I have a long personal interest in learning in this way because I had a teacher in primary school who set us up with penpals from around the world, and I exchanged letters with 3 of them (Japan, France and Argentina) for a number of years. It is hard to imagine now how I had the patience to keep that up when the delay between letters was weeks or months. I supsect that it was an ongoing curiosity about how other people around the world lived that provided the motivation for a child living on a dairy farm in the Waikato.
Recent technology has created an opportunity for huge numbers of children to extend their learning, their understanding of others and their world view and have a lot of fun doing it. So I am always interested when I see new ideas for projects being tweeted or blogged or publicised on places like the GlobalEducation Ning. I do have a few things that I look out for before I even consider bringing them to a busy teacher's attention back at school - which is all I can do now I don't have my own class:
- the learning- what is this all about for the students?
- does it look like fun?
- who is organising it? (I've been caught out in the past and discovered when we were all set up and waiting to go that the organiser started it as a way of them learning how to use video conferencing tools, and so we never actually got to speak because they weren't able technically to connect with us. Very disappointing for the children.)
- is it truly global or just a bunch of international school expats working together (I love International schools and taught for 5 years in them, but I want our students to meet the locals!)
- is this going to be a synchronous or asynchronous experience? To be practical it needs a significant asynchronous commponent, but nothing beats the synchronous for kids. Actually talking to, or being on a chat with, kids from somewhere far away and mysterious is fantastic.
- is there give and take in the synchronous, or will the time zones always favour the organisers? It is part of the learning fun to get up in the middle of the night and huddle around a webcam, but it gets a bit tiresome if there are members who always schedule the conferences for Period 2 during school at their end!
I tweeted a question about this back in October: "What is the biggest difficulty you face when connecting kids globally? Time zones? School term dates? celebrations/holidays?" I was surprised how many responses I got and a very large majority said time zones. In fact 100% of the Kiwi responses said that, and I supsect that is because our time is so out of kilter. One of the greatly appreciated touches in ROW is the table we all get handed with our times all mapped out so we can find our own and the other schools with a quick glance down the table. This is a much more inviting solution than being told to "Join us at 9.00am EST" or similar. Another appreciated solution is to take the time to look up the other participants' time zone and invite them saying something like, "This will be 12 am your time and 10.30 am our time".
I noticed in the last round of Rock our World that holidays and celebrations were a biggie too. Carol Anne organised a calendar of all our school holidays and festivals and on any given day of the project there was at least one school either away on holiday or having a short break for a festival celebration. I guess this was bound to happen when 40 schools from all 7 continents were participating!
This has been a very long introduction to Rock Our World - the Movie. In the second half of 2009 Pt England students participated in the 11th round of ROW. This one was around the theme of 'Tolerance'. As well as the usual learning experiences we have with ROW (all learning about a topic together, writing music together, and lots of video chats with each other to share the learning) Carol Anne organised a song that we all learned to sing and everyone videoed themselves to contribute to the final music video - which has now been published on iTunes as a song and YouTube as a video. You will glimpse the kids from Pt England and Summerland schools in it. Rock Our World! Song sung by students in 40 schools in all 7 continents!
Andrea Tele'a was the teacher who managed Pt England's participation in ROW and published footage and updates on the Ning. Student reflections were published on their own blogs.
This is how Carol Anne introduces the video on YouTube:
ROW is an international collaboration where students from around the globe compose music, make movies and meet each other in live chats! http://rockourworld.ning.com/
Songwriter: Stephen Petree
Sung by: Stephen Petree and the Students of ROW 11
Also available on iTunes! http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/rock...
Congratulations if you made it this far. Carol Anne has just announced on Twitter a new round of ROW....."What do you get when you cross Rock Our World and NIKE??? A brand new season callled "Walk Our World!" WOW!" Looks like another fun one to sign up to!