The Global Education Conference, held around the clock November 12–16, offered a wide range of sessions by and for educators worldwide. A highlight: “Apps Galore: Top Tools for Global Collaboration (iPad),” in which teachers Ruth Metka, Fran Siracusa, and Jennifer Williams at Country Day School in Largo, FL, recommended apps for school use. The educators incorporated these apps as a part of a Flat Classroom Project—a student-centered, multimodal learning environment—during which their school connected with schools in China, Turkey, and Minnesota.
The trio emphasized that the best way to successfully use apps with young children is to pair a virtual activity with a concrete one. For example, their students mailed painted handprints to other schools, but also used apps to create a videos, maps and presentations to send electronically.
The Tripline app lets kids share animated maps to show and narrate their (virtual) travels by pinning pictures, and adding background music or recordings to the map. Combine with any basic weather app to really let kids feel their destination.
For a really fun video-making experience, they suggested the Puppet Pals app. Kids cut out a picture of themselves using a finger on the iPad, then digitally manipulate the puppet on a background of their choice to create scenes. Try taking pictures of your school, then letting puppet-students give a tour.
The Country Day School teachers recommend two educationally-focused social networking apps with Web 2.0 components, which they felt encouraged participation, offered good teacher control, and were generally safe for classroom use. Neither tool requires kids to have an email address to register. The Edmodo app allows teachers to create groups (for example, for same-age classes at schools in different locations). Schoology is a lot like Edmodo, and kids like it because the interface is similar to Facebook.
Nearpod gives teachers control over the pacing of presentations viewed on the iPad. Slides appear on students’ devices simultaneously, and multimedia and interactive elements keep kids from getting bored with their synchronized viewing experience.
Don’t forget that sometimes the most familiar apps are the most effective, they advised. Skype is a wonderfully versatile tool for connecting live. Just be sure you make clear rules about who gets to talk when — maybe pass around a special “talking stick.” And if you do carry out a global project in your school, be sure to blog about it.
Globaledcon sessions are archived online and can be viewed at anytime—check out presentations on themes ranging from “Expand online professional development for educators with mobile learning” to “The Connected Middle School Student: Fostering Global Collaborations through International Projects.” Presentations on language learning and environmental issues are especially well-represented.
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