and received a 2018 Super Librarian Award.
For librarians interested in connecting their schools globally, many programs and resources are available, including both free offerings and those with a fee. Not only do these programs support and enrich the curriculum, but they also provide excellent opportunities to collaborate with classroom teachers. Currently, our third grade is participating in the ArtLink program run by Creative Connections, an organization in Connecticut. Our students have exchanged their art with schools in Uganda and Russia, and we have participated in three live video conferences with students in those countries. This opportunity was funded by a grant that I wrote with our art teacher, and it has been a true collaboration with the three classroom teachers, the art teacher, and the library. A similar program to ArtLink is Level Up Village, but the focus is STEAM instead of art. We are considering this exchange for next year.
Skype and Google Hangouts have been game changers in our school. Talking with students throughout North America during the Global Read Aloud has given us exciting new opportunities to reach beyond the classroom walls. Some of our teachers have maintained those GRA relationships in order to talk about other school subjects and to get to know one another better. The GRA page on Facebook has made it incredibly easy to find and build those relationships. The page remains active throughout the year as teachers continue to communicate beyond the “official” GRA time frame.
Google Plus educator groups such as Google Hangouts in Education and Educators on Google Plus are a good place to post projects and find classrooms for collaboration. The Microsoft Educator Community with its Skype in the Classroom group is another place to connect. On Twitter, various global education hashtags such as #globaled, #flatconnections, or the new #inTLchat are useful for finding global partners. Twitter, in general, is an amazing resource for finding out what is happening around the world. Global School Play Day, the Same Day in March project, and the Global Audience Project, a website for posting or joining online projects, are just a few of the interesting opportunities I have found on Twitter. It is worth spending even a short time on Twitter each day to look for ways to connect.
Recently, our library purchased several Flipgrid Classroom licenses for teachers, and we are looking forward to using Flipgrid to participate in global conversations. Since time zone differences do not matter with this easy-to-use video tool, we can freely post and respond to grids in any location. This opens up the possibility for a wide range of collaborative projects. Flipgrid has recently established #GridPals to help classrooms find exchange partners. We are eager to get started!
During a Making Global Connections session at Edcamp Boston in March, educators recommended several ways to reach out. Empatico is a free program that connects classrooms, while PenPal Schools offers school licenses for online collaboration. iEarn-USA is another established organization that promotes international understanding. An old-fashioned global postcard exchange is available through Postcrossing. When you register online, you can send and receive postcards to and from countries around the world. As these organizations demonstrate, there are many options to choose from and many potential levels of commitment to consider when seeking international opportunities.
My library’s mission statement reflects my view that the school library can be the link to making global connections:
The Winthrop School Library connects students to a world of information. Our students use print and digital resources to expand their learning and their global connections. Winthrop students' online activity is W.O.W.: Worthy of the World. (Credit for W.O.W. ~ Angela Maiers)
School librarians are perfectly situated to help students interact with the people who live in the places they read about in books or hear about on the news. There is much we can do, and providing resources about the world is just the beginning. We can also provide resources to communicate with the world. Connecting classrooms is a natural extension of our work finding resources. and it’s a logical step for librarians to take, especially since making global connections offers opportunities for collaboration within our own buildings, too. Teachers may not be aware of the options available to them and how these activities support the curriculum, but we can provide that information and help make those connections happen.
If your experience is anything like mine, you will be met with enthusiasm and a willingness to participate. The roadblocks to getting started are minimal since many resources are free, and in most cases, require only basic technology. Small successes with something like Mystery Skype, for example, can build confidence for trying a bigger project such as ArtLink. There’s every reason to begin making global connections, and few reasons to hesitate. Give it a try. Today the school library, tomorrow the world!