Lori, Daniela, Mark, Sandra, and Jennifer are teachers from 3 different countries who worked together to create a fun and unique global collaboration project for their students. Read all about the Captain SMART project here, and check out the lessons that they learned from the project below.
9 Lessons Learned from the Captain SMART Project
1. Schedule bi-weekly/monthly status meetings with the teachers involved so that everyone is on the same page. This will also help with agreements about who will do what, when (like update the blog, have the mascot, etc…).
2. Obtain school calendars for all involved. We had such different schedules at times that it was hard to coordinate activities and everything took longer than we thought because a class was on break. Also, when we mailed things to each other at Christmas time, some items didn’t arrive before school breaks started, so some classes didn’t see their Christmas cards until January.
3. It can be challenging to have such a wide variety of ages. We had students from K to 4th grade. While the different languages spoken by students evened the playing field some, it might have been easier to have students closer in age to each other.
4. Plan your mascot carefully. Though the students don’t know it, we had 5 of the Captain SMART plush toys, so we weren’t really mailing him back and forth to other countries constantly. Captain SMART just had some great hiding places with each of us! We still had to plan schedules though so he wasn’t simultaneously in multiple locations. A couple of times, he came out at the wrong time or made quick trips to other locations, which was fine but we had to make sure that public visits and blog posts were dated so the other students didn’t catch on to the ruse. The kids loved this part – it was well worth the effort!
5. Test drive any technology ahead of time. In some cases, it took us two or three attempts to get everything working. We’d have one class where Skype worked great, but it didn’t work on the other end, or vice versa. Every school has different technology setups and parameters, so check ahead of time, before you are sitting with kids! And, any video event with kids, plan to use a microphone. It will sound great when you test things out with just the teachers in the room but get several classes going, and it won’t be loud enough without the mic!
6. It doesn’t all have to be technology oriented. We had a 13-hour difference between WA and Austria so we couldn’t align school schedules to do video chats with everyone. We focused on e-mailing and mailing things back and forth with these classrooms, as well as doing some common lessons and projects. We coordinated video chats with pairs of schools who were closer in time zones.
7. Start small and grow together. It doesn’t have to be a huge plan or 5 classes. You could start with just a partnership of two classes. You can do just one or a few events and then go from there.
8. If you don’t have your own class, borrow one! Two of us (Lori and Jennifer) are instructional coaches, not classroom teachers, so we just found some classrooms willing to engage with us. We supported the teachers who participated with their students.
9. It’s totally worth it. The students were excited to hear about the other classes, learned some geography, got to practice their language skills, and had fun. It was an engaging and valuable project.