International Collaborations in Education

Following on from the success of the “Working Without Walls” project I have done with previous classes, the second half of last year saw skills being shared with colleagues throughout school in shared planning/shared teaching sessions – CPD that I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed being involved in and which has seen the learning platform being increasingly used for learning throughout the school.

So it’s time to look at some ways in which we can move the project forward as a whole school – and so starts a year which I think is going to be enormously exciting for us! If you’ve been following my tweets recently, you will know that I am getting very excited about this weekend because I am off for an e-twinning workshop.

e-twinning is a great opportunity to work with other schools from around Europe in collaborative projects and one reason I am particularly looking forward to the trip is the opportunity to establish lasting relationships with other teachers which will lead to sustainable, planned collaborations.

Most of the international collaborations I’ve been involved in so far have been relatively spontaneous and have focused very much on what we are doing in the short term. Whilst they’ve been enormously positive experiences which contribute to the learning in our classroom and have been flexible enough to meet the needs of both the schools involved, I think this approach might scare some of my colleagues off!

For a whole school to be involved in a sustainable project, I can see a lot of validity in establishing some longer term links which are carefully designed to meet the learning needs of children in both schools.  It doesn’t preclude me being spontaneous – there is a lot to be said for a tweet along the lines of  – “We’re trying this out – do you want to join in?”

But effective learning takes place through relationships. Learning IS relational – so the relationships with other teachers are what I think I will value most from this weekend’s workshop. I think, more than anything else, they will be what will drive forward international collaborative work in the school.

So how does that affect my class, you may ask! That’s not going to be something they will need to think about for a while, you may think. But I decided to involve my class very much in the trip.  We’ve been using Google maps to look at maps of Poland and Gdansk.

We were able to spot how the cities and towns are very much more spread out than they are in the US or in neighboring Canada.  We talked about what the lines on the map meant – we had to talk about the lines that represented the borders as so many thought they were roads or rivers.

The reason for using Google maps rather than Bing maps with their fantastic ordnance survey layers was because it gave me scope to use a historical map from David Rumsey’s collection to show the children how the borders had changed over the years – there is a useful time slider bar and options for overlaying the maps which makes comparison so visually effective for our 8-9 year old’s (and me!!!)

The children are doing an extended homework project to find out about their findings in their own chosen way – I love the way I keep hearing snippets of information like there are lots of sausages here because they have a lot of pig farms!!!

Or when someone has been to the supermarket in our local town and brought back the equivalent of Jaffa cakes for us all to try!!! Maria came and visited the class today, answering lots of the children’s questions and teaching them how to say a few words and to count to 10.

The children have also been making a (non-technical!!!) book for me to take to the workshop which will give people an idea of what our school is like and the brilliant Animoto has been a useful tool for me to prepare a video tour of the school. You can see just how much work we have to do to complete our international display in the classroom.  Somehow I don’t think we are going to struggle to find pictures and information to add to the area.