Monday, November 14, 2016

Reflecting on Global Collaboration Part 2

*This is a continuation of my last blog post. You may want to read it before diving into this post!

Last post, I left off after I'd researched other global collaboration projects. Once I got a sense of the projects that were out there, I started brainstorming about a global collaboration project I'd like to use in my future classroom. Though I will be certified to teach K-6 when I am done with college, for the purpose of my potential project I decided to narrow my focus down to third grade. When I was exploring, I originally chose science as the subject area, but the final project I conceptualized incorporates topic areas other than just science.

Image used with permission from The Photographer on Wikipedia

The global collaboration project I envision for my classroom is a research publication (that could be a pamphlet, blog post, digital poster, etc. in its final form) comparing two animals from different areas of the world. Students would work with a partner from another region to identify an animal that is found in that area. (The global partner would work with my student to do the same thing for an animal found in the United States.) Each student would do his or her own research on the animal he or she is unfamiliar with, then collaboratively collect this information into some sort of project to report about the similarities and differences between them. Throughout the process, the students would work together to check the accuracy of the information found (because it is more likely that the student who is from the same country as the animal is going to know more about it, its habitat, etc.). Personal accounts from the student living in the same country as the animal could be included. Additionally, the partners could check each other for clarity, grammar, attention to detail, aesthetics, etc. and provide suggestions as they worked on their research and final project. This project would allow my students to work with others from all over the world, not necessarily just one classroom in a different nation. Because the students don't have to be available at the same time to collaborate, time zones do not restrict the students from choosing to learn more about someone and another animal from across the world. The projects could also be widely shared at the end via the web, as they would have to be able to standalone (since the two students cannot definitely collaborate at the same time to present).

This project would satisfy a few Iowa Core content objectives for third grade, including RI.3.5 (through the use of search features to find relevant information for their projects), RI.3.10 (by asking the students to read, comprehend, and draw knowledge from informational texts), 3.LS4.4 (through explaining the different animal adaptations that allow it to live in a different part of the world with a different climate), as well as a host of 21st century skills including 21.3-5.TL.2 (by using technology to work collaboratively) and 21.3-5.TL.3 (by using technology for research). The demographics of the students that I envision being involved with this project range widely; anyone could truly participate! It would be best if the students partnering together lived in regions that would have different species due to climate differences. Additionally, it would be best if the students spoke the same language (though, with a lot more effort put into it, this project could be done between students speaking different languages). However, because meeting at the same time is not necessary, students from all sorts of origins, races, ethnicities, cultures, socioeconomic statuses, etc. could participate in this collaborative project!

Image used with permission from picography.co on Pexels

There are some existing projects that are similar to my idea. Nature's Global Zoo (via iEARN) is a project in which students research animals that are native to their homes and create projects about those animals to teach the rest of the world. This project is similar to mine because the students are researching and sharing their knowledge about animals. However, I think my project takes this idea a step further by asking students to research animals they are not familiar with while simultaneously acting as "experts" for their partners researching animals that are native to their area. My project encourages students to learn about organisms they are not familiar with as well as promotes interaction between the partnering students.

Another biology project I found is Why should we care about frogs, and how can we maintain the biodiversity of amphibians in Madagascar? (via TIGed). In this project, students research the plight of amphibians and use Google Maps to show where the frogs are located. This was a middle school project and seems a little too challenging for my target third grade class; however, I do think it is important that the students comprehend where the animals they are focusing on are located. Perhaps in my project, I can require that the students show where on a map their animals could be found, as well as explain how far away that location is from us.

Image used with permission from BigNoter on WikiMedia Commons

A different but related project I found during my search is Zoo/Animal Centered Global Collaboration (via Global School Net). This project is actually a teacher reaching out to provide professional development to other teachers so that they are more effective when taking their classes to zoos. I hadn't thought about how global collaboration projects such as these might be posted on a website; I think it's great that these professionals want to share their knowledge with teachers around the world. However, I was a little confused about this project. The description states, "Your class would participate in a global collaboration with an international class centered around your zoo visit or animals in general." This is very unclear about exactly what the students would be doing and how they would be collaborating with an international class. Additionally, I personally feel that that zoo visit detracts from the project; any zoo can have animals from around the world in it, so zoos in different nations may actually have the same animals. How does collaborating with another class benefit this experience, then, besides learning to work with an individual from another country? I think the project I proposed makes better use of the regional differences between the students and is more clear in exactly what the project is.

It is difficult for me to know exactly how/if this global collaboration project proposal would work in a real classroom, as I don't have students of my own yet. I would appreciate any suggestions in the comments! I would love to have advice in case I do actually attempt this project someday!

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