMIT with technology. Skype has become a staple in MANY classrooms. No longer are BOOKS our sole way of learning about the world … and, while relying on Google to enrich our inquiries is STILL important, we are NOW able to connect in REAL time with others around the world. This ability to connect synchronously and asynchronously, collaborating with other classes on the other side of the WORLD, has changed our learning FOREVER. We are NO longer just learning ABOUT the world. We are in an age where we are learning WITH the world.

Writing for authentic reasons create magic moments when your students chant "We should BLOG about this!"

Writing for authentic reasons creates MAGIC moments when your students chant “We should BLOG about this!”

Some things to think about PRIOR to our February chat:

  • Why is blogging a valuable tool for connecting and sharing global inquiries with a global audience?
  • What skills can students develop by sharing their learning with a global audience?
  • If you don’t have access to an NGO, (Non-Government Organization), where do you find collaboration opportunities? How can you find projects to join?
  • How can you create you OWN inquiry to share?
  • How do you fit it into EVERYTHING else you need to accomplish in a day?
  • How do you come up with “post” ideas for your blog?
  • What are some resources you use? Books? Sources of inspiration?
  • How do you address digital citizenship? Global citizenship? Online safety?
  • How do you attract readers to your classroom blog?

If you are interested in learning more about flattening YOUR walls and creating a global classroom for your students, you should DEFINITELY check out the Global Classroom Wiki and the Global Classroom Blog! This learning community is ALL about sharing and mentoring, and there are projects already on the go to help you get your feet wet or to continue to enrich you and your students’ learning journeys! TRUST me … once you START blogging with you students, connecting and learning WITH the world and no longer just ABOUT the world, you will NEVER look back!

After you’re done checking out THOSE awesome resources, mark the February #globalclassroom chat on your CALENDAR! See the times below … we’re looking forward to CONNECTING with you!

Chat 1 – Saturday – February 9th (10:00 GMT)

  • 10AM London, 3.30PM New Delhi, 6PM Perth, 9PM Sydney (AEDT), 11PM Auckland
  • Click here to find out when this is in YOUR timezone. 

Chat 2 – Saturday – February 9th (19:00 GMT) 

  • 11AM Los Angeles, 2PM New York, 7PM London, 9PM Cape Town,
  • 8AM SUNDAY – Auckland
  • Click here to find out when this is in YOUR timezone.

Chat 3 – Saturday – February 9th / Sunday – February 10th (02:00 GMT) 

  • Saturday night – 6PM Los Angeles, 9PM New York
  • Sunday – 7.30AM New Dehli, 10AM Perth, 1PM Sydney, 3PM Auckland
  • Click here to find out when this is in YOUR timezone

January #globalclassroom Chat Reflections: a HUGE Celebration of Collaboration and Community!

Photo shared by the Global Grade 3s.

Photo shared by the Global Grade 3s.

It’s hard to believe that the January #globalclassroom chats have already come and gone! The new schedule proved to be a huge success, with all three chats occurring within a 24 hour period. Although it was certainly a celebration, it was a powerful work party as well.

It was a WONDERFUL opportunity for participants to share their  highlights and SUCCESSES in a #globalclassroom as well as some of the FROGS that @iEARNUSA got us thinking about and sharing during the December “Eat that Frog” discussion. This specific “frog” chat was a highlight for MANY!

Several fantastic suggestions were shared for future chats and have been saved in order to guide our journey going forward. Please remember that this is ALWAYS a working “document” of sorts, morphing and changing with the needs of our #globalclassroom participants. If you think of a topic that you would like to see explored you are urged to share it on the wiki or to contact @mgraffin!

The #globalclassroom community is a vibrant, collaborative and generous one. People share willingly and eagerly. Even if you do NOT have a #globalclassroom, this is the place to begin discovering how EASY it is to bring the WORLD to your students, within the supportive #globalclassroom environment! After all, learning WITH the world, not just ABOUT the world, makes our learning authentic, personalized and meaningful!

Be sure to check the archives of these chats. Each contains a WEALTH of information, links and on-going projects! Thank you to EVERYONE for making this January chat a HUGE success! We COULDN’T do it WITHOUT you! We are looking forward to seeing you at the FEBRUARY #globalclassroom chats!

Come One, Come ALL … to the #globalclassroom January Chat!

Come One, Come ALL!

Meant to Walk

It’s a PARTY … okay … a WORKING party,  but a PARTY nonetheless!

What: Celebration Get Together!
Where: #globalclassroom chat
When: second week in January-ish (See new times and check time zones below.)
Who: anyone with a #globalclassroom or dream of creating a #globalclassroom … yes, you can BRING a FRIEND! After all, the MORE the MERRIER!

Connected Educator

Bring your #globalclassroom celebrations, frustrations, (or as @iEARNUSA likes to say “frogs”), questions, hopes and DREAMS to our January 2013 chat! By beginning the year with an open discussion, this will be an opportunity for people to share their highlights and burning questions! After all:

“No one is as smart as ALL of us!”

~Japanese Proverb

Things to think about:

  • your favourite #globalclassroom topic
  • a highlight of your #globalclassroom journey
  • some of the pitfalls you’ve overcome in your #globalclassroom
  • your vision for the future, (hopes and dreams), for your #globalclassroom
  • topics you would like to explore further during our upcoming #globalclassroom chats


Join the celebration!

NEW #globalclassroom Chat Schedule:

This month, we are implementing a NEW schedule for the #globalclassroom chats, which will now run over one 24 hour period, starting on the second Saturday of the month.

This is a significant change, so please check which time works for you, and put a note in your calendar!

Chat 1 – Saturday – January 12 (10:00 GMT)

  • 10AM London, 3.30PM New Delhi, 6PM Perth, 9PM Sydney (AEDT), 11PM Auckland
  • Click here to find out when this is in YOUR timezone. 

Chat 2 – Saturday – January 12 (19:00 GMT) 

  • 11AM Los Angeles, 2PM New York, 7PM London, 9PM Cape Town,
  • 8AM SUNDAY – Auckland
  • Click here to find out when this is in YOUR timezone.

Chat 3 – Saturday 12th / Sunday 13th (02:00 GMT) 

  • Saturday night – 6PM Los Angeles, 9PM New York
  • Sunday – 7.30AM New Dehli, 10AM Perth, 1PM Sydney, 3PM Auckland
  • Click here to find out when this is in YOUR timezone


Chat times are displayed in UTC+0/GMT+0 (Greenwich Mean Time – No Daylight Saving)
To convert the UTC/GMT time to YOUR time-zone, please click on the event description, and copy the event to your personal calendar. Or you may calculate the chat time for your area with the World Time Zone converter.

Reflections on International Dot Day

Two weeks ago, the world marked “International Dot Day“, a global celebration of children’s creativity. We thought we’d share some of their creations with the wider #globalclassroom community.

Via @NZChrissy in Bangkok, Thailand

Via Govinda Panthy, SAV School Nepal – The World Museum Project’s Celebration of International Dot Day

Via Laurie Renton (@RentonL, Canada) & The Global Grade 3’s – Lessons from a Dot

And via Betsye Sargeant (@PhoenixSchool) we have a funny video & a great VoiceThread. You can read their blog post here.

Click on the image to hear Phoenix School students sharing their creations.

September #globalclassroom Chat Reflection: “What is Global Taxonomy?”

the world in my hands

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by wilmack

The September #globalclassroom chats proved, yet again, to be an engaging conversation around the magic of flattening your classroom, connecting with others around the globe and collaborative sharing by participants. Our topic, “What is Global Taxonomy”, inspired by the tremendous work done by Julie Lindsay & Vicki A. Davis in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, proved to be lively and informative.

When asked if there was a progression of global collaboration, it became quickly apparent that there are MANY valuable global projects taking place at all levels within the education system, at each of the levels within the GlobalTaxonomy. There is truly NO lack of opportunity to become involved in taking your classroom global, and this #globalclassroom community shares readily and willingly! Many of the projects are predesigned, “managed global connections” described as level 3 within the Global Taxonomy framework:

The younger the students in your care, however, the greater the intentional scaffolding needs to be. Modelling, focused large group experiences and discussions around digital citizenship, online safety, quality commenting and etiquette are critical pieces of the puzzle which must be thoughtfully addressed and revisited often as you strive toward “gradual release” moving up the levels of this Taxonomy.

The tools classrooms are using to connect and share globally are as diverse as our learners and inquiries are:

Children as young as Kindergarten are learning how to tweet! It is certainly inspiring to hear that classrooms now include such 21st Century jobs as “class tweeter” and “class photographer” to capture the learning which is later shared through blogging … gone are the days of the “blackboard cleaner”!

Skype is a logical, inexpensive and synchronous tool for connecting our students in real time, as are video conferences, live meetings and chats! The use of asynchronous tools, such as wikis, blogs, google docs, podcasts, e-mail, as well as posting to websites, etc., provide invaluable opportunities to further share our learning discoveries and to continue our learning with a global audience.

Through the tireless and talented efforts of @clivesir, each of these monthly chats are archived and absolutely worth checking out. Even better, this chat is held at three different times during the month, in order to accommodate as many time zones as possible. Although the topic remains the same for each, it is always interesting to see how they develop differently, as a direct result of our own differences in perspective and experience! Check below for the archive links to September’s #globalclassroom chats:

September 15, 2012

September 16, 2012

September 17, 2012 (still being archived)

These #globalclassroom chats, held the second or third week of each month, are priceless opportunities for connecting with others interested in flattening the walls of their classrooms. The resources, projects and conversation shared will have you bookmarking, favouriting and researching for WEEKS to come!

Go ahead … JOIN an already established project or create your own based on your desired outcomes … but DEFINITELY get your TOES wet! It will be WORTH it!

What is Global Taxonomy? (September #globalclassroom Chats)

A strategic methodology for taking students from connecting within your classroom to connecting with the world.

“If global collaboration were easy, we wouldn’t have to teach it.”

Julie Lindsay & Vicki A. Davis

flickr creative commons photo by noticelj

In Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis suggest using “a steady methodology for taking students from connecting within your classroom to connecting with the world”. The authors describe a taxonomy of five levels:

Level 1: Intra-connection (within your own class)
Level 2: Inter-connection (within school / district)
Level 3: Managed global connection (class to class)
Level 4: Student to student (with teacher management)
Level 5 Student to student (with student management)

The taxonomy is a progression from one level to the next, through thoughtful planning and gradual release. The strategies, tools and products will vary depending on the context, developmental level and experience of the students. In a school where global collaboration is school wide, younger children may end up being more experienced in global collaboration than older students in a school that does not have such a culture. For deeper insight into each of the taxonomy levels explored below, please see The Flat Classroom Storify.

There are many strategies for how to support and encourage global collaboration at each level. This blog post examines each level and how teachers can support, recognise and foster global collaboration though these taxonomies.

Within Level 1, developing intra-connections within your own classroom can be as simple as having students working in partners within close proximity to edit a class wiki or a collaborative document together. Gradually, greater physical distance is placed between the working partners. Soon, students begin to work across the room from their partners, with limited face-to-face interaction. This can be a very powerful way of experiencing the challenges that can come up when you are not longer working side by side with your partner, effectively mimicking a fully developed global project where participants work together across many miles.

As one moves up the Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds pyramid, students begin to communicate through digital connections. Within Level 2, inter-connections are developed between other classes within a school or within the school district. This distance provides powerful teaching opportunities through the use of synchronous, (skype, video conferences, live meetings or chats), and asynchronous tools, (wikis, blogs, podcasts, e-mail, posting to websites, etc.). This level can provide greater opportunities for authentic discussions involving collaboration, digital footprints and citizenship.

Level 3 provides schools with the opportunity to join programs which have already been developed, such as The Lucky Ladybug Project, Shoeless and Bark, and the Life ‘Round Here digital storytelling project, and is a “managed global connection”. Since these programs often have a predetermined outcome, often downloadable materials and prescribed lesson plans are provided. This level moves students out of the ‘inner circle” into communicating with others at a variety of distances.

The student to student connections which are “teacher managed” in Level 4 is the beginning of authentic student global connections. Julie and Vicki describe this as a “jigsaw” of activities. Students may have their own learning goals and, once students have completed their individual pieces of the “research” puzzle, they come together to share their learning with classmates. As the title suggests, the teacher is the project leader. It is their job to facilitate and direct the learning path of the project. The presentations that often go along with this type of project create powerful learning experiences for both the presenters and the audience members.

At the top of the Global Connection pyramid is Level 5: student to student connections where the classroom walls have been completely flattened, students manage the project and the teacher is on the sidelines offering encouragement and coaching as the project grows. It is this level of project which, according to Julie and Vicki, best prepares our students for “the participatory, collaborative environment in today’s work environment and will provide students with real world marketable, beneficial online leadership skills”.

The BEST place to begin a global connection project is by thinking about your learning objectives and desired outcomes, as well as the age of the students you are working with. If you have never ventured into this exciting learning territory before and are worried about the best way to test the waters, it is often easiest to start by joining a project which has already been developed. Believe me, once you try it you will NEVER look back!

What do you think?

1. How do you scaffold global learning from class to world?
2. Is there a ‘progression’ of global collaboration?
3. How does global learning/collaboration differ between younger and older learners?
4. How do you ensure that students have the skills and understanding necessary to participate in a global collaboration project?
5. Which tools do you find most useful for global collaboration?
6. How do you embed global learning in a school’s culture?
7a. Is it important that all students contribute in a project?
7b. If so, how do you ensure this?
8. What are some of the key ingredients of successful global collaboration?
9. What are some of your global collaboration successes?

Please join us for our September chat.  The sharing and learning that comes from these discussions enriches our practice and the learning experiences of our students!
Check below for the time that best fits with your time zone:


Saturday, September 15 – USA, Europe, Africa (17:00 – 18:00 GMT)

  • New York: 1PM (13:00), London: 6PM (18:00), Cape Town: 7PM (19:00), Bucharest: 8PM (20:00)
  • Or click here to find out when this chat runs in your time zone.

Sunday, September 16 – Asia / Europe ( 9:00 – 10:00 GMT)

  • London: 10AM (10:00), Singapore: 5PM (17:00), Tokyo: 6PM (18:00), Sydney: 7PM (19:00), Wellington: 9PM (21:00)
  • Or click here to find out when this chat runs in your time zone.

Monday / Tuesday September 17/18 (22:00 – 23:00 GMT)

  • MONDAY New York: 6PM (18:00), London: 11PM (23:00)
  • TUESDAY Hong Kong: 6AM (06:00), Sydney: 8AM (08:00), Auckland: 10AM (10:00)
  • OR click here to find out when this chat runs in your time zone.