September 20, 2012
Teachers Talk - Collaborative Classroom Projects: Bringing the World to your Classroom
Colin Hill, SDACC TDEC Representative & Director of Computer Services at Canadian University College, Lacombe AB

Back in January of 2011, Betty Bayer wrote a CAT~net articlesuggesting that our Adventist system of education presents a potential Global Village that current technology has made more accessible.  This is a topic that I have contemplated for some time and want to bring you up to date with some more current examples and give Canadian educators another push to expand your horizons and make some international connections.  This is one of the topics that I  presented in a break-out session at the 2012 NAD Teachers Convention.  
 
It is interesting that two of the most intriguing projects dealing with international connections have to do with music.  Maybe artists are more adventurous or less afraid to try something new.  The first is the Rock Our World project (http://vimeo.com/13695682).  This was started by Carol Anne McGuire in 2004, a Christian, non-technical teacher who created a project using Garage Band where a class  creates a 30 second drum beat, then passes it on to another class in a different country.  That class then adds a new instrument, and passes it on again.  This will continue until the song has gone around the world.  While the song is evolving, the classes will meet via live video chats and discuss curriculum topics relevant to their collaboration.  From this original concept she has expanded the program to include movie making, photography challenges and collaboration on creating educational games.  What a great way to connect with other classrooms!  If music is not your preference, perhaps you could create a poem; create a paraphrase of a Bible book; create a chained Bible study, with each class or student contributing one portion.
 
The second one, though not really a school project, is the Virtual Choirdirected by Eric Whitacre.  He started the project when a young fan of his music uploaded a video of her singing one of his pieces. From there, he got the idea of having multiple people sing separately and then mix it together into one track.  After sending out the request and receiving submissions, he combined 185 singers from 12 different countries into one video, as if all were singing at the same time and place.  Virtual Choir 3, released earlier this year, is the combination of 3746 voices from 73 countries and is now playing during the London Olympics as a feature on the Millennium Bridge.  While projects like this are pushing technology to its limits and take huge commitments, let them inspire you to think differently and try something to expand your student’s horizons.
 
Another intriguing project is XW1W(Across the World Once a Week).  This uses Twitter and instant communications to share answers to one question (such as: What kind of bread is popular where you live) from many different cultures and perspectives.  This type of program could even include classes where general Internet connections are not robust, but access to cell phones and SMS is possible, as is the case in much of the developing world.
 
Science  teachers may be interested in a great site  hosted by the Centre for Innovation in Engineering and Science.   They provide opportunities for all grade levels to participate in projects where the students can feel part of something worthwhile as well as seeing how real science works, making hypotheses based on observations.  One of the longest running and simplest to use services is provided by ePals.  Stemming from the pen pal days, this service started by matching up classrooms and students from around the world and using e-mail to communicate.  It has now expanded to include full project collaboration with templates and all the tools you need to either create your own or join an existing project.  A list at the end of this article has some other resources worth considering.
So, with all these great resources already available, I am struggling to suggest what may be the best approach that our Seventh-day Adventist worldwide school system could use.  Should we create our own web site duplicating one or a combination of these other services, to only be accessible by Adventist educators?  Perhaps TDEC, AVLNor Adventist Education Forum  could fill this role?  Or would it be best for us to use one of these existing services, (or something like Facebook or Linkedin.com) to get things rolling.  If you have some suggestions or comments on this topic, please email me at chill@cauc.ca.
 
In the meantime, If you want to connect with another Adventist class, here  are a couple of options.  On a recent trip to Kenya, I met Tom, the computer teacher at Maxwell Academy, our boarding high school near Nairobi. We talked about the program that he runs and the challenges faced in that country.  He was very open to the idea of sharing experiences and resources where possible, and would be very interested in connecting his students with another classroom in some kind of project (his contact information is given below).  I suspect that there are many teachers in our schools in other countries that would be just as interested to participate.  I also spoke with the principal at Kamagambo High School  (I spent a year there in 1980 as a student missionary, before computers).  Even though they have very limited Internet connectivity there, he was also very interested in having some kind of contact with other Adventist that are wanting to collaborate, even if only by e-mail.   Another contact I can share is Peter Wallace at Brisbane Adventist College in Australia.  He is a current AVLN board member and instructor and would be a great person to contact if you want to make connections in that country.
 
Happy Connections.
Colin Hill  chill@cauc.ca
 
 
Contact addresses and other links:
Rock Our World website:  http://www.rockourworld.org/
Rock Our World YouTube channel:  http://www.youtube.com/rockourworld1
XW1W (Across the World Once a Week): http://www.teachersfirst.com/xw1w.cfm
Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science:  http://www.ciese.org/collabprojs.html
Eric Whitacre and the Virtual Choir:  http://ericwhitacre.com/
A place to register and find other teachers to connect with:  http://teachersconnecting.com/
The Flat Classroom Project:  http://www.flatclassroomproject.net/
ePals Global Community:  http://www.epals.com/index.php
Email address for T Tom Ongaro, teacher at Maxwell Academy   tomo@maxwellsda.org
Email address for Peter Wallace, Brisbane Adventist Acadmey.  pwallace@bac.qld.edu.au
Email address for George Oromo, principal at Kamagambo, Kenya.  kamagambo2008@yahoo.com
 
Editor’s Note:  Larry Blackmer at the NAD has also made several worldwide contacts of Adventist schools interested in partnering with schools in the North American Division.  If you are interested, contact him directly or contact Betty at the SDACC.