Globalized Learning Spaces

After Thanksgiving dinner this past year, my father looked around at all of the family members deeply engaged in their devices and said, “I miss the days when people used to have conversations.” My 16-year-old niece, Reagan, looked up from her device briefly and said, “what do you mean?” My father replied, “Well it used to be that when people were in a room together they talked to each other… and now look at us. everyone on their devices…” My niece, in all innocence, holds up her phone and says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m having a conversation with four people right now!”

I absolutely LOVED this response, not because I want family to be disconnected from one another by technology, but because that simple response encapsulates how differently the youth of today experience the world. The students in today’s classrooms may sometimes seem like alien life forms, and in reality, the world they are living in may just as well be on another planet as it is nothing like the world we grew up in. Your students may very well be the first Martians. But the Martians Classroom isn’t just about space, it’s also a metaphor for the future of education and where we need to drive the learning space for this future. How do we prepare this generation for a world that will continue to change exponentially?

For one, we need to loosen the ties between education and geography, and this needs to happen now. Expanding the classroom to collaborate with classes on the other side of the globe will prepare them to be ready for a world that connects work to global talent.

A globalized workforce is becoming the norm as industries are no longer limited to local talent. This will create a more connected and more competitive environment for the Martians in our classrooms, and it is something we can already see happening now. I flew into Orlando, FL last night and will be co-presenting at The Future of Education Technology Conference this afternoon with an ed leader from Switzerland that I will meet for the first time right before our workshop. We’ve collaborated over the last few months using shared Google Slides & Docs, along with Google Hangouts, from the comfort of our own living rooms. The future is already here, and globalization will continue to become a more integral part of our lives.

Business and industry that is no longer tied to local talent will create a more competitive environment for the Martians in our classrooms, and this is actually really good news. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. A competitive environment will not only ensure the right fit for the gig, it also brings out the best in each of us as status quo is not an option.

  2. With global learning spaces and a global workforce, cooperation and collaboration will be a must, whether it’s an international organization or a mission to Mars.

  3. The Martians in our learning spaces will develop a global language and communication skills free of acronyms, jargon, or regional references. Think about these implications! We will be able to solve problems without the barriers of language, and we will be able to capitalize on the work of others, rather than duplicating efforts.

  4. Efforts such as going to Mars will be an international effort, and will truly be the next leap for humankind, bringing nations together on a common venture.

What does this mean for educators? Globalized learning spaces. Fortunately, we already have some outstanding tools to make this a reality, and additional platforms will continue to be developed. Here are a few:

Mystery Skype

Join the global game with Mystery Skype! This tool helps teachers expand their curricula beyond their classrooms to international learning spaces. Two classrooms are matched and they must then guess the location of their skype partner by asking questions. Students learn about the geography, customs, culture, and see how similar students their age even internationally, while learning about what makes each of us unique. Skype has a database of teachers and classrooms looking to connect for this and any other project.

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Simple words (or complex) sometimes trip up even the most seasoned speakers and make it difficult to regain composure. Howjsay is an app that can be used to check the pronunciation of trouble words prior to speaking, and even identify multiple dialects if available, and how to translate and pronounce words in different languages.

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Google Hangouts Meet

With global communication and the tech tools that we have at our fingertips, teachers do not have to be the only expert in the classroom. Invite guest speakers from other areas of the country or world into your learning space. A few months ago, I was invited to speak to a class of students in Guam, over 6,000 miles away. But with Google Hangouts Meet, we were able to spend an hour together from my living room. Our Hangout was scheduled for 8 pm on a Wednesday evening in Mountain Time, and 1 pm on Thursday in Guam, which is Chamorro Standard Time. The students immediately greeted me by saying, “Welcome to the future” and referred to me as the time traveler throughout the call. How cool is that!

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Video Teleprompter Lite

Students are able to record themselves speaking while reading the words on the screen, but without being able to see the script when the video is replayed. Students are able to self-evaluate facial expressions, the tone and pitch of their voice, and can even slow down the rate of their speech by changing the speed of the script feed. This is not only useful for improving presentation skills, it’s also an excellent tool for students who are looking to gain confidence for video conferencing.

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TED-Ed Clubs

Join students around the globe with TED-Ed Clubs! TED Talks are created for a global audience, and TED-Ed Clubs connect students to the ideas of youth worldwide. TED-Ed Clubs organizes “Connect Weeks” throughout the year for students to meet each other on video calls, talk about their cultures, ask questions, and build relationships. Twice a year, TED-Ed Clubs invites Clubs from around the world for TED-ED Weekend events and to amplify student voice from the TED stage.

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Flipgrid Global Grid Connections

Digital pen pals, asynchronous video communication, worldwide collaboration… What’s not to like about Flipgrid Global Grid Connections! If you haven’t already set up an account, get on it! This is a must-have tool for presentation literacy.

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There are many outlets for students to share their voice with the world in this day and age- Periscope, Youtube, Facebook Live, Open TED… new platforms and apps are arising all the time. This gives more visibility than ever before and a megaphone for any of the Martians in our classrooms to share ideas on a mass scale. Presentation Literacy is a skill that goes beyond classroom presentations. It is a transformative, lifelong skill. As you connect with educators from around the globe at FETC, take advantage of the opportunities to bring international classrooms into your classroom. The Martians in your learning space will be thrilled!

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