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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How professors can facilitate global connections without even knowing about it

I recently met with Dr. Gavin Brockett, a History prof at Laurier, to discuss how he has "crossed borders" in teaching a course. Last year he taught a course that involved students in Waterloo, Canada and in Istanbul, Turkey. The students read articles together, collaborated, and engaged in class lectures and discussions. Video-conferencing facilitated the classroom sessions. It sounds like there were many successes through the experience.
Success factors for on-line, cross-border courses

It seems to me that Dr. Brockett considered three distinct, but inter-linked, aspects to the experience: the content (relevant to both cultural contexts), the pedagogy (engaging and collaborative), and the technology (facilitated the learning experience). The Venn diagram to the right is a starting point for my conceptualization and can be extended by the work of people such as Rovai & Downey (2010).

What he admits he didn't consider was the "soft" communication that occurred amongst the students, primarily through Facebook. Although he facilitated rich on-line discussion groups, he also found that students were carrying these conversations forward on Facebook outside of the classroom "space."

I find this fascinating because it reflects some similar experiences we have had in Haiti. We have facilitated face-to-face training sessions and on-line supports but the Haitian and Canadian participants have often furthered the conversations, and deepened their relationships (and their understanding?), through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Clearly the use of social media is not just a "western" phenomenon; it is rewarding to see how it can facilitate GLOCAL connections and learning.

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