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Teach locally, share globally on a multilingual Twitter chat

By Team ISTE
November 18, 2015
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Global project-based learning allows students to collaborate with experts and other learners around the world. Hailed as way to prepare students for the real world, global PBL connects students to passionate, diverse learning opportunities.  

So why shouldn’t educators engage in the same deep learning? That’s the question that led members of some ISTE Professional Learning Networks to organize a September Twitter chat aimed at a global, multilingual audience.

Members of the Games and Simulations, Global Collaboration and Mobile Learning networks participated in an initial 30-minute dedicated chat and then continued the discussion over a 24-hour period known as a “slow chat.”  

Twitter is a terrific platform for global professional learning because it’s accessible across most countries, enables 33 languages and has a translation option. In fact, during the gaming chat, educators tweeted or translated content in French, Arabic, Russian, Mandarin, Spanish and English.

“While some of the world slept, the rest could be active in their own language,” said Anne Mirtschin, information and communications technology coordinator and a teacher at Hawkesdale P12 College in Western Victoria, Australia.

Participants used hashtags and apps to track conversations synchronously and asynchronously, and shared images, videos and links, she said.

“The chat became a vibrant, colorful and engaging visual live feed,” Mirtschin said.

A mix of organizers and moderators collaborated and co-created, each bringing their expertise and individual global experience to the conversation. It was like attending a worldwide conference on your own computer, she said.

“The more people you connect with, the broader your network is, and you learn from people with broader experiences,” said Caitlin McLemore, academic technology specialist at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee. “And now we follow each other, so the learning continues,” adds McLemore, who tweeted only in French during the September chat.  

The key to organizing a successful global chat is to keep tech etiquette in mind, Mirtschin said.

“True collaboration will not work unless everyone feels comfortable, is supportive, understands the nature of the tools to be used, has access to basic technology and is willing to take risks,” she said. “Mistakes will be made, and participants should not be critical but instead see any challenges as part of an ongoing global learning journey.”

She recommends using synchronous and asynchronous ways to connect, selecting sites and apps that are available in most countries, using tools with translation and recording features, and incorporating a variety of media for increased understanding.

Keep in mind that some countries may not have access to Twitter and Facebook. Mirtschin and McLemore point to Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Zoom, Fuze, Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, Sway and Padlet as some other global collaboration options.

While each tool has its benefits, McLemore likes Google Docs for its familiarity, convenience and ability to take notes in a document if an actual meeting takes place, say via Adobe Connect. Padlet has terrific collaboration potential and its online bulletin board nature allows for the inclusion of multimedia items.

Mobile apps are also gaining in popularity for this kind of collaboration. Look to Wechat, Whatsapp, Viber and Remind.

“The more access we have to these communication tools, the easier it will become, and the more it will happen,” McLemore said. “These spaces really create opportunities, and the more we use them, the more it will grow.”

If you’re intrigued by the opportunity to learn along with educators across the globe, the ISTE Professional Learning Networks are holding another Twitter chat Nov. 19 using #globalgamechat. Synchronous tweeting will take place from 8-8:30 a.m. ET, followed by a slow 24-hour chat.