Five tools for global educators

Recently I have been considering the changing role of teachers who are adopting technology to extend the walls of the classroom. These are a new breed of teachers who do not necessarily accept that the classroom is contained within four walls. In effect, through the use of social media and telecommunication technologies, these teachers are becoming global educators. I consider myself a global educator and have tried to articulate my ideas on why this is a different role to traditional teaching. We are connected educators, linked in to a number of powerful global communities of practice, and we have access to resources, dialogue and audiences we would not enjoy in a traditional learning and teaching role. But what tools do we use to enable us to connect with these communities, resources, audiences around the globe? Here are my top five tools:

Webinar: There are a number of ways to teach and present live from beyond the classroom. I regularly present live (synchronous) webinars or web seminars, and other teaching sessions from my home office, or from a hotel room, and conceivably just about anywhere else there is connectivity to the internet. I have presented from Australia to the USA (strange timezone differences there) and from Europe to the USA, and even, in such events as the Reform Symposium, presented to a worldwide audience of educators. Webinar tools include Elluminate (now known as Blackboard Collaborate), WebEx and Adobe Connect all of which have similar screen topographies and perform similar functions, but all have an associated cost. All of the above tools support live audio (you should use a headset to maintain quality) and video communication (a webcam or internal camera on a laptop is needed for this), slideshow presentation tools and text communication. Webinars could also be conducted on Skype which is currently free, but quality may be more variable using this tool.

Blog: Blogging is arguably one of the most powerful tools for global education. I have already written a great deal about the power of blogging, so I won't elaborate too much here. What I will say is that by following a few simple guidelines, teachers can write and present content in accessible formats, and can incorporate images (pictures, diagrams), videos, audio and hyperlinks, all of which can help students to investigate a topic in greater detail if they wish. The comments boxes below each post support dialogue, and the tagging feature on most blogs enables easier search for content.

Twitter: This social networking tool is deceptively simple, but deeply sophisticated and versatile due to its inherent filtering facilities. It is also an excellent connecting tool - retweets are not repetition, they are amplification of content. The power of Twitter lies not only in its simplicity, but also in its accessibility. Whether used as a backchannel to amplify an event, or as a closed channel to converse between small groups, Twitter has an appeal that enables a great deal more expression that one would expect from a 140 character limit. Hyperlinks and other media links can be shared, and with the addition of a URL shortener, can also make more space for a few annotations. Used in conjunction with the other tools showcased on this page, it is indeed a very powerful tool for the global educator.

Video: Social media tools such as YouTube are maturing into sophisticated tools that enable all kinds of visual media sharing. Over 24 hours of video footage is uploaded to the YouTube servers every minute. Most of it can be disregarded, but some content found on YouTube is gold dust for teachers. It is now possible to create your own personal channel on the service, simply by clicking a few buttons. There is an editing facility available that allows teachers to select specific sequences of video and create new versions for showing to students. The comments box at the foot of each video clip enables dialogue between presenter and students. It's asynchronous, but can still be a highly effective way of sending quality content to distributed student groups.

Slideshare: If you have a Powerpoint presentation or a document and you want to share it with a wider audience, then Slideshare is probably your first port of call. Several of my recent presentations have gone viral simply because the tool is easy to access and is being used by large numbers of people every day. You can see at a glance how many views your slideshow has received, how many favourites, downloads, embeds, and most importantly, you can respond to comments to create dialogue with your remote students.

These are just a few of the vast array of tools that are currently available to the global educator, and they are my preferences. I am sure others will have different preferences or recommendations to make. Please feel free to share your expertise and ideas below in the comments box.

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Five tools for global educators by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Check out www.lessonsmith.com -a global community of educators collaboratively building lessons and sharing their successes. Yes, I'm affiliated with them - we want your feedback and to see how well we're doing! We think that we're a platform that can hit all of the points you mentioned in your post and more, allowing educators to take their practice to the next level.
luis said…
Computers and tablets are only assistants and a good teacher’s will always be needed.
However social networks such as facebook and YouTube as well as great resources including Wikipedia and Wolfram-Alpha are here to stay so that educators must use them in the teaching process.

Some time ago YouTube moved a lot of their educational content to a separate domain giving people access a broad set of educational videos.

However, some complaints include the variety of the content found there as well as the need for schools to register on YouTube under the academic section in order to show their videos, leaving out many academics, professionals and students not formally associated with mainstream schools which contribute with great videos.

Many academics are posting great educational videos and materials online. The only problem is to sort the good ones from the rest and present them in an organized manner.

This effort is being done by: http://utubersity.com which presents the best educational videos available on YouTube in an organized, easy to find way to watch and learn. It also links the videos to related content in Wikipedia or associated websites.

They are classified and tagged in a way that enables people to find these materials more easily and efficiently and not waste time browsing through pages of irrelevant search results.

The website also enhances the experience using other means such as recommending related videos, Wikipedia content and so on. There's also a Spanish version called http://utubersidad.com
mvallance1234 said…
In our course we separate participants to ‘brainstorm’ roles of teacher, student and computer. Then they merge considered roles into a Venn diagram .. or other illustration … in order to determine themselves what ‘they’ think the roles are in their specific situation. We suggest that all 3 have roles which impact and interact in different learning situations.

For roles of computer we are attracted to Higgins’ magister – pedagogue dichotomy. John wrote about this while developing software to liberate the student from ‘programmed instruction’ of the early 80’s.

A snippet form our course text:

Roles of computer:

• Kemmis (1977) suggested the role of computers as instructional (computers present instructions or information), revelatory (checks learners understanding), conjectural (trial and error tasks with no fixed beginning or end) and emancipatory (allows for organisation of thoughts)
• Taylor (1980) and Levy (1997) offered tool, tutor and tutee
• Wyatt (1984) suggested instructor, collaborator and facilitator
• de Quincy (1987) proffered opponent, task setter, manipulator, enabler and stimulator
• Mohan (1992) recommended computer as teacher, computer as stimulus for talk, and computer as context for cognitive development

However, Higgins (1985) embraced classical teaching and presented a dichotomy of ‘computer as magister’ and ‘computer as pedagogue’: the magister knows the truth, consequently guiding and controlling the learner towards that truth; the pedagogue, like an obedient slave, waits for a specific instruction and acts upon it.
Jeroen Verdonk said…
Hi, with the new free Office 365 for Education (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/academic/) you can also use Lync to run your webinars. Next to that you'll be able to host content on SharePoint or skydrive and allow for easy collaboration. Check it out.

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