The social and employment challenges of the 21st century require complex changes in learning practices in the education sector. Students need to acquire new skills and competencies that will be useful in the future. As teachers, we need to keep up to date with materials and technology and change our practice quickly to help students succeed. To do this, we must open the door to the classroom and spend more time on the development of teaching and implementation of new strategies and methods.
In 2011, I created my first global project. That form of work was unknown and unpopular at the time, but I was hooked on creating something new. At the outset, I only thought about cooperation between Norway and other European countries. eTwinning was the first thought then, and it did not take long to find other teachers who also wanted to create a new project. The collaboration was excellent, and since 2011 we have created several projects together. Since 2011, we have also grown, and this year we are a team of 101 teachers and 2000 students from all over the world.
After working on global projects for several years, I would like to share my experiences about this work form and all the benefits I have gained by including global collaboration in my semester plan and teaching.
Firstly, I have become acquainted with English teachers from 65 different countries. It would be impossible if it was not for international projects. Now I have my personal learning network where I can seek help, get new impulses, share my experiences and develop my skills together with other teachers. The best thing about this is that I work with people who put lifelong learning quite high and who want to get better. Although we live far apart, live and work in different time zones, we have the opportunity to be in touch with each other thanks to the cooperation and online collaboration tools. We also exchange teaching ideas, information about new ICT tools, or games that can be used across countries and cultures. Close and global cooperation has undoubtedly contributed to the friendship between other teachers and me. During the last three years, I have also met some of the teachers during the summer vacation and have established even better relationships with them.
The other advantage is to create authentic learning situations. Instead of reading texts about, for example, what’s happening in Canada or the US, we get the opportunity to talk to students and teachers from those places via Skype or Google Hangouts. Being exposed to foreign cultures, languages and traditions helps students learn global competencies. Teaching that includes authentic learning is exciting and motivating both for students and teachers.
Managing global projects gives new impetus and motivation. Global projects are also an efficient way of integrating technology into the curriculum. In my projects, I always include the use of computers, the Internet and mobile devices. This contributes to the development of digitally competent students and teachers.
Development of skills related to project management is an important advantage when creating global projects at school. Through practical tools and exercises, I’ve got a solid grip on how to plan, organise and lead projects all the way long. I have also developed soft and hard skills and have learned a lot about myself. These are the skills I look at as significant in the work of the teacher.
This school year I have created a new project uked.chat/globalhighsch where 101 teachers work together to raise awareness about the UN’s 17 global sustainable goals uked.chat/undevgoals. A large number of teachers from around the world and even greater numbers of students means that we will develop skills for the 21st century by offering our students authentic learning situations both inside and outside the classroom.
Global collaboration, where students work with other fellow students from all over the world, is the best way to increase motivation and engage both teachers and students. I believe that global cooperation should be integrated into all subject curricula. We are already living in a globalised world where global awareness plays a central role.
Barbara Anna Zielonka @bar_zie is an English teacher at Nannestad High School, Norway. She has a big passion for global and collaborative projects and the pedagogical use of ICT tools in the context of teaching and learning.