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How Tech Tools Help Us Learn Together Globally

11 Dec 2014 by Shay Moser

The new generation of learners is connected to the world via social networks and online communities, thanks to tech tools. Keeping them closed off in this place called school does not work. We want school to support their inquiry and their self-discovery. Students each bring something different to the classroom—different experiences, different cultures, and different learning preferences—and they are discovering how to make contributions that can impact the greater community. Making learning a collaborative effort empowers students to understand concepts in more robust ways. But, we don’t just have collaboration within the classroom; we have the ability now with connected classrooms to have collaboration on a global scale. When this happens, the world shrinks.

Let’s get back to presentations

Presentations begin with a curiosity and a topic. It is passion for that topic that transforms into a deep understanding and appreciation that can be shared as a presentation. Now, let’s take presentations into the 21st century. How do adults make presentations in the workforce? Presentations take place as trainings and meetings, many of which take place virtually. We hold teleconferences and videoconferences without hesitation. Let’s give those tools to students! Technology tools can support student presentations to a larger audience. Using a desktop, laptop, notebook, tablet, or even smartphone, teachers facilitate student presentations with MoveNote, Skype, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, and other applications. Students collaborate from classroom to classroom, city to city, and country to country. Students become active participants in society, applying interconnected ideas and demonstrating deeper knowledge of concepts and topics. They also advance 21st-century skills in digital media literacy, civic knowledge, cooperation, and building relationships.

Meeting standards

Our schools are designed with instruction toward meeting standards, but the methods are less prescribed. Take for example, understanding alternative forms of energy produced on earth. Teachers take this learning global when they allow students to work virtually to see examples of real-life applications of the topic, which then becomes learning through problems and solutions. Students explore subject matter across global boundaries, and team up with other students and experts miles away. Many websites facilitate this type of exploration, including epals.com and 100people.org, which supply lesson plans for teachers. Applying concepts to real-life applications, students not only remember the content, but they learn transferable skills for future challenges.

Measuring outcomes

Outcomes of collaborative learning are as much about the learning process as they are about the end result. Students may ask thoughtful questions or share relevant examples. Demonstrations of student learning can take various forms, and the assessment of this learning can be done most accurately in the form of rubrics. Sites such as RubiStar or eRubric Assistant are some applications that can be used to customize rubrics. Rubrics make learning a transparent process for administration, teachers, students, and parents.

Student learning no longer has to be confined by the walls of the classroom. Diversity and shared processing are the resources to global collaboration, and laptops and tablets are the tools to take us there.

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