You are a global educator. It’s time to start thinking like one

Building collaboration skills today means building global collaboration skills. Educators have their work cut out for them

PLCs-communitiesEd note: Innovation in Action is a monthly column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education.

It’s one thing for today’s students to connect with the world and to appreciate the diversity and significance of potential interactions through everyday, real-time interaction. It is a whole different challenge to be able to collaborate with learning partners across town — or around the world.

The latter, in truth, is what all educators and learners should be aspiring toward, but the reality is you cannot run before you can walk. Unless educators understand and experience the power of using digital technologies for online collaboration in a local context first, it is likely that jumping head-first into global contexts — with its myriad challenges — will not be successful.

Emerging approaches to digital scholarship question what knowledge is, how it is gained, and how it is shared. Digital technology provides for differentiation, accountability, and visibility in the learning process. For collaborative learning, the internet provides the platform for engaged learning, deeper understanding, and some exciting outcomes.

What does that mean for today’s student? In practical terms, it means collaboration can take on a whole new persona. Collaboration as an inquiry-based, higher-order-thinking and problem-solving skill is now just as possible virtually as it is face to face, and online collaboration, by its very nature, implies synchronous as well as asynchronous working modes. In other words, if logistics are accounted for, students can Skype with peers in Hong Kong or trade private messages to them with equal ease. As educators, we need to understand this paradigm shift and know how to bring digital collaboration into the learning environment.

Attributes of online global collaboration

Learning does not happen in isolation. Learning is social, and individual creation can, or more pointedly should, become collaborative creation in many instances. Students develop understanding about the world through working together with others, by sharing ideas and outcomes. As global educators, we need to consider how to bring online collaboration into our learning environment. We also need to understand how to go beyond synchronous to also support asynchronous online collaborations. This involves embracing new pedagogies and new pedagogical capacity, namely a teacher’s repertoire of teaching strategies and partnerships for learning. We can always learn about something; however, the goal for online (leading to global) collaboration is to learn with others, and to build understanding together.

Definition: Online global collaboration broadly refers to geographically dispersed educators, classrooms, and schools that use online learning environments and digital technologies to learn with others beyond their immediate environment in order to support curricular objectives, intercultural understandings, critical thinking, personal and social capabilities, and ICT capabilities.

Next page: What skills should a global educator have?

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