Science 2.0: Help Students Become Global Collaborators

One day Jared was teaching about the boiling points of common liquids. The year was 1999, and students had to take his word for it when he said those points would vary slightly in the mountains of Nepal versus coastal Miami. Imagine if those students could have investigated the phenomenon collaboratively with peers across the globe. Nowadays, they can.

Meeting the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards makes it possible for students to become global collaborators. The Global Collaborator standard articulates that students should:

  • use digital tools to connect with learners from various backgrounds and cultures;
  • use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints;
  • contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal; and
  • explore local and global issues and work with others to investigate solutions (ISTE 2016).

Global perspectives
Two strategies can help foster a global approach in our science classrooms. First, students must have a basic understanding of the perspectives of others and the research work of scientists across the globe.

Google can enable this strategy, but standard search results are specific to the student’s own country. To search another nation, find its country code (a part of URLs), to identify the country of origin. NASA offers a comprehensive list. Then, to find search results for a specific country, follow the search terms with “site:.countrycode.” So, the search “Human impact on climate change,” for instance, becomes “Human impact on climate change site:.cn” to bring up results from China. The search results will be much different from those in our own region.

Global classrooms
After students begin to understand the perspectives of others, the second strategy is to have them conduct science inquiry with global communities, where they work together, share results, compare-contrast data, and evaluate their findings.

Find relevant resources within the citizen science movement. National Geographic has a web page dedicated to citizen science projects that will help students connect with others. The Teaching Resources section of that page offers activities, lessons, and educator guides to walk your class through their first citizen science exploration.

Wikipedia has a fantastic list of citizen science projects created by a global community of contributors. Virtually anyone can join the projects within their own classroom. Citizen seismology, to give one example, helps students understand the tectonic movement of our Earth and allows scientists to better predict earthquakes and provide warnings to communities in the most affected areas.

The website www.scistarter.com is famous for a project that involved adding sensors to packages shipped across the globe just to see what types of environmental conditions and abuse those shipments experience going from point A to point B. Students can search the site for projects that pique their interest. To search for a project via a more kid-friendly interface, go to www.pbskids.org/scigirls/citizen-science. Or, students can propose a project of their own to the larger scientific community at http://bit.ly/2jsBrLy.

Conclusion
When students explore and learn with others from around the world, they become global collaborators, developing the skills that may help us solve the most challenging scientific problems of the coming decades.

Ben Smith (ben@edtechinnovators.com) is an educational technology program specialist, and Jared Mader (jared@edtechinnovators.com) is the director of educational technology, for the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. They conduct teacher workshops on technology in the classroom nationwide.

Reference
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2016. The 2016 ISTE standards for students. Arlington, VA: ISTE. http://bit.ly/ISTE-standards.

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of The Science Teacher journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

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3 Comments

  1. K Christie-Blick
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Great ideas here to use science as a lens for global collaborations! Also visit Kids Against Climate Change, https://kidsagainstclimatechange.com/ , to give your students an authentic audience to discuss climate change. This site was created by kids for kids to discuss this scientific issue, the most globally significant issue of our time. We’d love to hear from your students. Join the conversation!

  2. Walter Smith
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    If you are interested in global STEM education, check out Texas Tech’s (mostly) online PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with specialization in STEM education that we call Global PRiSE (globalprise.org) to highlight our two key, unique outcomes, one of which is that our students become global STEM educators.

  3. Erica Gray
    Posted June 18, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    After watching the video and reading through this, I think there are a lot of great resources provided for students to utilize when conducting research. I completely agree with the importance of having our students become global collaborators. We could take science and discoveries to a whole other level! There are so many ideas and studies out there those in other countries have compiled that we could learn a ton from. Look at Albert Einstein for example! He studied and brought his ideas to life while in a different country, but now his ideas are well-known here in the United States and he is famous for them. Imagine if there are others out there with a mind like his or theories and ideas that we have been trying to discover.

    Google is definitely one of the best resources! It is awesome that we are able to specifically focus in on a search in another country. Same with NASA! Those are both great things to know to continue to expand the network among our students. I appreciate you sharing the video to show how we can actually do this.

    Along with expanding their global knowledge, I also think it is important to focus in on the key word, collaborator. Utilizing Google Classroom, Forms, Slides, etc. is an excellent way to allow students to practice this in your classroom. I recently completed the Google Educator Certificate and learned a ton of new strategies to help students collaborate. Highly recommended! It is very similar to Trello like you showed in the video and it goes through Google Drive. You are able to share with others and create documents as well. 🙂

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