Juliette, Kiera, and Michelle, 11-year-old students from Barrie, are online asking their new friend Rawa what it is like to live in Iraq. Michelle asks, “What is it like knowing that there is war so near to you? Are you able to go outside to play without being scared?” Three days later Rawa replies, “I live in a safe situation, but I consider that I live with those children that can’t go out to play and do what they like because they are in my country and we are all the same.”
These students are participating in Machinto, a global collaborative project supported by iEARN: the International Education and Resource Network. ( iearn.org). iEarn is a nonprofit, international organization that includes over 20,000 school and youth organizations in over 115 countries and more than one million teachers and students who work together online.
Global collaborative learning uses technology as a tool to build relationships by collaborating, communicating, and sharing with others throughout the world. Students are not just using the computer to do the same activity they might do without a computer. They work on meaningful tasks and solve problems together, learning about different perspectives from their peers, thinking critically as a result of reality-based learning and questioning. What better way to learn about war, natural disasters, child soldiers, and segregated education than from the students affected?
Projects that are rooted in a collaborative framework prepare our students to become literate and responsible members of the global community. Research indicates that the jobs that will be available for the students in today’s classrooms do not yet exist, but we do know that they will involve working with technology to communicate and collaborate with others throughout the world. Students are growing up in a world where these tools are part of everyday life. As teachers, we can provide the opportunity for our students to use these skills and tools to collaborate with others and encourage their participation in the global learning community.
For the first time in history, students and teachers can provide feedback to their global partners by using wikis, blogs, forums, socially responsible social-networking tools, such as Taking It Global ( takingitglobal.org), and other tools. Peer-to-peer feedback can be more meaningful to students than traditional editing, in which the teacher provides the feedback. In many situations, the students become the project leaders and facilitators and the teachers become learners.