Five for Friday: Getting a Global Education from Social Media

Prompted into action by a Facebook comment from the Laurel Springs School questioning how students from different cultures learn about each other,  I decided to explore some different options for cross-cultural learning.  After poring through several sources on sister schools, globalized non-profit organizations, and culturally-themed teacher resources, I realized that while all of these options are wonderful avenues for learning, they also tend to consume a lot of time, money, and external planning–three things that today’s teachers have a limited amount of! With this in mind, I elected to narrow my research to new and non-traditional options for cross-cultural learning that often don’t require quite as much investment: namely focused social media interactions. In this post I review some new social media tools and how they are being used to expand the realm of cross-cultural learning.


1. Twitter. Teachers can now use Twitter, a popular micro-blogging service, to start dialogues with teachers and students in all parts of the world. A great example of how Twitter is redefining the concept of a global classroom comes from Overton High School teacher Adam Taylor. Adam connects his students with students from all over the world, even making time before regular school hours for his students to converse with their peers from Pakistan across an eleven hour time difference. Adam says, “I can see this project going a long way to helping my students understand different parts of our country and the world. With the right online tools students are not limited to learning from a book or the teacher in the room. The world and the people living on it become the classroom and the teacher.” To learn more about how Adam developed this project, and about his current work as a classroom innovator, check out his blog, 2footgiraffe.

2. Skype. With Skype, teachers can add face value to the cultural conversation.  Skype can be implemented into the classroom in a variety of ways, in fact, lists 50 awesome ways to use Skype in conjunction with education. In terms of defying the traditional restrictions of place and space, one example from Seth Dickens of DigitaLang reveals how adding interaction over Skype can bridge a cultural gap between students negotiating a language barrier. Seth Dickens’ Italian language class had been using Twitter to practice written conversations with students in Italy learning English.  To finish off a great semester of applying social media in the classroom, his students planned a “face-to-face” finale with their Italian peers via Skype. Seth wrote of the event, “overall my students left the classroom with big smiles on their faces after staying behind late (after a hard day of exams). In my book that’s a lesson that has worked well!”

3. Edmodo. Carol J. Carter, expert in student success and transition asks, “Have you ever wished you could connect your students with students across the world? What about provide a once in a lifetime experience to your students without having to leave the classroom?” Carol believes that Edmodo is the answer.  A classroom of 5th graders has recently put this new social media platform to the test as they connect with other students around the world. The Quad City Times reports that about two dozen students participating in an Extended Learning Program project are communicating online with students across the country as well as in Canada, Japan, China, India, and Poland in an effort to put together projects about their daily lives and the things that make them different and the same. The students communicate through Edmodo, an online social network designed for teachers and students that is formatted similar to Facebook. The teams are assigned topics for their projects based on an aspect of their everyday lives, such as food, clothing, celebrations, housing, transportation and school.

Watch this neat video from Edmodo to see for yourself how Edmodo can revolutionize social media and cross-cultural connectivity in your classroom.

4. ePals: The reach of the ePals Global Community™, which includes 200 countries and territories, provides a powerful network effect that brings together students and educators based on areas of learning and geography. Unlike traditional social networks, where a person usually connects solely with people he or she knows in the “real world,” the ePals network connects students both “down the block” and literally around the globe with people they may not know, but with whom they share a common interest. For example, a high school class studying Chinese may use ePals to connect with a class in China that is studying English. These interactions help students in both countries learn the language and experience some of the culture through this real-world connection. (

6354862031_b8b1927516_b.jpg5. Facebook: Although Facebook has historically been used as a tool for people to manage their social lives, in recent years, more people have been using the social networking site for managing their professional contacts.  Corporations and organizations are using it, too: Facebook is now a hot spot for all types of businesses to better connect with their audiences.  Likewise, teachers and students are now finding new ways to draw educational value and global connectedness from the network.  Outside of the classroom, teachers and students can “like” pages that reflect their interests and connect with people who share the same passions all around the world. Inside the classroom, teachers can make classroom-only groups to share articles, videos, or photos and start class discussions. Also, Facebook pages like The Global Education Collaborative are designed specifically to connect classrooms across the globe. Example posts from this page read: “Seeking teachers in China for online penpal exchange”, and “documentary available online to GEC attendees: Carol Black’s Schooling the World.”

chart.JPGSocial Media is a growing opportunity to expand our personal network, to learn about the world around us and to share knowledge, experience, and ideas across all cultures. Social media has a place in both our personal and professional lives and is, without a doubt, a very real part of our education.

Photo Credits: NGEP Geo-Literacy Campaign Photographs 2011
–Julia from My Wonderful World

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