Flattening Classroom Walls with Blogging and Global Collaboration

This is a guest post by educational bloggers, Linda Yollis (Los Angeles, USA) and Kathleen Morris (Geelong, Australia).

The long-time blogging buddies met face to face for the first time before the ISTE 2012 conference in San Diego. They presented together on educational blogging and global collaboration. This post summarizes their presentation.

Linda and Kathleen are both passionate about integrating technology in the classroom and have been heavily involved in educational blogging since 2008.

Kathleen’s 2012 class blog is http://4kmand4kj.global2.vic.edu.au/

Linda’s class blog is http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/

A connection forms

In early 2009, Linda came across Kathleen’s class blog and from just one comment a rewarding friendship and collaborative adventure began.

The unique relationship has now spanned over three years and connected eight different cohorts of students. Throughout this time, the classes have moved from isolated to integrated, irregular to frequent, and from the superficial to rich global collaboration.

Despite being physically positioned in opposite hemispheres, Mrs. Yollis’ class and 4KM (formerly 2KM) connect each week via blogs, Skype, and other online tools. The two classes have worked on many collaborative projects together, some of which have included other classes around the world.

In 2011, two students from Kathleen’s class visited the United States and spent some time with Linda’s class. Other students and parents have formed special friendships and have connected via their own student learning blogs. Parents actively participate in the collaboration and establish their own benefits and rewards.

Journey from blogging to global collaborative projects

Linda and Kathleen began their online collaboration through the comment sections of their blogs. Conversations were happening in the comment sections, and it was clear that the classes had a strong interest in one another.

A year into their blogging relationship, Linda and Kathleen started Collaboration Corner. This blog was a place to further develop student relationships and focus the learning. Topics included projects about lunchboxes and the school environment.

This simple global project was a successful experiment which lead to other global collaborative projects such as:

Each project had a unique purpose and a range of different outcomes.

Using online tools

Kathleen and Linda like to integrate a lot of web 2.0 tools into their blogs and global projects. However, they believe the learning outcomes must be considered before choosing an online tool. Think about what you want your students to achieve and then choose the best tool for the job. When students become familiar with a range of tools, they can be given the creative freedom to present their work in a variety of ways.

On this page of Linda and Kathleen’s presentation blog, they list just some of the tools they have used regularly.

Tips for teachers

Effective classroom blogging and global collaboration are built around relationships.

Similar – look for classes of a similar age, blogging experience, and literacy standards.

Genuine – demonstrate that you are interested in the class, not just interested in building your visitor count. Avoid writing simple comments that just include a URL and an invitation to visit.

Consistent – comment back to readers regularly and drop by often if you’re interested in building a relationship.

Focus – don’t cast your commenting net too wide. Trying to establish too many relationships at once can be confusing for yourself and your students.

Connect – if you don’t know anyone to start a relationship, The Student Blogging Challenge is a great place to start. We also highly recommend Twitter for developing relationships with other educators.

When you are involved in global collaboration, Linda and Kathleen recommend:

Integration - don’t make blogging and global projects an add-on. Integrate your standards for mathematics, literacy and other subjects into projects.

Network – find a buddy to learn with, either someone at your school or another educator online. When you’re a beginner, it can be more fun to have the support of a friend.

Start small – we recommend starting with a class blog before moving into a global project. That way, students and teachers will have a skill set to bring to a global collaboration. Your first project might just involve two classes, like our Collaboration Corner. 

Celebrate – while blogging and global collaboration is a lot of work, the rewards are plentiful. Celebrate your achievements and reflect on your success regularly!

Lots of educational bloggers got together at ISTE 2012 in San Diego.  

Photo courtesy of John Miller. 

Do you have any other tips to add?

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15 Responses

  1. Maggie says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story and the great recommendations for teachers engaging in global collaboration. I hope more and more teachers will have these stories to tell.

    • Mrs Kathleen Morris says:

      Hi Maggie,

      Great to hear from you. I too hope more and more teachers have these sorts of stories to tell!

      Happy blogging,
      Kathleen

  2. tvoppc says:

    Can i use this post for my school scription?

    http://www.gratistvkijkenopdepc.nl

  3. Pauline Quealy says:

    How wonderful for you both, Kathleen and Linda, to meet up after all that blogging! Thanks for all the fabulous ideas, teaching and learning is certainly at an exciting time.

    • Mrs Kathleen Morris says:

      Hi Pauline,

      Thanks so much for commenting. It certainly is an exciting time to be teaching and learning!

      Cheers,
      Kathleen

  4. glue removal says:

    well that wan an great article i had an great time while reading this article.

  5. Anne Mirtschin says:

    This was a wonderful session! If anyone doubts the reasons for blogging or the powerful learning that can eventuate, they need to look at the work of Kathleen and Linda. Congratulations to you both and thanks for being so generous in your sharing of the powerful learning outcomes that you and your classes have experienced. I wonder what the next 12 months will bring?

  6. Kathleen Morris says:

    Hi Anne,

    It was so great to see you in both LA and San Diego!

    I too wonder what the next 12 months will bring. I’m sure it will be very exciting.

    Cheers,
    Kathleen

  7. Linda Y♥llis says:

    Dear Anne,

    Thanks so much for your kind words and for the support you gave at the ISTE conference. It was wonderful to meet you after knowing you and working with you online! Hopefully we’ll meet again soon!

    I’m thinking about Texas in 2013. You in? :-)

    ~Linda

  8. Pam Grover says:

    Hi Linda and Kathleen,
    I am truly sorry that I only just now realised that I missed your presentation at ISTE… there was so much at the conference to see and take in that I didn’t come across it in the program or I would have made it a priority!
    I came across Mrs Yollis’ blog last year when I was looking for the “Hello song” and used your class video to teach it to my choir. They loved it!
    Your blog really inspired me at the time, especially when I realised you had linked up with a class in Australia.
    On my way to ISTE I met a Finnish teacher who suggested we link classes between Sydney and Finland. I also travelled with a teacher from the Kimberley in Western Australia who teaches at an Aboriginal community.
    As ICT teacher at my school I plan to work with two classes/teachers to start blogs and link up with each of these communities/schools.
    I still feel very sad that we did not to meet at ISTE, but
    both your blogs are wonderful and all the extra information both helpful and very encouraging.
    Thank so much!
    Pam
    From a small school (135 students) in Sydney Australia.

  9. Kathleen Morris says:

    Hi Pam,

    We’re sorry to have missed you too! I know how you feel as there were many sessions that I only heard about after the event at ISTE.

    It sounds like you’ve made some excellent connections yourself and we appreciate your kind words about our blogs.

    Linda and I are planning on presenting online together on August 21 for Tech Talk Tuesdays. Watch this space for more info and maybe you can join us
    http://techtalktuesdays.global2.vic.edu.au/

    Kathleen

  10. New City Magazine says:

    Wow, it is very encouraging that you guys are using modern technology to interact with other students in another part of the world. I believe more and more, classes will be internet based. These days even whole curriculums are available online. Have you heard of the Khan Institute? Should check it out! :)

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