One day Jared was teaching about the boiling points of common liquids. The year was 1999, and students had to take his word for it when he said those points would vary slightly in the mountains of Nepal versus coastal Miami. Imagine if those students could have investigated the phenomenon collaboratively with peers across the globe. Nowadays, they can.
Meeting the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards makes it possible for students to become global collaborators. The Global Collaborator standard articulates that students should:
- use digital tools to connect with learners from various backgrounds and cultures;
- use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints;
- contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal; and
- explore local and global issues and work with others to investigate solutions (ISTE 2016).
Two strategies can help foster a global approach in our science classrooms. First, students must have a basic understanding of the perspectives of others and the research work of scientists across the globe.
Google can enable this strategy, but standard search results are specific to the student’s own country. To search another nation, find its country code (a part of URLs), to identify the country of origin. NASA offers a comprehensive list. Then, to find search results for a specific country, follow the search terms with “site:.countrycode.” So, the search “Human impact on climate change,” for instance, becomes “Human impact on climate change site:.cn” to bring up results from China. The search results will be much different from those in our own region.
After students begin to understand the perspectives of others, the second strategy is to have them conduct science inquiry with global communities, where they work together, share results, compare-contrast data, and evaluate their findings.
Find relevant resources within the citizen science movement. National Geographic has a web page dedicated to citizen science projects that will help students connect with others. The Teaching Resources section of that page offers activities, lessons, and educator guides to walk your class through their first citizen science exploration.
Wikipedia has a fantastic list of citizen science projects created by a global community of contributors. Virtually anyone can join the projects within their own classroom. Citizen seismology, to give one example, helps students understand the tectonic movement of our Earth and allows scientists to better predict earthquakes and provide warnings to communities in the most affected areas.
The website www.scistarter.com is famous for a project that involved adding sensors to packages shipped across the globe just to see what types of environmental conditions and abuse those shipments experience going from point A to point B. Students can search the site for projects that pique their interest. To search for a project via a more kid-friendly interface, go to www.pbskids.org/scigirls/citizen-science. Or, students can propose a project of their own to the larger scientific community at http://bit.ly/2jsBrLy.
When students explore and learn with others from around the world, they become global collaborators, developing the skills that may help us solve the most challenging scientific problems of the coming decades.
Ben Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an educational technology program specialist, and Jared Mader (email@example.com) is the director of educational technology, for the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. They conduct teacher workshops on technology in the classroom nationwide.
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2016. The 2016 ISTE standards for students. Arlington, VA: ISTE. http://bit.ly/ISTE-standards.
This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of The Science Teacher journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
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