This is the time of year when I vacillate between being grateful to see the semester wind down and thinking about all the things I hope to do better next term. In case you, too, are in the mood for dreaming about next year’s exciting options (or for my Australian friends, embarking on a new term), consider international classroom exchanges.
I’ve noted before that there is research suggesting that meaningful cross-cultural experiences can be supportive of creativity. This makes sense, since working to understand new perspectives is an exercise in flexible thinking. Just a few years ago, international exchanges were limited to the fortunate few who had helpful friends in distant places, but no longer. The world of international options is, quite literally, a mouse click away. Here are a few places to start your explorations.
The Teachers’ Guide to International Collaborations, from the U.S. Department of Education, was developed to help teachers begin reaching out in global ways. It is an excellent source for resources and sample projects to inspire you.
ePals is a free web-based service that helps link classrooms around the globe for a variety of projects, from weather watching to language practice, and many more, using safe connections. The four-week “My First Collaboration” is an excellent place to begin global collaboration in a supportive environment.
The 21st Century Schools’ Global Collaboration Projects website offers a collection of resources with guidelines for beginning your own collaboration, and a long list of ongoing projects you can join
The Flat Classroom website is home to a variety of global collaborations. They allow students from primary grades to high school to collaborate around critical issues and create multimedia responses. Flat classroom projects require a subscription fee, but it is not unreasonable for most schools (currently $195 U.S. for 100 students).
Whatever option you choose, international collaborations provide opportunities for understanding and flexibility that are valuable far beyond the immediate projects. Engaging with students from across the globe provides the chance to understand differences as new perspectives rather than oddities—exactly the kinds of flexibility that build creative thinking. So start exploring now, and think about the possibilities before you. What a small and wonderfully diverse world we live in!
I’d love to hear about your experiences with international exchanges. Who has advice for the rest of us?