Canada Welcomes the World!
On March 22nd, 2017, E2 – Microsoft’s Global Educator Exchange kicked off in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the Fairmont Royal York with an incredible vibe and energy.
As a returning Microsoft Fellow to E2, I was honoured to be chosen as a speaker for a 15 minute Envision presentation, for the category of instilling active citizenship. I spoke about the importance of global collaboration projects and shared my story of #WHOtoYOU. Here is my speech.
Global Collaboration Project #WHOtoYOU
Hello and welcome! Thank you so much for joining me today. My name is Kaylyn Dorland, I teach grade 3 at Queen of Heaven Elementary School with the Halton Catholic District School Board. Which is actually just an hour down the main high way here in Toronto.
I am a very proud, Canadian, Microsoft Educator Fellow and I was very lucky and honoured to attend E2 in Seattle a few years ago, in 2015. I can honestly say that, that week left me feeling so inspired, hopeful and it ignited a spark within me that has continued to fuel the journey that has brought me here today.
That’s why I’m so glad I have the chance to tell you my story on the first day of the conference and I’d love to share some advice with you for this week. Be sure to soak in and enjoy every moment, appreciate every conversation and network with as many educators as you can.
Ultimately, the inspiring stories you hear will become stories that you will share when you get home and those stories will have powerful lessons in them. I can promise that what you will learn will not only give you, and possibly your colleagues, a new perspective on teaching, but it will definitely help enrich the lives of your students.
Helping our students make meaningful global connections is the theme of this Envision presentation. I hope that the idea of global collaboration projects and connecting with other’s will resonate with you and it will inspire you to try it out when you get back to your own classrooms. After all, that’s why we’re all here, to get to know each other!
As I’m sure that you are all well aware, in 2017, there is still an incredible need to accurately teach younger (and some older) generations about unity, about the importance of tolerance, respect and acceptance.
Although our political and social world can seem bleak at times, I do have a lot of hope for our younger generations. The youth of today are growing up in a world where they can instantly follow and interact with friends and family from anywhere in the world as long as they have a Wi-Fi signal. They are growing up in a world of social media that is constantly telling the stories of people from different countries, cultures and religions.
…it is our collective responsibility to share a variety of global views with our students, that no matter what culture or faith you are from, we are all equal, we all matter, that we can achieve great things together.
By using technology such as Skype, we can virtually bring these personal stories to our classrooms and students. I believe, as teachers, it is our collective responsibility to share a variety of global views with our students, that no matter what culture or faith you are from, we are all equal, we all matter, that we can achieve great things together.
When I applied to become a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) in 2014, this idea of global collaboration really fascinated me and the idea of teaching my students something so unique and important that is also not necessarily written in any curriculum document, really guided the way I wanted to engage my students.
I wanted my seven and eight-year-old students to recognize their peers, learn with them and from them, I wanted them to see a bigger picture. That picture being, that the world is bigger than just their own personal bubble, that there are people existing, living and learning, all around the world, just like them.
So, I reached out on social media and found Leah Obach and her grade one class in Manitoba, Canada (Leah is actually here this week, in fact, I finally met Leah face to face just yesterday). At the time of the MIEE application activity, I had no idea that Leah was already an MIEE, I just thought she was a super cool teacher that wanted to try out this Skype thing with me.
By the end of the project, our classes, over 1500 kilometers apart, chatted about the weather, our favourite recess activities, their pets and how long it took them to get to Toys’ R Us. It was a great starting point and we loved watching our students get to know each other.
A few weeks later, Sway was launched and that was the ultimate game changer. This was a program that students and teachers alike could use to virtually collaborate with global partners.
That is when I got the idea to start a new project, and I decided to give it a name, #WHOtoYOU, which relates back to the questions of ‘who are you learning from?’ and ‘who are they to you?’
Again, I took to social media and I connected with Stephanie Radmonski, a second-grade teacher from Alberta, Canada, who is also now an MIE Expert. Our two classes met over several weeks in small groups, working on report projects through Sway.
The kids got to know each other, they made interesting connections and researched their favourite animals. Once their Sway reports were complete, we got to try something really unique (for a second grade class); each group presented their Sway together, live. We did a split screen on our smart boards, one side with Sway and the other with Skype, and their partners presented right alongside them as if we were all in the same room together.
That’s when I realized something incredible was happening during this project, and it happened again when we tried it out with another second-grade class in New York the following year. I noticed that the student engagement levels were off the charts, these kids were delocalizing, building a global collaborative environment within our own classroom walls.
I noticed that the student engagement levels were off the charts, these kids were delocalizing, building a global collaborative environment within our own classroom walls.
This project proved that these students were taking much more from this experience than the facts they learned from their research reports, they were learning how to learn with and from someone else, someone that’s not even in the same room as them! The learning was authentic, it was meaningful.
I’d like to show you a quick video that shows our journey from last year with this project and to hopefully give you a visual for what this project could look like in your own classrooms.
As you can see this project is cultivating some of life’s most important 21st century skills. What’s really neat is that these kids are only seven and eight years old. Imagine if we provided our students an opportunity like this throughout their entire education. Imagine the experiences they would have, and the understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.
And now, with Skype Translator, we even have the tools to knock down those language barriers. We just need to figure out the whole time zone issue, and we’ll be all set.
To wrap up, there’s been a lot of focus in the world lately about being the best, about being first and putting certain values and beliefs of one country, culture or faith over another. We need to put an end to that. We need human-unity.
And as educators, if we really took the time to address this, we could make a huge impact. Starting with how we demonstrate to our students and our fellow educator community, how easy it is to reach out and connect with the world.
If we answer the call and take action, show our students that we are all in this together; that when we take the time to reach out, even virtually, one country to another, learning with each other, we will find that the stories we learn from our global partners will become the stories that shape us, make us who we are and what we value.
And as our students grow and develop into contributing members of society, those stories will continue to teach them powerful lessons that will not only give them new a perspective on life, but it will also help enrich the lives of the future.
…Those stories will continue to teach them powerful lessons that will not only give them new a perspective on life, but it will also help enrich the lives of the future.
For the last few minutes of my presentation, I’d like to reach out to some very important people that I think would love to share their thoughts on global collaboration with you. (This is when I got to chat with a few of my students, live, during the presentation, they were of course adorable and spoke about their feelings towards global collaboration!)
Thank you very much for joining me today, and I challenge all of you to meet someone from another country while you are here and set up a global collaboration project like #WHOtoYOU, and share your stories with us on social media.
Enjoy the rest of your day!