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Iowa Students Collaborate Virtually with Classrooms Around the World

Students in Howard-Winneshiek Community School District in Iowa have been using online social media to engage in collaborative learning with peers around the world.

All of the more than 1,300 K-12 students in the district have been issued digital devices. Some educators in the district have been using the technology to connect with classrooms in Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom and will soon extend that international collaboration to classrooms in Canada, Egypt and France.

Most recently, junior high students in the district have been learning about Russia by interacting with Russian students online, while teaching their Russian peers about the United States. The Russian students have taught the Iowa students about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, famous Russians, and the country's contribution to space discovery. The Iowa students have taught the Russian students about their state's environment and American sports, and have helped the Russian students practice speaking and listening to English.

According to information from the district, one of the students said it's much more interesting to learn from actual people online and to draw relevance from personal experiences than to memorize facts from a textbook.

When the students recently studied food webs and ecosystems, the science and English teachers collaborated to extend the unit to meet both science and language arts objectives while integrating the students' knowledge of Chernobyl. The students applied their knowledge of ecosystems to their knowledge of the wildlife repopulation in Chernobyl to create and publish online presentations using the cloud-based presentation software, Prezi. The students discovered that very little information was available online about the area's wildlife repopulation and hope that others will benefit from the information they published online.

According to Crystal Johnson, a science teacher in the district, it's important for students to collaborate online locally and globally. "On a local level, as our district moves more towards a competency-based education, this type of learning will become the norm and will give our students a deeper understanding," she said in a prepared statement. "On a global level, I am making plans for our students to swap science fair projects with another school and become peer editors, working more like real scientists do."

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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