Chris Burgess from Tradale Primary School in rural Australia talks about how he use technology for online collaborative learning.
Taradale Primary School is a small state school in regional Victoria, Australia. We are located 100km from Melbourne in a town of about 300 people. The school opened in 1855 during the Victorian Gold Rush, making it one of the oldest schools in the state. As well as our classrooms and play ground, we also have an onsite farm. The farm is home to our vegetable garden, orchard and our animals – 4 chickens, 2 calves and 2 lambs. If you would like to know more about us, please look at our website below or follow us on twitter.
Being a small school we are keen to engage with other schools both face to face and remotely to provide additional educational and social experiences for the students.
What we do?
For face to face experiences we spend every Wednesday at another small school. We are also a part of a cluster of small schools that work collaboratively together to provide school camps, joint excursions and regular ‘Group Days’ where the schools all get together for a day of joint learning and social activities. We also participate in a number of other activities such as maths, science and PE days with other schools and we house the Taradale Play Group for pre-school children as well as hosting a number of community activities.
Additionally, we participate in a number of online collaborations that allow our students to participate in joint learning activities with other students, whether they be in Victoria, Australia or around the world.
Exploring the opportunities that technology provides for online interactions showed us that despite being a very small school, we could still participate in numerous learning opportunities from around the world.
Our first online collaboration was through Global Partners Junior. I had participated in this programme whilst working at a larger inner city school in Melbourne, so was familiar with what it could offer educationally and how it would engage the children. The Global Partners Junior programme is run from the City of New York Mayor’s office. It is an online collaborative project linking children from around the world in educational activities that are relevant to everyone.
Prior to introducing Global Partners at Taradale, we looked at the upcoming unit of work to see if it fitted in with our planned curriculum and met the requirements of the state learning standards. Then we looked at how we would integrate it into our timetable and talked to the parents and students to gauge their interest and support. We then looked at our timetable to see when we would fit it in and how much time we would spend on it in class and how the students could use it at home. As our school has a strong focus on digital learning and the environment, we could see that Global Partners Junior would fit well with our existing curriculum and give the students opportunities to learn more about the world and make friends with children from other cultures and countries.
The students all have internet access at home and this project was structured so the students could do additional work at home, for example email their overseas peers, research set topics and continue with their projects.
We introduced the programme to the students by having them explore New York online and finding out a few facts about city, including landmarks, culture, history and famous people. With a city as exciting as New York it was not difficult to engage the students!
The students were keen to talk to and meet their new friends, so as well as email exchanges and the discussions page on Global Partners Junior, we have used our Interactive Whiteboards for Skype and Google chats with other schools, apart from navigating time zones, this has been a relatively simple task.
This particular project has enabled a number of collaborations for the students.
For example, in our last unit we looked at products and services in each of our communities and the way these products and services are marketed around the world. We are currently participating in a project on sustainability with schools in New York, Rio and Mumbai and looking at the impact we all have on the planet. As these topics are of both global and local importance the students were able to relate their experiences with both their classmates and their international peers. These unit topics encourage and cater for different learning styles, if a student wants to work alone he or she can, or a student can collaborate with other students. We have found that the appeal of working with students from around the world has encouraged all of our students to work collaboratively with their peers.
We are keen to expand our network of online collaborations, if schools are interested in working with us or knowing more about what we do, please feel free to contact me.