Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Finding Global Partners
This past school year I had the amazing opportunity to Skype with elementary schools in Argentina and Spain. The idea of connecting with other schools had been on my mind for quite some time, however, I did not know where to start. I wondered how teachers found partners who were willing to connect with their classrooms. Then I came across Twitter which pointed me in the direction of a few global collaboration sites worth exploring. Here is what I came across:
Around the World with 80 Schools- The mastermind behind this site is Silvia Tolisano, 21st Century Learning Specialist and Globally Connected Learning Consultant. The idea is to connect with 80 schools around the world through Skype. In order to be a member you must be involved with or serve students from grades PreK-16 or adult learners. I have had the most success with this site since this is where I came across my two abroad contacts. Because it started off as a Ning and later switched to its current site, the community is rather small but quickly growing. Also, this site includes a space for blogs to document Skype experiences.
Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC)-This site has many ongoing projects created by other teachers and institutes such as NASA. Once registered, it is recommended to post a collaboration (a description of your project and possible dates) and update it. One of my favorite features from this site is that it includes a directory of its members by country. I have had success finding national partners with this site.
eLanguages-This site was developed by The British Council, which is an international organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations in the United Kingdom. Their goal is to provide a secure global online community for teachers who are looking for international partners and who want to share their projects and resources. Teachers have the option of viewing other’s projects, joining them, or creating their own project. Another neat feature is the ability to upload a wide variety of resources that include PDF files, videos, and links. Also, this site is available in 23 languages and you can search for partners or projects by country, language, or type of school (i.e. elementary school, middle school, high school, adult education). I just recently registered with this community and have found members from various Spanish-speaking countries.
Collaborations Around the Planet(CAP Space)- This site also provides many ongoing projects posted by other teachers around the globe. Although I haven’t had much luck with this site, it is definitely worth mentioning.
Some More Tips
No Cost-Creating an account is free of charge for all of these sites. Also, there is no service or participation fee for joining projects.
Profiles- After you have registered for these sites, it is best to update your profile with school name, contact information, grade(s), subject area(s), interests, and upload a picture. This makes it easier for other members to contact you. Please be advised that once you register, contact information that you include on your profile will be made public to other members.
Messages-All sites allow you to send a message to other members. Some sites also give you the option of posting your email address.
Email Notifications-Some sites(CAP Space, CILC) have email notification features that contact you directly when someone posts a new project. Others have the option of sending email notifications when you have received a new message.
Groups- You can also join groups within these sites that pertain to your specific grade level or content area (3rd grade groups, Foreign Language Group, Math teachers). These groups also help in narrowing your search. A great start would be to post a message on the group’s page (much like a status update on Facebook or Twitter) and briefly introduce yourself and what you’re interested in doing with your students.
Outlining your Project- For CILC, CAP Space, and eLanguages it is recommended you create a collaboration or description of your project. Be as specific in terms of: 1)Project Title, and 2) Project Details- the activities you want to complete, age group(s) involved, content areas to be covered, time frame(one time conference, two weeks, once a semester), and duration for each activity(50 minute class periods, 30 minutes). It is also best to list possible dates for your project and don’t forget to take into account TIME ZONES. Usually, these descriptions are sent out to members via email and posted on your profile (CILC, CAP Space) or on a separate Project Page (eLanguages), where you can update the status of your project. This section is very important in giving other members an impression of what you are planning to do.
Another effective way of finding partners is by word of mouth. Once I have established a collaboration with a school, I ask my contact person if they would be interested in connecting with my other contacts. I make sure not to share any contact information unless I have been given permission to do so. Many times, my national contacts are interested in connecting with my abroad contacts and that’s how we spread the word.
I hope this information is useful in your quest for global partners. I have listed the links to these sites under my “Global Collaboration Sites” for future reference. What other ways have you found abroad or national partners? Are you a part of a global collaboration site not mentioned in this blog post? Please share!