At our Innovative Teachers events around the world, we're seeing more and more teachers guide their pupils on a journey that takes them beyond their classroom, school - even their country - by connecting them with another school somewhere else in the world. I've seen a school in Sweden connect with a school in Madagascar to study animals and the environment, a school in Germany and a school in Greece link their English classes through MSN Messenger, and I've even seen two schools in far-flung corners of Australia set up a distance-tutoring programme. In every instance, this kind of work motivates the learners and manages to teach them much more than the original lesson ever intended.
I imagine it must be hard for teachers to set up this initial connection with a school halfway around the world - especially if the teacher hasn't been there herself. And once the connection is made, how do you insure that your pupils have a safe and secure experience, and that something productive happens from this interaction?
The Canadian organisation Taking IT Global has made all of this a lot easier for you, with their resources for teachers (called TIGed). Taking IT Global was launched in 2000 with the vision that "Youth everywhere are actively inspired, informed and involved in shaping our world." The online community provides opportunities for learning, skills-building, cross-cultural awareness and self-development using the latest Web 2.0 technology. In their nine years of existence, TIG have reached over 10 million young people in every country in the world.
The educator-focused resources at TIGed give teachers ideas as to how to harness the power of this vast student community for use in the classroom. There are country-specific communities (there's one for the UK), lesson plans created by teachers using TIG in school, case studies describing how teachers have connected their classrooms, and more. Partners have created "Thematic Classrooms" around topics like global food issues, tobacco control, and HIV/Aids where you can connect your pupils to classrooms in other countries to discuss these issues. With nearly 1000 schools and 1500 classes from 72 countries around the world on the TIGed site, you're bound to find something that works for you.
Let us know what you find and how you're using it.