Last week I blogged about Our World, Our Stories which is a new global project my class is involved in.

2008 was the year that I began blogging and also collaborating globally with my students. Since then, our experiences of collaboration have become more integrated, frequent, richer and self-initiated.

It is an amazing experience to see your young students communicating, conversing and learning with children from all corners of the globe.

What is a global project?

I define a global project as any sort of collaborative project that involves two or more classes from different schools/countries. There is usually a defined purpose and structure to the project. The learning is usually documented and shared on an online space such as a blog. Some global projects have a culminating event.

A common starting point

My first experiences with global projects involved my students joining pre-organised projects. When you’re first starting out, you don’t need to think of the project idea and find your own connections. There are agencies and groups that can do this for you. You might want to check out The Global Classroom Project, iEARN or ePals if you need a starting place.

When you and your students are familiar with the concept of working with other classes, you might want to think about starting your own global project. I have found this is very beneficial because you can customise the learning experience to meet your students’ precise needs and interests.

Here are 10 steps, based on my own experiences, to starting your own global project.

1. What do you want your students to get out of a project? As teachers, this is the question we’re always asking ourselves when planning new experiences. If you start with this question in mind, you will be more likely to help your students achieve their full potential. Clearly we all have systematic standards we need to be covering in our classrooms. Global projects don’t have to be an add-on. They can be an authentic and innovative way to teach and go beyond core standards.

2. Find teachers/classes to connect with. Twitter is my number one place to find a diverse range of educators to connect with. If you have a class blog, you might find this list of blogs around the world useful. It was compiled by Sue Waters to help teachers find other classes to connect with. When deciding how many classes to connect with, my suggestion is to start small and see how you go. I have found that the benefits from global connections comes from quality over quantity.

3. Decide on project outcomes. Discuss with the other teachers what you want your students to learn and document this somewhere (I use Google Docs when collaborating with other teachers). The learning outcomes may differ for different classes but of course would have a common thread. Sometimes the outcome might be based on making an impact in the world (such as our Ugandan Global Project) or simply based on student learning and development (such as Our World, Our Stories).

4. Come up with a timeline/structure. Once again, I use Google Docs to create a table that outlines each week that the project will run with ideas for activities/themes/milestones. Of course, this is just a guide and a working document.

5. Create an online space. I think of an online space, such as a blog, as a place where the classes can meet, collaborate, converse and learn together. Of course the online space doesn’t have to be a blog; it could be a wiki, YouTube channel, VoiceThread or any sort of web 2.0 tool. When using a blog for a global project, such as our Collaboration Corner blog, one teacher can start the blog and add the various teachers as administrators.

6. Regularly connect with the teachers. When working on a global project with other classes, I use Google+ Hangout, Skype, Twitter, email or Google Docs to stay in touch with the teachers. I find projects are generally more successful when the teachers are working harmoniously behind the scenes to steer the learning in a forward direction.

7. Involve the community. Publicise your project to parents, the school community and your PLN. A global project is a fabulous opportunity for students to work with a diverse range of individuals in their community near and far.

Research has shown that where effective partnerships exist, the quality of schooling improves, students enjoy more satisfying educational experiences, and communities are strengthened.(http://www.familyschool.org.au)

8. Be organised but flexible. The great thing about global projects is there is so much extra learning that is unexpected but powerful. I have found global projects work best when they they have a clear framework but also a large degree of flexibility to pursue student interest and curiosity.

9. Culminate the project. A culminating event can be a satisfying way for students to showcase and celebrate their learning. This could be a movie, fundraising event, song, Skype party, digital story, community event or art display. The possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of the teachers and students.

10. Review your project. Naturally you learn from every involvement in global projects. Be sure to discuss with your students what worked and what ideas they have for next time. A thorough debrief and reflection can lead to even more powerful outcomes next time!

What other questions or advice do you have about global projects?