Friday, March 14, 2008

My 2020 Vision for Global Collaboration

[cross-posted at Dangerously Irrelevant as guest blogger for Dr Scott McLeod]

I have been reflecting on global collaboration and what it means for teachers, students and the wider community. I have also been reflecting on sustainability of online spaces and how much of what we are 'producing' in terms of creative output has not been preserved over the past 15 years. Let me be more specific.

For the past 12 years I have participated in online global projects with my students. In 1996, my school in Australia, Eltham College, received an Honorable Mention in the Environmental Awareness section of the International Cyberfair project (organised by the Global School Net). This project had an amazing affect on our school community. To be able to publish images, sounds (yes, we even got up at dawn and recorded the Australian bird song as the day begins to upload), ideas and thoughts from our part of the world and share them internationally was an amazing achievement in the early days of he Internet. In fact many of us got up at 5am (pre-dawn!) to come to school and listen to the Cyberfair awards ceremony that year (at a reasonable time in the USA of course) that included an opening address from Al Gore. Those were the days. Alas, the website for this project is gone, changes in school server and ISP hosting etc etc have deleted it long ago.

In my first 5 years as an international educator I ran Learning Circle projects with classes in Zambia and Kuwait as part of the iEARN initiative. These involved grouping 6 or so classrooms from around the world into a 'project' that was self-determined according to curriculum section. The outcome from the interaction was often a hard-copy publication or a website. I still have two of the 'books' produced during these years with students writings and ideas from the various international locations. I am excited to see that iEARN are now in Qatar and promoting collaborative projects in this region.

When I moved to Bangladesh and International School Dhaka we participated in the 2004 international School's Cyberfair and won the Platinum (first prize) in the Environmental Awareness section for Poribesh Bachan (Bangla for being aware, taking action). Once again this was a community project and we had great fun compiling images and records of the current environmental state of Dhaka and initiatives that were moving it forward at that time. Alas, this website is not available online anymore.

In the past 18 months I have been a co-founder (with Vicki Davis) of the Flat Classroom Project and Horizon Project and global collaboration as I knew it suddenly took on a whole new dimension. I have written about this new 'Global Collaboration 3.0' earlier however let me make some salient points here as to why we now have a whole new focus for online collaborative projects and what that means for education.

What is my 2020 Vision for global collaboration? (thanks to Karl Fisch for his inspiration and for being the Keynote speaker for Horizon Project 2006)

  • Global collaborative projects need to be embedded into the curriculum. We need to be looking at how students can have experiential learning opportunities at all levels of education. As a middle and high school specialist I expect my students to have had at least one global project experience before they leave Primary school, and then to have at least one global project experience each year of middle and high school. I do not think this is unreasonable or unrealistic
  • We need to continue (or start) to foster technology integration as part of what we do in schools. Gone are the days where students come to the computer lab. to do IT. Moving towards 1:1 mobile computing programs is a start, providing professional development for teachers in embedding IT into their curriculum is even more important, providing the support via integration facilitators is also essential. Facilitators must have a no-class load within a school and could be IT and/or library/media specialist or strong curriculum specialists comfortable with online tools and Web 2.0
  • We need to be unblocking viable connectivity tools so that digital access and participation is available for all classrooms around the world. Can we get governments and school organizations to talk about this at the same table? Can we develop a set of essential tools that ALL schools around the world access in order to communicate?
  • We need to be developing digital citizenship skills and courses within schools, starting once again at the Primary/Elementary school level. It is so important to be able to work professionally online and to understand the dynamics of online communication. This does not come easily to most beginners. Students who are perhaps used to being online via Facebook or MySpace have a perspective of how to be social but not professional online communicators. There is a difference and we need to highlight this.
  • We need to be investigating sustainability of online spaces and archiving successfully projects and collaborations. Currently we use wikispaces and ning (amongst others of course)....will these still be around in 5 years time? If not, what happens to the amazing content and productivity from classrooms all around the world? Will it be lost for ever?

I have a strong belief in the power of online connectivity and global collaboration (in all of it's many forms) at the school level to make a difference to the world we live in through fostering better understanding and cultural awareness. These are not just words. I have seen this happen through the projects I have run with my own classes.

What is your 2020 vision for global collaboration? Do you have a global collaboration on your horizon?
I invite you to join our Flat Classroom Ning, Horizon Project Ning and also to have a look at our current project just starting, Horizon Project 2008, where we have 11 classrooms and over 250 students from Australia, Austria, Japan, Spain, Qatar and the USA.

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Rat2 said...

Hi Julie,

After reading your post, I thought you might find this interesting…

For all the students, young and old, who have ideas to improve Australia but won't make the 2020 Summit, the online community created a wiki (a user-generated website) for people to post, discuss, and vote on the best ideas of the day. It's free, independent, and has over 20 different categories of discussion. There's even a page just on young people issues.

Check it out at


Sabir Leafar said...

A really inspiring post again, Julie.

Just one warning - the last link to the Horizon Project has a typo on the url, and therefore it is pointing to a non-existing wiki.


Julie Lindsay said...

Jim, thanks for the links to 2020 summit. Wow! makes me wish I was back on Oz again. keep me posted please!

Rafa, thanks for your kind comment...and I have fixed the hyperlink. It's great to have feedback like this.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

Brilliant post, Julie! I just reflected on my blog and sent them to you! Off for a busy day w/ kids! Bye!

Bill Gaskins said...

Awesome Post! Public education in the US has a long way to go.

Anonymous said...

Hey Julie!

Thanks for the great endorsement of Global SchoolNet and CyberFair. It is truly surprising and sad how few classrooms are implementing these great projects.


Yvonne Marie Andres
President/Fouder, Global SchoolNet

Anonymous said...

Great post, Julie! And you know I am 100% in agreement with ALL of your points.
I am entering into a relationship with Teachers Without Borders and had a fascinating conversation (over skype) today with a group of educators and supporters in South Africa from my own situation in Canada. Strangely, they face many of the same hurdles many of us have in the developed nations.
We need to start addressing digital and educational equity on a global level, as you have mentioned. The Web 2.0 tools give we in the "grassroots" the tools to network and leverage opportunities to that end.
I have been inspired and galvanized by my recent reading of "Three Cups of Tea" - the real-life story of an American mountaineer who kept his promise to his rescuers in Pakistan and has gone on to build schools throughout remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. How can we take that model and build on it?
You have have offered some important thoughts to consider about long-term sustainability.
And you are absolutely right when you say we need to build the global collaborative projects into the curriculum. It is do-able - in fact, I think these collaborative projects provide more learning opportunities that directly address our curricular goals than the standard programs we have followed with our closed walls.
Thanks for taking the initiative with your post - your long-term perspective is so appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am currently a student at Illinois State University and I am in my first curriculum and instruction class for my teacher education. Reading your blog made me realize how much I did know based upon what I have learned this semester about technology in the classroom and how much I did not. I did not realize before my first C&I class how much technology is being used in the classroom today. I never imagined that maybe one day I could teach a class and have them communicating with a class in Africa or in Australia, but now I see that it is more then possible. After reading your blog I realize that there are so many things that I can do to get involved with technology and be able to bring it into my classroom in the future.

Julie Lindsay said...

Thanks Vicki and Bill for your encouragement!

Yvonne, yes I empathize with and I know how hard you have worked to promote global collaboration. I think your work with GSN is outstanding and I am proud to say I have been a part of the projects with my students. The frustration is still global projects are still seen as too hard as they are 'add-ons' generally to the 'real curriculum'. This is changing a little but not enough yet! We have a long way to go to reach anywhere near the tipping point.

Sharon your ideas and work are also inspiring and I love hearing about connections you are making. I am really pushing my school here to embed projects into the curriculum and because I am in the classroom still myself this year I am doing it but we need to look at sustainability and non-personality driven programmes and options that will be carried on by others.

Jessica, good luck with your studies. Yes, the sky really is the limit! and don't lower your expectations to accept anything else. Our students are worth it!

Christian said...

I found your blog by accident, but was really interested by what you are depicting for a 2020 vision of collaboration. I believe we are just in the infancy of global collaboration, and for us who do it on a regular basis, it is often hard. Having been going through this struggle for the last 15 years, and wanting to share experience, I just started a blog on the subject you might be interested in. You can find it at Obviously, I come from a business background, but know that we can learn from each-other, as we are confronted with the same need for collaboration.