Celebrating Organic Outcomes from Global Collaboration

This article was written by Gerd Söderlund from Finland and Jody Bean from Oregon. These two SMART Exemplary Educators met last year in July at the 2016 Global SMART Exemplary Educator Summit in Calgary, Canada. Together with two other teachers, Kirt Grochowski and Jan Abernethy, they started a global collaboration project with the goal of bridging cultures across the world.  The project used technology as the vehicle to go beyond the traditional four walls of classrooms.  

The Power of Global Collaboration in Classrooms

8,000 kilometers. 5,000 miles. That’s how far it is from the Swedish-speaking municipality of Larsmo in western Finland to Oregon City, Oregon, in the United States. Students from the Finnish school Cronhjelmskolan connected with students from Gardiner Middle School in Oregon City, Oregon in 2016. Two other American schools from West Dundee, Illinois, and Greenville, Pennsylvania, also took part in the year-long project called Bridging Cultures.

When the collaboration began, the goal was to bridge different cultures through the lens of social science.  All four teachers involved in the project wanted their students, each one of them, from the shiest to the most outgoing, to have a voice.  The goal was to share each place’s similarities and differences and to find common ground around the world.  The Finnish and American students discussed, created, and engaged with new friends from the other side of the world. The impact of being part of a global relationship was real to the students!

Creating Connections with Classroom Technology

In this project, over 100 students collaborated together on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Finnish and American students easily connected thanks to SMART amp workspaces that allowed them to not only view but interact with each other’s work, and to share ideas in creative ways.  The students were excited to create SMART amp workspaces that represented their community and share these with the other classes. They loved sharing their daily lives with their new friends while enhancing communication skills and making connections between the past, present, and future.

Students also created SMART notebook lessons to share with others. It was very important for our students to be able to virtually share text, pictures, videos and internet links about their hometowns and countries, along with other topics. Their lessons and presentations with SMART’s software were so valuable and truly made this project possible.

Students’ voice was very important in the collaboration.  Students came up with ideas of their own that they wanted to fulfill. They researched, made discoveries, all the while emphasizing the importance of making friends,  and showing love and respect for one another.

Students were eager to hear from each other and read about other students’ cultural backgrounds, and watch videos that their new friends had made for them.

Project Highlights

One of the highlights for the Finnish students was getting a surprise from Oregon City. It came during a week in December 2016 when Finland celebrated its 99th birthday. The American students from Gardiner Middle School had an amazing gift for the students in Larsmo: they created a surprise video where they sent Happy Independence Day greetings to Finland! The American students had made Finnish flags in different sizes, even a virtual one on their SMART interactive flat panel, they had decorated their classroom in Oregon with blue and white pennants, and they had even learned how to say ’Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää!’ meaning ’Happy Independence Day’. Can you imagine how loved and important the Finnish students felt when their global friends in the United States had made all this just for them? The Finnish students were speechless when they together watched the video on the SMART board in their classroom!

Organic Outcomes

The impact of our global collaboration project was organic.  Students created authentic, real-life connections that endure.  They brought the outside world into our classrooms, where they were able to take charge of their own learning.  They witnessed a global change and developed a global mindset.

Our students learned to embrace tolerance and to appreciate diverse perspectives. In other words, they learned skills that foster compassion, broaden mutual understanding about others, and developed an awareness of the world beyond their community.  These skills can be challenging to teach, but are very important to possess for the future.  Global collaboration is an amazing way to inspire these skills in students and to allow them to be put to use in concrete and meaningful ways.

Collaboration is a process.  It is organic.  It is a journey that has no end.  It is an adventure that belongs in the classroom where students are inspired to look outward with an emphasis on creating a better world.  It can be a rich and powerful opportunity for both teachers and students.

Discover more about this global collaboration project and check out the blog that the students and teachers used during it, here


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