In the modern learning environment every global educator needs a generic toolbox for connecting themselves and their students with the world. It is either not possible or more problematic to create viable global connections and foster collaborations using a school learning management system or tools such as Google classroom or Moodle. It is imperative tools are used that allow learners to jump over this ‘walled garden’ and provide fluent digital learning. It is the responsibility of each educator to be aware of new trends and emerging tools that will support generic needs such as communication, community building, collaboration and co-creation.
Flat Connections offers online global projects to all levels K-12. For students in Grades 3-8 there is a need for tools to provide more privacy and additional teacher control while younger students learn digital citizenship skills through their online interactions. This is where Edmodo comes in – the tool that is widely used to support global connections and rich learning experiences.
Let’s explore three ways that Edmodo enables online global collaborative learning. To discover additional tools and tips for global projects, join me and your fellow teachers at the #Edmodoglobal Twitter Chat on Thursday, June 16th from 7 to 8 PM EST (4 to 5 PM PST) titled The Global Educator.
- Build an online community to support global learning. One challenge a global educator has is to support the learning community in positive global engagement that is customized to their needs so that everyone feels comfortable. Community development in online learning means building understanding and empathy through regular connections so that future collaborative work can take place. Edmodo provides the platform for private, teacher-managed interactions through flexible discussion forums. For many students joining a global project and accessing Edmodo may be their first real experience developing a digital footprint. There is scope for avatar building and personal introductions, or what we call in Flat Connections ‘digital handshakes’, through simply posting a note/comment. Student empathy with others is encouraged by co-commenting, asking questions and sharing ideas within the discussion forum format. Co-teachers in the Edmodo group can moderate, interact and encourage conversations.
- Create sub-groups for collaborative teamwork. Sub-groups are a great way to divide students into teams. Start with creating a ‘Teacher sub-group’. This will then give all teachers a place to go and discuss the project ‘away from the students’ and to share updates and resources. Edmodo provides easy access to group formation so that each classroom teacher can place their own students into the groups required. Students can then have private conversations within the specific group. All teachers are in every group by default. Flat Connections teachers have found that effective global projects build teams of up to 10 students, preferably 6-7. Any more than this and the collaborative work becomes messy and individual voices are not heard as strongly. Within the sub-group it is also a good idea for teacher or student leaders to ‘pin’ a post at the top. This way students have direction and maybe some resources to support their group focus.
- Share ideas and multimedia while co-creating artefacts through regular asynchronous contributions. The goal of online global collaborative learning is that it is collaborative and not just ‘show and tell’. In smaller teams students can ideate on essential concepts, such as global issues with the ‘A Week in the Life’ project, or global digital citizenship practices with the ‘Digiteen’ project. They can also share multimedia through the Edmodo interface by uploading images and linking to external media. One good approach is to link to other supportive tools through the Edmodo group, while continuing to discuss and collaborate within Edmodo. So Edmodo becomes the ‘base’, with links out to other collaborative tools such as Popplet, Padlet or Google docs. The concept and practice of asynchronous contributions is very important here in a global context. Regular and reliable contributions keep the collaborative work alive and growing. Knowing that global partners are in a different time zone and contributing at ‘odd’ times is an important global competency easily supported through Edmodo.
As online global collaborative objectives are implemented into your learning environment remember that planning and management of these experiences is vital for student engagement and project success. The momentum for global collaborations that support ‘learning with’ rather than ‘learning about’ is building in exciting ways. Are you and your students part of this yet?
Julie Lindsay is an online global collaboration leader and Founder of Flat Connections. She is also the President of the ISTE Global Collaboration Network and author of the new book ‘The Global Educator: Leveraging technology for collaborative learning and teaching’, published by ISTE, available July 2016. You can follow her at @julielindsay and @flatconnections and read her blog at http://www.julielindsay.net.