How To Connect with Other Classes Around the World Through Blogging

Global collaboration and how to make connections with other classes through blogging | Kathleen Morris | Primary Tech

This post was first published in 2011 and updated in June, 2018.

One of the things I love most about blogging with students is the opportunity for global collaboration.

When I first began blogging with my grade three class in 2008, I didn’t even think about the possibility of connecting with other classes. Around six months into our blogging journey, we began to cross paths with other teachers and students around the world.

One of the first connections we made was with Linda Yollis and her third grade class in California. This connection began with a simple comment and a song!

First comment that Linda Yollis left on Kathleen Morris' blog

Photo courtesy Linda Yollis
A student and his sister meet Mrs Yollis! Photo courtesy Linda Yollis

There have been so many highlights from my connection with Linda Yollis and her class. We’ve worked on many collaborative projects together, met in person when we presented at ISTE, and two of my students even visited Mrs Yollis’ class on separate occasions.

Aside from Mrs Yollis’ class, my students have had the chance to connect with others from all parts of the world. This has been through regular commenting interactions on our blog, or more structured global projects.

The Importance of Global Competency

Work is Changing

When I first began teaching in 2004, I worked at the local school and my interactions with anyone outside of the community were very limited.

Fast forward to 2018 — I teach part time and am also working with Edublogs which means I interact with colleagues and the blogging community (who live in all corners of the globe) on a daily basis. Perhaps this model is going to be very familiar to our students when they hit the workforce — combining local and international employment.

The workforce is certainly changing, but are schools reflecting this change?

Helping our students to develop global competency is more important than ever.

Teaching for Global Competence in a Rapidly Changing World

In early 2018, the OECD and the Asia Society released a publication. It’s called Teaching for Global Competence in a Rapidly Changing World. It’s well worth a read.

The report defines the skills required by globally competent youth and provides guidance on how to embed global competence into the curriculum.

As Harvard Professor Fernando Retners says in the report

We’re not going to educate global citizens by organising a food festival in a school once a year.

The report suggests globally competent students have the knowledge and skills to:

  • Investigate the world — being aware, curious, and interested
  • Recognize perspectives — understand others may not share your perspectives
  • Communicate ideas — verbally and non-verbally, with diverse audiences
  • Take action — not just learning about the world but making a difference

The report breaks down some of the reasons why global competency is a must:

  • For employability in the global economy
  • For living cooperatively in multicultural communities
  • To communicate and learn effectively and responsibly with old and new media
  • For achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Interestingly, global competency is now being included in the PISA test which assesses 15 year olds worldwide every 3 years.

There are many ways that global competency can be achieved, as demonstrated in the report. Having a culture where students and teachers can regularly connect with others around the world is a great start. Blogging, along with other collaborative technology like Skype, Flipgrid, Google Docs and so on, can make connecting easy!

How to Get Started with Global Collaboration

I recently published an extensive guide on The Edublogger that outlines a three step process to bringing global collaboration into your classroom.

I proposed three different entry points which I walk you through in the post. Check it out!

Three steps to getting involved in global collaboration -- informal, join a project, start a project

Tips for Forming Friendships with Blogging Classes in Other Countries

One of the biggest obstacles can be forming those friendships with other classes who blog and want to connect. While there can be some luck involved, just like there is luck in meeting people in real life, these tips might help!

DO

  • Visit Edublogs compilation of class blogs from around the world and add your blog to the list (Note: You can be using any blogging platform).
  • Join the Student Blogging Challenge which Sue Wyatt runs twice a year. It’s a great way to learn about blogging while connecting with other classes from around the world.
  • Work on building your own professional learning network or PLN. This is a must! Twitter is a great meeting place for teachers who want their classes to connect. (Tip: Learn more about building a PLN with this Teacher Challenge).
  • Show a genuine interest in blogs you start commenting on and work on being an active member of the blogging community.
  • Consider finding bloggers that are at a similar stage to you. More experienced bloggers can be great role models but they might have many established connections already. Perhaps ‘learning together’ with a class at a similar stage will be of benefit to both of you.
  • Hunt for like-minded educators. The teachers I have bonded most with are those who have classes around the same age group, who have a regular online presence, and who share similar teaching philosophies and standards.
  • Keep blogging relationships student centred. While I enjoy collaborating with other teachers, our core business is the students. Help students to get to know their blogging buddies, develop their relationships, and extend their learning.
  • Start small by getting into the routine of commenting on your new buddies’ blogs before delving into more structured collaboration or projects.
  • Encourage parents to be part of your blogging community and comment on your buddies’ blogs or attend Skype sessions. Blogging is something your whole school community can be a part of!

DON’T

  • Rush into finding blogging buddies before you establish your class blog. It can be beneficial to ensure your students know the basics of blogging such as safety, etiquette, and quality commenting before embarking on collaborative ventures (Note: You may be able to do both at the same time with the Student Blogging Challenge).
  • Don’t visit a large number of random blogs and leave a comment that simply says “please visit my blog”. Like all friendships, blogging relationships require give and take, and develop from genuine interest.
  • Introduce your students to too many different blogs at once. In my early days of global collaboration, I tried to have my students comment on and keep up with dozens of different blogs which only resulted in confusion for all of us.
  • Forget to think about other connections that are out there. Maybe one of your students has relatives overseas? Perhaps a colleague has worked at a school abroad? Maybe a family travels overseas and has connections you could work with. Look into the opportunities available with resources like Skype in the Classroom where you can invite an expert to connect with your class.
  • Give up — if you have trouble finding a suitable class to connect with or have difficulty finding time to develop relationships, keep trying! It’s worth it.

Conclusion

It can take a little bit of work initially to find those great connections but once you do, you never know where they could take you. Your relationship with a fellow educator might span over many cohorts of students.

It’s been over nine years since I first connected with Linda Yollis and just last week she skyped my class who are currently working on a project with her students.

The world truly is at our fingertips now. Have fun exploring it with your students!

What are your tips for forming friendships with other blogging classes?


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22 Comment

  1. What a great idea, a beginning to lifelong learning and the power of communication to expand all of our worlds. Those kids will GET the value of an education! Jennifer

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Jennifer, teaching and learning is so much better when we’re not confined to the four walls of our classroom. We love it! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  2. murch says: Reply

    Hi Kathleen
    It is essential that we connect our students globally as the global world will increasingly become their playground, workplace and perhaps business. It is great to hear what you are doing with your little ones. It is one of my goals to help my students develop a learning network of their own and both blogging, videoconferencing and virtual classrooms can help do that.
    Great to also hear you will be at both the Innovations Showcase and ICTEV conference and that you will be promoting this message further.
    I have also signed up for your session at the Showcase, but the web conference coaches have a stand to promote the use of virtual classrooms in education, so I may be tied up there now. I wonder why food is of prime importance in a conference! Perhaps it helps us relax, strike up conversations points, gives ‘good value for money’ considering the cost of attending conferences etc! Look forward to seeing you and hearing more about your great work with blogging.

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Anne,

      Great point about the world being our students’ playgrounds, workplaces and business partners.

      I would love to start trying out virtual classrooms – you are doing an amazing job there. There is so much I would LOVE to do – just need more hours in the day!

      Sounds like you’ll be busy at the Showcase!

      Good points about food. It’s so funny how food can make an event memorable. I guess we’re all foodies at heart! 🙂

      Kathleen

  3. Hi Kathleen,

    Fabulous post! This is so helpful for a new class bloggers who don’t have the insight of experience. Your practical tips for what to do to build a PLN is just as valuable as the tips for what not to do.

    Your post is at such a good time in my learning process. The other day I had a conversation with some students about blogging in class. One student said he wished that they went back to just pencil/paper and not posting. When I inquired about his this, I found out it’s because he wrote a post for the class and no students commented on it. I reminded him that he was the first student to write a solo post for the class blog, and that the other students were still learning how to comment, and weren’t ready yet… and then asked him if he were to write a solo post again, what he thought might happen at this point… His response was rather mature for his age. — Had I read this post (specifically about not jumping in too soon) and could build a time machine to go back then, I would have advised waiting so more in the class were ready.

    Another tip you share is finding at a similar stage in blogging to connect with. I know as I’ve worked with some classes and teachers who are new to blogging, I’ve purposefully taken them to blogs such as your class to show them fabulous models from posts to comments. They’ve responded positively and were able to learn from those quality interactions. Is this still okay to do this, or do you think it would be more valuable for them to search for those at a similar stage and they could grow with?

    Or, is the best approach more of a combo of the two? Meaning, let them practice quality commenting with classes such as yours, then after that hook and experience of success, steer them towards finding their niche and PLN?

    Thanks again, Kathleen, for sharing your insight. It is fabulous to be able to ask questions openly. I have so much to learn.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy Watanabe

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Tracy,

      What an interesting insight about your student being put off by not receiving comments. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I guess it’s good to show students that it is okay to make mistakes and if it doesn’t work then there is no harm done.

      I think I should have made myself clearer when I suggested new bloggers find someone at a similar stage to themselves. I definitely think new bloggers should look at more established blogs for ideas and leave them comments. I guess I was trying to say that someone who already has many global connections might not be able to “take on” another blogging buddy and you might be able to go further with a class that doesn’t have any blogging buddies. When Linda and I met, we knew very few blogging classes and we instantly gelled, collaborated and learnt together. Now Linda and I have so many blogging buddies, we always try to encourage new visitors however the idea of doing projects or commenting regularly on a new class blog might be a bit hard to manage. I hope that makes sense! So basically, keep doing what you’re doing and use the combination approach.

      Thanks again for your support, Tracy.

      Kathleen

  4. Miss W says: Reply

    Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks for this post. Being new to all this I found it very useful. I think the ‘less is more’ approach is something I should keep in mind rather than launching into developing multiple relationships with other classes. It is a timely reminder for me to slow down a bit.

    A problem I am having at the moment is how to keep up with replying to comments particularly those written by students. It is very important to me to reply to comments we receive, firstly as a sign of respect and secondly it will encourage others to write comments if they know they will get a response. For comments written by children I have an even greater desire to respond to encourage them to collaborate globally. The issue I have is that I want to include my students in this process. At the moment I read the comments out to them that we receive and then get them to help me compose a message. But sometimes due to time constraints I can’t do this so I just reply myself (and then I feel guilty!). Teaching prep there are limitations with getting them to reply to comments themselves as it would take them weeks to do it. Maybe I should timetable a period in the week, maybe after lunch that is blogging/comment time – what do you think?

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Sue,

      I can’t believe how many of the thoughts you have expressed here have been a problem for me in the past too!

      As I said in the post, when I first started making connections, I tried to keep my class up to date with SO many blogs that we were going a bit cross eyed! Quality over quantity, I have realised.

      I have had the exact same problem with replying to comments. This really is an issue in the P-2 area I think. Like you, I used to always do the replying with the students. Then I started to find that this is just not possible. We sometimes get 50 comments on posts now 😕 we can’t do blogging all day!

      When I first started to do the replying myself (in my own time) I felt guilty too! But I looked to (blogging expert) Linda Yollis and saw she always does the replying and realised it is okay!

      After spending so much time working on composing comments in Term One, I am now in a position where I can send students over to the computer (when they finish their work etc) to reply to comments. Granted, only some students can do this independently and I am still reading over their comment before they hit the submit button. By Term Four last year I had a group of bloggers who could do the replying quickly and independently for me. It was great! Obviously you are not going to get to that level with your preps though!

      I have also gone through the dilemma of whether to dedicate time to blogging each day. We used to not have a set time for it and I used to squeeze in blogging wherever I could (while feeling a bit guilty about taking time out of our program). Kelly and I now start each and every day with about 15 minutes on blogging where students can read out the comments they wrote at home, we can look at other blogs, we can read new posts and if time permits we can compose a comment together to model new writing conventions.

      I would definitely recommend setting time for blogging regularly where you can sometimes do replies together and doing the rest of the replies yourself (reading them out to students at a later time IF you have time).

      During writing time, you could also work with a small group to compose a reply from time to time. What an authentic task to learn about literacy!

      Finally, I recommend encouraging parents to sit down with their child at home once a week (or more) to read through post and comments. That way, the students will see your replies even if you don’t have time to show them in class.

      I hope that helps a bit! Maybe I should blog about this in the future!

      Kathleen

      1. Miss W says: Reply

        Hi Kathleen,

        Thanks for your quick response. It makes me feel better that you have had similar issues in the past. Thanks for letting me know that it is okay to reply on behalf of students. I suppose a balance is what is required.

        We are getting a lot of comments at the moment from students from classes overseas (seems they are doing as part of writing session) and I find these the hardest to keep up with and am conscious of replying in a timely manner so as not to discourage them.

        I will definitely timetable blogging comments and may even write a blurb on our blog that all comments will be replied to on Fridays or something similar – when I figure it out!

        Thanks for the tips, I will let you know how I go.

        Sue

        1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

          @ Sue,

          I forgot to mention – there are some times when you just have to do a bulk reply. Once again, this is something I used to feel guilty about but we sometimes have the same situation with a whole class of overseas students writing similar comments and Kelly and I have debated how to approach it. If time is short and students can’t reply, we sometimes do a bulk reply to everyone from that class. Better than nothing!

          I like your idea of saying you’ll do replies on Fridays.

          Really, we need to beat ourselves up less about all these replies. I have found a large percentage of class and teacher blogs don’t worry about replying at all (but like you I feel it is the right thing to do).

          Let’s know how you go!

          Kathleen

  5. Thank You Kathleen,
    I can’t emphasise enough how much your overall efforts relating to blogging have motivated and guided me. As we are all in different circumstances and have different abilities there are bound to be different approaches to blogging. That is one of the things I like about blogs, each one is different and when you find a like minded community then that’s a place to begin to develop some deeper connections. However there are some overarching truths and you identify these with great clarity and focus.
    I still find it very frustrating that local education authorities block so much. You tube, blogspot.com, even edublog.com and Vimeo! Some individual sites on application can be ‘whitelisted’. If ever the leading players could organise a request for open access, or at least optional access to the places we all need to use, I’d love to sign up to it. To be fair I more or less understand the You tube block, but there are too many wonderful posts that are not accessible in class.

    The point that you make about placing children at the heart of everything is crucial. As a new blogging school, this is often my hardest challenge and greatest worry. However for me it’s essential to try to get some activity going on the blog, increase the children’s involvement incrementally and through use and reference put the children in a situation where they are eventually choosing to blog, because they want to.
    We all work hard we really shouldn’t be beating ourselves up too much.

    Mr E
    Hawes
    England

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Mr E,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I always appreciate your support and comments!

      I can’t begin to imagine how frustrated you must be with so many valuable resources blocked! I can only hope, in time your authorities can be convinced that educating and not blocking is key!

      I love this “we all work hard we really shouldn’t be beating ourselves up too much.” and I am always trying to remind myself of this because I think I do beat myself up too much! I am always thinking the blog should be more student centered, our classroom should be more inquiry based and basically I should be doing better! I guess you want teachers to strive for continual improvement but we do need to go easy on ourselves sometimes!

      Great to share my thoughts with a like-minded educator!

      Kathleen

  6. I love the lists & agree with all you have said. I have now got a second career from commenting on class blogs. I have developed a relationship with the children so that I can be a critical friend when they post pieces of work.

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Mrs Skinner, I feel the same way. Blogging is my second job! It’s great to be a critical friend.
      Kathleen

  7. Dear Kathleen,

    Thank you so much for all of your kind words! I truly feel fortunate to have connected with you and enjoy working with you immensely. Together, we have learned so much and I look forward to the many wonderful experiences we’ll share in the future! Maybe one day it will be me sitting in yourclassroom or vice versa! ☺ (However, it does feel like you teach right next door!)

    Once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head with your topic! Global connections are one of the best parts about having a blog! However, making and keeping the connections take dedication and your tips are solid.

    Like you, I really recommend starting with a class blog, learning the basics, and as a group…try to make connections with other classes. That way, when students are ready for their own blogs, they already have a couple of classes that they know and there might be opportunities for comments that come about from those class connections. It’s also a good idea to allow students to earn blogs in batches. That way they’ll be able to support one another with comments.

    I love your tip about showing a genuine interest in blogs you start commenting on and work on being an active member of the blogging community. . That is one of the foundations for a connection. Friendships stem from comments that show a true interest in the blog/class. Try to make a connection to a post or add new information, and then return to see if you got a response. If so, continue the conversation or pick a new post from that blog to leave a quality comment. I, too, see a lot of comments like We have a class blog and hope you’ll visit. Here is the URL. A more sincere approach will probably get you the results you’re looking for.

    When I first started out, I hunted for those like-minded educators. I left lots of quality comments on classroom blogs, and I noticed that some teachers responded and some didn’t. Like in life, the ones who responded, I continued to visit and comment and before too long, we had a real connection. Like you said, don’t give up!

    I also love your tip about limiting the number of blogs you’re following. The Quad Blogging project is a great way to make deeper connections. If you try to connect with too many, it can get confusing and certainly time consuming!

    It broke my heart to read about Tracy’s student who wrote a post, but didn’t get any comments. Using Twitter and the hasthtag #comments4kids is a fabulous way to publicize that a child needs a comment. I recommend everyone read your wonderful post about using Twitter!

    However, I will say that writing for your own blog really brings home the importance of commenting. There’s nothing worse than publishing something and it just sits there. I try to use the disappointing experience to help encourage student bloggers to get out there and start commenting themselves. When my students complain that they don’t have many comments, I’ll ask, “Well, where did you last leave a comment?” and usually I get a sheepish look and in that moment, they get it…blogging is reciprocal. Everyone likes comments, but comments come from the relationships that you’ve built. Student bloggers need to understand that as well as teachers. I always say, You’ve got to give, to get.

    Finally, responding to comments is essential for building relationships. At the beginning of the year, I try to respond to the comments myself. Whenever a comment would come in, I would apply that old adage, “Have it in your hand once,” and I would immediately respond. I don’t do well when a bunch stack up on me. During our morning blog time, I would teach the entire class the concept of responding. I’d type what the students wanted to say, and anyone who contributed got their name on the reply. As students learn to type, I will put a “Hot List” on the board of recent comments. Anyone who finishes his/her work, can go to the computer and respond to one of our readers. Working in pairs really helps. Obviously, the “recent comments” gadget can help guide students to comments that need a response.

    Fabulous post, Kathleen! Thanks for all the support you give!

    🙂
    ~Linda

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Linda,

      What fantastic advice you have offered as always! I agree with everything you said!

      I thought you would understand about the need for sincerity because I have seen “We have a class blog and hope you’ll visit. Here is the URL” comments on your blog quite a bit. We both love to support new bloggers but we both prefer the approach people like Shawn Avery and Judy McKenzie took, showing a genuine interest in being part of the blogging community. They are now firm friends of ours.

      I have had the same conversations with my student bloggers (over and over again) about the importance of leaving comments for other people. It is just so important.

      I love your strategy for having students reply to comments. You always have an effective system for everything! 😆

      Thanks for your practical tips about forming connections (leave a comment, go back and see if they replied) and using the #comments4kids hashtag.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise here, Linda. Thanks again!

      Kathleen

  8. I’ve been introduced to your thoughtful advice about blogging by Mr. E (Hawes). My class started blogging this year first in class only about book club (books they were reading) then we branched out to the world. That site at kidblog got full and seemed hard to add to so I was doing a Flat Stanley project with a school in Australia that recommended we blog. We started with that school and have added a few others. I am doing all the typing at the moment since I didn’t want to get the upgrade version for students for a short period of time. Our school year ends June 10th. Next year they will do more of their own typing like they do on the kidblog site and I expect to get the upgraded version on edublogs. Your articles are great and I’m learning a lot from reading them. I still need to figure out what I did wrong when I tried to embed a Photopeach video. It wouldn’t work after I copied and pasted the URL so I did it a different way. It’s there but I would like it to show up like it does on our blogging buddies blog.
    So much to learn for both me and my students but we are loving every minute of it.
    Our site can be found at http://brendatodd.edublogs.com

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      @ Brenda,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you are finding my blog useful.

      It sounds like you’re off to a great start and making some wonderful connections.

      I tried to find your PhotoPeach on your blog to figure out what your issue was but I couldn’t find it. Just in case you’re unsure, when you get the HTML code off the PhotoPeach site, you need to click on where it says HTML in your post and paste the code in there. You might already know that!

      I hope you enjoy the end of your school year. Not long to go for you now! We’re not even halfway through our year here in Australia.

      Kathleen

  9. […] did you go?   Check out Kathleen Morris’s Connecting with Other Classes through blogging for more […]

  10. leahsharp says: Reply

    i love the idea of global classrooms there is so much potential for new experiences and learning in a fun environment. the tips you have given for connecting globally are great. I have just started a blog for art as i am the art specialist. so far i have students report and photograph projects and activities to share on the blog. through the challenge i am learning new ways to present things so hoping to pass that onto the students. We would love to connect with art students around the world but so far the flag counter has caused a bit of excitement 🙂

  11. Ashley Kelly says: Reply

    At our middle school, we started small. We had students post thoughts about WWII. Each teacher had a different topic and each teacher’s blog was shared with the other teachers so students could access comments on three different blogs and comment on each others’ thoughts.

  12. Cindi Koudelka says: Reply

    These are some great tips and will help take our class blog to the next level of connecting outside our own school.

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