College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Technology Ideas and Tools to Connect Students to the World

By Heather Singmaster — April 16, 2015 5 min read
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Of the four domains of global competence, the one that teachers can struggle with the most is taking action. How do we help students apply what they have learned, either individually or in groups? How do they identify local and global issues, make a plan, and then take an action and make their voices heard?

Luckily, there are many digital tools that can connect your students in ways that promote a mindset of taking action and applied learning. Many of these can even be learned together with students.

Here is a selection of digital tools for your students, along with some examples of global projects teachers have used them for.

How can you best use your 140 characters in the classroom? Sharon Davidson, a kindergarten teacher writes, “Social media allows me to connect my students to a global platform where they can share their ideas and discoveries. It’s an easy way for my students to begin to experience what it means to be a safe, kind and responsible digital citizen.” In helping students connect to other classrooms around the world, they can see how far a single voice can carry in the interconnected digital world, an important first lesson in global digital literacy.

Faisal Mohyuddi, a teacher at Highland Park High School in Illinois, learned about Twitter together with his students as he implemented a project to teach Hamlet and how other cultures connect. Students chose characters from the play and created Twitter handles for them, which they used to send Tweets in the voice of that character. Students also had to consider how the play would be different had it been put on by the Ancient Mayans or current day South Korea.

If you are ready to get started as a global educator on Twitter, we created a guide especially for you.

Coding or programming is growing in popularity among students and is a lucrative skill for the job market. Sarah Venkatesh, technology integration specialist at Trinity Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, created a project where students programmed a game using the software Tynker about their local area including transportation and resources, both natural and man-made. They then read a book about Malawi, leading to an investigation of malaria and raising money to help combat the disease there.

And at Miami Edison Senior High, students won the high school division of the Business Plan Challenge with a game they created to help students learn English. The group was able to add their own perspective to an issue that had challenged each of them—they are all immigrants from Haiti and learners of English.

It is predicted that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer specialist jobs available. Girls Who Code is helping get girls across the nation ready for these 21st century jobs. Here is a list of tools to help you prepare your students.

What about games that are already programmed like Minecraft? The Guardian investigated how MinecraftEdu, an educational version of this game, is being used to allow students to build interactive environments. Elisa Farrell of Richard J. Lee Elementary teaches her students about mapping and geography, including resource distribution and trade, as well as concepts in geometry. She created a short video to share more.

World Wide Workshop empowers youth to be inventors and global leaders by developing applications for learning with technology that combine gaming and social networking.


A lot of educators are using Skype for “Mystery Skype” sessions where students can break up into four groups: researchers, note takers, inquirers (question askers), and trackers—those that look for the possible locations on the map. They rotate through these roles and connect with another classroom somewhere in the world. It’s a more rigorous way to investigate the world and apply their global skills than to simply fire up the video conferencing system and have students talk about whatever is on their minds—usually the 3 F’s (food, flags, and festivals).

LumenEd is a start-up social venture that is providing low-cost videoconferencing to schools around the world and is currently looking for U.S. school partners.

Here are some other videoconferencing project ideas.

There are great blog platforms such as Wordpress and Weebly that allow you to set up a basic blogging site for your students. Your students then have a global platform for sharing their ideas and communicating their perspectives with the world and allowing readers to comment back. This can be especially eye opening in rural areas where students may feel more isolated.

Students can blog on local issues and their global connections or write blogs where they compare current and past events. One AP Spanish teacher I spoke to plans to have students blog in Spanish about verbs—how they learned them and tips for other students struggling with tenses.

Here are some other resources to help you find schools and projects to connect your class:

  • Adobe Youth Voices combines advanced digital media tools with storytelling techniques to inspire youth to creativity and problem solving.

  • The Digital Promise Story Map shows global, digital projects happening around the world. Let these spark an idea for you!

  • Global Nomads Group uses videoconferencing and other interactive technologies to bring young people together across cultural and national boundaries to examine world issues and to learn from experts in a variety of fields. The website includes lesson plans, videos, and other resources for current and past programs.

  • The Globe Program provides opportunities for K-12 students to participate in hands-on, inquiry based science projects with others around the world. They work with a network of 24,000 schools.

  • GlobalSchoolNet.org helps teachers find learning partners and projects to engage in international project based learning.

  • The International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) is a global network that facilitates online project-based collaborative learning in classrooms around the world.

  • Reach the World links world travelers, including college students, to classrooms.

  • Sister Cities International has a list of project ideas. Also contact a Sister City organization near you to find out if they can assist you in making a direct connection to your sister city.

  • Skype in the Classroom will connect you to another classroom so you can conduct project together.

  • The Verizon Innovative App Challenge gives concept winners money to build an app that addresses a school or community issue.

Asia Society also has additional examples of classroom projects.

Follow Heather and Asia Society on Twitter.

Image courtesy of LumenEd.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.