The Power of Collaborative Global Learning

Mali Bickley

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.

Teachers involved in global collective learning constantly hear from students that they want to produce their very best work because they know it will be seen by the world. Even students who have never before written a final piece of


students sitting in computer lab working on computers

When Locke’s PS was selected to take part in ETFO’s poverty and education project we were excited by the prospect of having a theatre group

children in traditional japanese clothing

"My English is still not so good. I cannot make long sentences. But I can say Thank you so much. I am so happy."