The emphasis we are seeing developing our curriculum to incorporate technology is ringing in the ears of all educators. Although what we feel when “in the trenches” is that are technology offered by our schools is not adequate. I am beginning to think we are just unfamiliar with the explosion of tools that is available with the simple availability of the Internet. Global cooperation sites are fascinating tools that teachers of all disciplines can use to create memorable experiences for their students. The days of bringing your students next store to work with another grade or teacher is over as the availability of global cooperation is just a click away.
The two tools I explored are The Global Schoolhouse and Epals. These two sites have many similarities but they both offer distinct opportunities as well. The Global schoolhouse is a very innovative site which offers the user a platform to collaborate with teachers the world over on educational projects in a myriad of different topics. These projects are teacher created and led, and they can dictate participants’ criteria topic areas and curriculum. The site also offers many useful applications in a number of curriculum areas. For example there are travel wequests, “Letters to Santa” a writing application and even educational competitions. One of the most reknown competitions is called the “CyberFair”. The web site explains that CyberFair, “is an award-winning authentic learning program used by schools and youth organizations around the world. Youth conduct research and publish their findings on the Web. Recognition is given to the best projects in each of eight categories.” What an amazing opportunity specifically for schools with a small population in which competition is non-existent.
The second tool Epals is a site where students can share their learning with other children across the coutry. Students can ask homework questions specific to a culture or regio, or simply get an opinion from another student. The site offers safe and secure tools such as e-mail and blogging. Teachers can also collaborate on a number of pre-determined topics. Lessons and projects are posted to the site and teachers can create a collaborative group and seek out a teacher to work on the projects. These two sites are similar in that they promote collaboration and provide teachers with a platform to do so. They are different in the structure and content. While Global Schoolhouse seems to provide many more resources such as games and competitions, Epals provides the user with the ability to have students make personal connections through e-mail and blogging.
If I were to develop a project I think it would be interesting to create a classroom bookshelf with another classroom on Shelfari. Students from both classrooms could add books to the shelf, write reviews and join discussion boards talking about the books. As a child I loved to read and would have loved to have the opportunity to share in an online book discussion with children in another country.