The Impact of Global Collaboration

As I embarked on this final leg of winter term at Seattle Pacific University as part of my Masters in Digital Education Leadership, the ISTE Student standard that I decided to focus on was Global Collaborator.

“Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.”

ISTE student standard 7: Global Collaborator

I chose this standard because it is all about empowering students to collaborate with people both locally and globally in order to open their minds to new perspectives and enrich their learning. Some of the things that drew me to the standard were having students work in teams and not just with peers in their classroom but peers across the globe even. I also really liked the idea of having students use this to examine problems, explore multiple viewpoints, and take on various roles as they work together. Something that came to mind though when thinking about this was how little I actually see this done in classes in my district and even more specifically in math classes. This led me to wonder, How might educators in math classrooms utilize community experts to broaden student understanding? What considerations need to be made to ensure safe and responsible engagement with community members? I know when bringing in guests we need to make sure they have a background check done but does the same still apply when collaborating virtually? I’m specifically thinking about math because as a former math teacher I know that this is often a subject that students don’t always enjoy. So if as a teacher I can find a way to make the subject more relevant and engaging for students I’m all in.

Digging in and learning more

To start my exploration of this I looked at several different resources. I really wanted to see what was out there as far as resources that teachers could use to get started with global collaboration and any considerations that needed to be taken into account. One resource that I was immediately drawn to was on the Digital Promise website. Through the Digital Promise micro-credential program they have an entire page on their site dedicated to global collaboration projects. This was incredibly helpful in that it described in detail why global collaboration is important and steps to take for designing a project. The page itself is broken into 5 different sections; overview, details, research & resources, submission & evaluation, and issuing organization. However if you are not pursuing the micro-credential then you only need to look at the first 3 sections. The research and resources section was the most helpful for me, as it has links to research articles and links to project ideas and other resources. The biggest thing is how global collaboration helps build the skills in students that they need in order to compete in a 21st century society. Through collaboration projects students are able to learn how to problem-solve, communicate and practice empathy. After reading through the supporting information and resources from Digital Promise I started thinking about areas in my district where I have seen some of this work. While I couldn’t think of a lot of examples, one did come to mind. A math teacher at one of our middle schools did a project with her students around environmental impact. Students had to do research, create a presentation, and then had to present to local community members including the city council. While this stayed local it allowed students to have an authentic opportunity to work with and engage with local community members in order to learn more about themselves and their community. As I continued to explore the Digital Promise site I was led to another website and resource from World Savvy has created a matrix that is focused on global competence. This was a great reminder of all of the different components that go into global collaboration. It is not just about the skills that students develop but also about the behaviors, values and attitudes that we help students see and develop as they collaborate.

Continuing to explore I really wanted to think about collaboration and its connection and relevance in a math classroom. While none of my research directly led me to something specific to math classrooms they all had various components in common that could be used in any classroom context. Global collaboration brings the world into the classroom and can open students eyes to the things happening around the world. Instead of telling our students that we are preparing them for when they go out into the real world, let’s tell it like it is, they are already in the real world and now we are just bringing that world front and center into the classroom. In any classroom and context we want students to be able to clearly communicate their thinking to their peers and global collaboration can help develop that skill in students. Katrina Schwartz in her article, 5 ways to inspire students through global collaboration talks about how when collaborating with peers from around the global students have to be able to problem solve so that others are able to “understand what they’re saying and if their writing is unclear, they’re more inclined to be more clear.” Schwartz also lists several other advantages to global collaboration such as sparking curiosity in students, helping students feel connected to the content through real world experience and helping students learn to be more open-minded and tolerant of differences.

My 3 Takeaways

Through all of this I began to see some themes continue to emerge in everything article and resource that I was encountering. The three things that stood out to me when it comes to global collaboration are the following; 

  • Empathy: As we have students begin to engage and collaborate with others we are helping them not only discover things about themselves but make discoveries about others as well. This allows students to open their minds to the individuality in others and helps build empathy toward other people. Students begin to value multiple perspectives and develop an openness to new ideas and ways of thinking. Inorder to truly collaborate with others we need to be empathetic so that we can really listen to what others have to say. Markham (2016) states that, “Empathy has the potential to open up students to deeper learning, drive clarity of thinking, and inspire engagement with the world—in other words, provide the emotional sustenance for outstanding human performance.” 
  • Start small: Students need time to practice and learn the skills that it takes to be good global collaborators. So educators should not be afraid to start small. Many resources suggest starting locally even starting with just connecting with another classroom in their building first. Develop the habits for good collaboration and then begin to branch out. 
  • Clear expectations and roles: In order to give all students a sense of involvement and responsibility it is important that they have roles and clear expectations. This could come in many forms, rubrics, planning documents, task cards, etc. Students should be given time to practice skills like brainstorming, decision making, and determining accountability says Curran (2014). The more educators can model this for students the better.

Continuing the Journey

As I continue to explore and learn more about global collaboration I am drawn to a few resources that may help educators get started in their classrooms. Some of the resources mentioned a website called PenPal Schools. This resource allows students to connect with students around the world while working on a collaborative project. Educators can search topics by student ag or subject and connect with other classes that are interested in that topic too. A great way to get started. Another resource that I would like to continue to explore is called Level Up Village (LUV), where their mission is “to globalize the classroom and facilitate seamless collaboration between students from around the world via pioneering Global STEAM enrichment courses.” While each course does cost money they are all aligned with the ISTE Standards and LUV provides support through online training for educators using their courses. There are so many more resources out there but these two stood out because of how thoughtful they seemed to be around connecting with what educators are already doing in their classes. I plan on taking some of these ideas back to the educators that I work with to see how we might incorporate some of this into their own classes. I am encouraged by how this can help students to be creative communicators and develop empathy. I plan on continuing to make the learning relevant, connect, and engaging while providing opportunities for students to collaborate and reflect on their learning experiences. I am excited to continue on this journey toward providing learning experiences for students that allow them to develop the “knowledge, skills, and dispositions individuals need to be successful in today’s interconnected world and to be fully engaged in and act on issues of global significance” (Digital Promise).


4 thoughts on “The Impact of Global Collaboration

  1. Well thought through and informative. I appreciate your viewpoint that the world should be at the front and center of classrooms for students to examine, understand, and interact. Instead of teaching theoretically about empathy, interacting with others increases the understanding of why empathy is necessary in order to collaborate effectively towards solving problems. I’m interested in looking into your resources by Schwartz and Markam. Thank you for your valuable insight!

  2. Megan,

    I appreciated your research into this! I chose to focus on the other standard, so it was nice to read about global collaboration. Your three takeaways were a great summary of what you learned and gave a focal point to your research. As far as math goes, I can envision students from around the world working together to solve math performance tasks or other challenging problems. The tools you shared would be a great step at getting started with this in the classroom. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I love the emphasis on how mathematics learning can be approached in this way. Very creative and an area that I think is ripe for further exploration and experimentation. I think your takeaway around empathy is especially poignant as it’s not an area that we normally associate with mathematics instruction. Additionally, the clear expectations and roles for students are so important. Awesome insights and takeaways, Megan! Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Megan,

    Thanks for sharing the Digital Promise site. “Through the Digital Promise micro-credential program they have an entire page on their site dedicated to global collaboration projects.” – This looks like an incredible digital collaboration website, and I am excited to explore it more. Also, thanks for sharing your “3 Big Takeaway.” I especially resonated with your start small takeaway. “Many resources suggest starting locally even starting with just connecting with another classroom in their building first. ” When I first started digital collaborations this is what I did as well. It was helpful to build norms and practice roles with familiar faces, and then work up to connect with a new class.

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