Tag Archives: collaborative learning

Schools Without Borders: Collaborating in the Digital Age

9 Feb

I was inspired to share my presentation with my blog readers after witnessing participants’ enthusiasm about global collaboration following a talk I recently gave at the Just Learning Conference in Jeju, South Korea, on teaching in the digital age.

In addition to sharing some of the global collaborative projects I’ve guided and piloted throughout my teaching career, time was spent:

  • Discussing the steps involved in carrying out projects for global collaboration;
  • Describing and recommending projects that are easy to implement, and
  • Sharing a comprehensive list of resources that includes digital devices and online global organizations.

To gauge participants’ views on the role of global collaboration in teaching, I conducted a survey using Poll Everywhere. Results were compiled in a Word Cloud format with the larger words being the most frequently mentioned ones.


GlobalCollaboratorThese responses confirm that educators know and agree that connection, unity, peace, and diversity are some of the compelling reasons to conduct global collaborative projects in their classrooms. Their responses align with the International Society for Technology in Education’s  (ISTE) Standards, which include global collaboration as one of the essential standards for learners today.

global-collaboratorGlobal collaboration has been part of my teaching practice since the late 90s when I began teaching.  I was an English as a Second Language instructor at a middle school in a small rural suburb of Quebec, Canada.  Technology, at that time, meant a dust-collecting PC in a corner of the classroom, with DOS as its operating system.  There was no internet at the school but there was this abandoned PC and I decided to use it as the motivating tool for my learners, who were reluctant and not excited about learning English.

Using PowerPoint, I had each student prepare a slide about himself/herself.  I then placed these slides on a floppy disk and sent them via snail mail to a colleague who taught English as a Second Language in another region of Quebec.  In return, she sent me her students’ introductions.  Hence my first collaboration. We then had the students write letters to one another and at the end of that academic year, the students met in person. It was so amazing to witness the transformation in my students’ level of motivation and desire to learn English. Providing authentic opportunities to interact with fellow English learners fostered a culture of learning and increased their enthusiasm for studying English.

Global collaboration has been and will always be part of my teaching.  Working across the boundaries of time and location, connecting with teachers and learners from around the globe, and providing opportunities for my learners to interact with peers in other cultures and countries, not only enlivens and fuels learners but also develops their digital citizenship and global competence, much-needed skills for this beautiful interconnected world we call Earth. Needless to say, collaborating globally also enriches my experience as a teacher and as a world citizen.

I invite you to develop your own global collaboration whether you are a novice or an expert collaborator. Happy Collaboration!



Student Writing and Peer Editing with Google Docs

3 May

Google Docs make teaching and learning creative. It gives students the opportunity to work collaboratively while becoming digital savvy. It is fairly easy to use and it is another one of my zero cost tools to use for teaching and collaborative learning.

I have been using Google Docs word processing for peer editing with my Middle School classes.  Students read each others text and offer comments, ask questions and suggest corrections.  At first, this exercise is modeled over a few lessons. On the overhead projector, a piece of writing is displayed and as a class, it is edited. Each student either offers a comment, a suggestion or a correction.  As comments, corrections and suggestions are noted, I as the teacher can then identify those strong editors in the class as well as point out the difference between “peer editing” and “content editing” all the while giving direction and modeling to ensure that students are focusing on specific aspects of the writing process. Throughout the process, students are paired with different writers in order to be exposed to many writing styles.


What I find useful in using Google Docs for peer editing is that it is web-based and therefore students aren’t limited by physical space, time, one classroom or even one country.  Students’ learning consequently goes beyond the walls of my classroom as they interact and exchange ideas and comments. In addition, it can be used at any point in the writing process: idea formation, outlining, draft revision, or copy editing a final draft. Another added bonus is that it is easy to track my student’s development and as I work with English Language Learners, this tool gives them a platform for purposeful communication and interaction in a stress free environment.


Peer editing keeps my students all participating. When students know that their classmates will edit their writing, they write better, livelier text. Identifying problems in their classmates’ writing helps them to think about their own writing. Peer editing gives them the opportunity to teach what they learned thus giving them confidence and solidifying the concept in their minds. After all, asking students to teach is a great teaching tool in itself!

Other ways I have successfully used Google Docs word processing in my teaching with different levels are:

  • I’ve set up a close exercise document where in teams students fill in the blanks –You can then project the answers for all the students to share and discuss.
  • For vocabulary building, I have provided students with a basic story line where students are asked to add details in teams.
  • I’ve given students stories where they have to change one part of speech for example verbs in the present tense to the past tense, adjectives to their antonyms, etc…
  • I’ve placed a shared reading on a topic where students can highlight words they do not understand. They then can click on the word and it takes them to its definition.
  • I’ve had students collaborate in creating a story by each adding one part. We did this as a collaborative project with another classroom and it was very successful.
  • I have also used it for brainstorming or developing ideas and goal setting.

Google Docs have made teaching and learning in my classroom more collaborative, creative and student-centered. Why not try it out!