The whole world
in your hands
Teachers who reach out to schools around the world to do global collaborative
projects know it’s a perfect way to dive into the Common Core curriculum
or just to connect students to the real world. If you’re looking for new ways
to help students learn about themselves and about each other, here are some
ideas to help you get started.
#1: Read All About It
|Pernille Ripp and her fifth-grade students enjoy reading with peers around the world.
“Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part
of something bigger than them and that we need to care for all people,” says
Pernille Ripp, a 5th-grade teacher at West Middleton Elementary in Verona,
Wisconsin. “You can show them pictures of kids in other countries, but why not
have them speak to each other?”
That’s why Ripp started Global Read Aloud (www.globalreadaloud.com), a four-year-old program that has connected more than 900 educators
and introduced Edmodo (www.edmodo.com) to 30,000 students on six
Ripp’s goal is to connect the world to a book she selects to read to her
students during a set six-week period. During those weeks, participating
teachers make as many global connections as possible, with each teacher
choosing how much time she would like to dedicate. Some classes connect with
just one class while others “meet” as many as possible.
“It’s really simple,” says Ripp. “Grab the book, find a class to connect with,
read aloud, and discuss.” Her students have used Twitter, Skype, Edmodo,
their wiki (globalreadaloud.wikispaces.com), email, regular mail, and Kidblog
(kidblog.org) to chat with their counterparts, who have included participants
from China, Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, and South Africa.
Ripp’s school is already using the Common Core standards and, as a
result, Global Read Aloud is aligned with the school’s writing standards. She’s
planning to connect with four other 5th-grade classrooms
this year. Once she starts reading, the students chat about
the book on Edmodo, blog about their thoughts and
predictions, and use Animoto (animoto.com) to make videos
of the images they draw while listening. Sometimes they
make Wordles (www.wordle.net/create) using vocabulary
“I choose books with social issues—last year’s was The
One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate—and it’s great
to see where the kids take it,” says Ripp. “They try to get
kids to reply to them in more than one-word answers on
Edmodo, which is great for starting conversations. We work
on conversational skills in 5th grade, and this is another way
to work on that.”
The Global Read Aloud is a way for students to create
memories of global connections, understand that the
world is much smaller than it seems, and see that children
everywhere are just like them. “When my students
listen to the same book as students around the world,
the world shrinks. They wonder what the students in
Canada or Australia think about the book, whether they
got as excited or sad as they did, and whether the book is
being loved as much as they love it. Now they don’t have
to wonder—they simply ask questions in their Edmodo
groups or via their Kidblog and discover what students
around the world think will happen next or what the
author’s message is.”
What They Use West Middleton Elementary
• Digital cameras
• Google Docs
• Google Hangout
• Video cameras
#2: Creative Connections
|Students at Van Meter CSD celebrate World Read Aloud Day.
This month, on September 15th, is International Dot Day, when more than 850,000 participants
all over the world connected to celebrate creativity and self-expression. Thanks to Shannon Miller,
district teacher librarian and integration specialist for Van Meter (IA) Community School District,
her students were a part of the fun.
“Dot Day is a favorite collaboration of mine, and it’s so easy to get involved,” says Miller. “We
started a Google Doc, made it public, blogged and tweeted about it, and invited others to join.”
Within weeks, schools from Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada had signed on. They
were asking things like, “Is there a 1st-grade class that wants to connect for 10 minutes at 11:30 a.m.
EST on September 17th?”
But Dot Day was only one of the ways Miller’s
students collaborated. Earlier this year, her
district celebrated with 21 other schools for Poem
in Your Pocket Day.
“Global collaboration takes planning, but it
doesn’t have to be a 30-minute connection,” says
Miller. “It can be as simple as using Padlet (padlet.
com), which is an interactive wall you can write
on.” In addition to Padlet, they use Google Docs
and Edmodo for this type of work and have even
written collaborative poems with other students.
“It’s more about the relationship and less about
the technology,” says Miller. “What kids take in
from others is the most important part.”
When her students collaborated with a
school in Australia, the time difference made it a
little tricky but they still fostered relationships.
“The Australian students had an early brunch
while we ate popcorn for an after-school treat.
Parents came in and it was a lot fun to get our
communities involved.” Students shared projects,
introduced themselves, and recorded messages
for each other. Thanks to Edmodo and Kidblog,
students continue their conversations long after
the official projects end.
What They Use Van Meter Community School District
• FlipSnack and SlideSnack
• Google Drive (Documents,
• Google Hangout
• Little Bird Tales
• TechSmith’s Camtasia Relay
and FUSE App
#3: History Comes to Life
|Clintondale High School students visited the Holocaust Memorial Center.
Seniors studying English literature at Clintondale
High School (www.flippedhighschool.com) in
Clinton Township, Michigan—a flipped high school—
collaborated on a Holocaust project with an Israeli
high school last year. The students in both countries
read The Diary of Anne Frank and discussed the
book using Google Groups. The Americans visited
the Holocaust Memorial Center in Detroit and made
a video. The Israeli students visited the Auschwitz
concentration camp in Poland and sent a video
and photographs. “We learned a lot about school in
Israel,” says Principal Greg Green. “For instance, we
didn’t know that they call their teachers by their first
names.” The American students also learned Hebrew
by translating their collaborators’ letters, and many
of them partnered up online to continue discussing
the readings. “Overall, we gained perspective on what
the Israeli students thought and compared it with our
perspective,” says Green. “The cultural pieces were
This was Clintondale’s first experience with a
global connection, and Green was so thrilled with
its success that he plans to do more global projects
in the next year. “We personalized the curriculum in
that class so that students can connect with as many
entities as they can to be better prepared for college
or the workforce,” says Green.
What They Use Clintondale High
• Camtasia Relay
• Google Apps
• Google Drive
• Juno by
• Khan Academy
#4: Cultural Awareness Kicks
|Yarmouth High School students check their blog for comments from students across the Middle Eastern.
In 2011, Amy Sanders, a social studies teacher at
Yarmouth High School in Yarmouth, Maine, wanted
to connect her juniors and seniors to the real story of
the protest movements in her elective class on Middle
Eastern studies. She turned to her district’s tech
integrator, Alice Barr, for assistance. “Amy had been
to Egypt and met some teachers there who wanted to
collaborate, so that’s where we started,” says Barr.
The idea behind Project Arab Spring was for students
to do research and share information on their countries,
so Barr created an open Google Doc and invited students
from Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Bahrain to
connect. Students could participate anonymously, which
worked out well for the Egyptian and Tunisian students
who had security concerns.
Students contributed to the Google Doc, then posted on a blog
(arabspringcomments.blogspot.com) and asked for comments to see if
the general public would weigh in. “It was a little bit tricky because of the
protesting, but we did get a few responses,” says Barr. “We learned that our
students wanted to know what was really going on and to have real people talk
Because the Middle East is so different from the U.S., the project was
an eye opener for the American students to learn about religious and
cultural differences. It was also a nice way to promote global citizenship and
Common Core Standards addressed:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support
analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting
insights gained from specific details to an understanding
of the text as a whole.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the
central ideas or information of a primary or secondary
source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear
the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions
or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence,
acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of
view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims,
reasoning, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and
evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse
sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea
or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
What They Use Yarmouth High
• Google Apps for Education
• Google Docs
• Google Forms
#5: Discovering a Love of Literature
|Hartman’s students made videos about themselves for their collaborators.
Danielle Hartman describes herself as a highly experimental
teacher, so when she and her colleagues at the Burlington County
(NJ) Institute of Technology rewrote the curriculum to tie in with
the Common Core standards, they added a lot of project-based work.
For a unit on cultural awareness (www.bcitawareness.weebly.com) in
her contemporary world literature course, she decided to let students
collaborate. She was eager to see which country her sophomore
students would choose, and they surprised her by selecting Italy.
Hartman turned to ePals—the social network she uses for all of her
collaborative projects—and found an English teacher in Italy. To get
started, the students introduced themselves via iMovies. Next, they read
contemporary Italian literature and used Google Hangouts to discuss
how culture affects perspective, writing, and point of view. They also used TodaysMeet (todaysmeet.com), a closed chat room, and
Weebly (www.weebly.com), to blog together. “It went so well that we are going to Italy and they are visiting us,” says Hartman. “Their
school has money in the budget, but we’ll be doing lots of fundraisers to pay for our plane tickets.”
Hartman says ePals is the perfect platform for getting started. “It’s safe and secure, and I can monitor their emails,” she says
“I’ve used PenPal News, Skype, and other methods, but ePals has always worked the best. You may have to do a little legwork to find
partners but the opportunities are there.”
Common Core Standards addressed:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a
wide reading of world literature.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse
partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
What They Use
• Google Apps
• Google Hangouts