Expanding Student Learning Without Leaving the Classroom
The internet proposed a great promise: anyone from anywhere could connect to exchange information and ideas. As the number of devices that connect to the internet across the world and access to the internet grows, the number of possible connections also grows exponentially. At the forefront of utilizing this new technology are current K-12 students, who find it increasingly natural to learn and connect using computers, tablets, or any other internet-connected device. With the number of connections now available at their fingertips, it is a logical next step to use internet-connected devices in the classroom to increase students’ quality of education and ability to connect with the rest of the world.
One way of using internet-connected devices to better students’ access to global education is to initiate virtual exchanges between classrooms across the country or across the world. These exchanges can be as simple as creating virtual study-buddy groups or pairs that can collaborate on difficult or challenging lessons. At the same time that students are being engaged academically, these virtual groups are a great foundation for children to learn more about each other’s cultures, interests, and daily life. If a conversational component is added to the virtual exchange groups, students many even develop new hobbies or interests while at the same time improving their academics. Academic subject-focused virtual learning can also be a way to include a global education and STEM component into an otherwise packed school year.
Another possible virtual connection to introduce into the classroom is to have a guest expert share a lesson or talk about a topic with students virtually. There is so much educational content that gets created by experts who never have the chance to engage with the students that are learning about it. Virtual exchange can be used as a bridge between classrooms and experts. This could range from having a professor or author whose work is being studied by a group of students connect with an entire classroom or students who are studying a particular country get to connect with people who live there. The experts benefit as well! Not only do they have the chance to share their content specialty directly with an interested audience, but they also get to see how their content is understood by students. From an elementary French class practicing the language virtually with native speakers to a high school biology class getting to connect with a researcher in the field whose work they are studying, connecting with an expert guest teacher dramatically elevates an average classroom lesson into an engaging learning opportunity.
Even without having a virtual exchange component, online learning can still be hugely beneficial for students in classrooms across the world. The online space is an accessible atmosphere for the easy gamification of learning. By making education more fun, learners can be motivated to master and enjoy subject areas that would not be as interesting to them when taught in a traditional manner. Even without crafting lessons as games, online learning allows students to learn and work from anywhere they want. It enables access to both knowledge and other parts of the world that, at one point in time, might have seemed unreachable. Through both virtual exchange and online learning, the world is now open to any classroom of students that have access to the internet and a willing teacher to guide them in global and academic exploration.
About Global Ties U.S.:
As a nonprofit partner of the U.S. Department of State, Global Ties U.S. is at the center of international exchange. Global Ties U.S. drives innovation in the field by including new ways of fostering connections between people across the world - like virtual exchange and online learning - in its exchange programs.