Global Collaboration

Last year November 3  I joined Julie Lindsay and several other Global Educators as part of K12 Online Conference’s.

I was part of a panel discussion around ideas presented in Julie Lindsay’s opening keynote presentation.

Some of the panelists included

  • Dr. Leigh Zeitz: ISTE Global Collaboration PLN President
  • Lucy Gray: Global Education Conference
  • Anne Mirtschin: global educator from Australia
  • Sonya Van Schaijik: Chinese language teacher from New Zealand

The discussion was hosted on youtube and the audience were invited to comment and ask us questions.

Before the session, Julie sent us questions of what she would raise so I created some notes for the session.


Why is online global collaboration important as a pedagogy? as a curriculum?

For me it is glocalisation. Where I have taken what I have learnt with Julie and put a local context on it.

Our classrooms at Newmarket School are already filled with a face to face of the world. I believe that global collaboration is important as a pedagogy because it exposes our teachers to the changing face of our classrooms. Making connections and collaborating supports our teachers and students  as they develop empathies for their new friends. A classic example for us was when we worked with Lincoln School in Nepal with teachers Brian and Sudha. Our children in the project were worried about their new friends affected by the earthquake that they set up a project and raised money to support the earthquake appeal. Another example was using the skills I have learnt on Flat Connection and connected with our sister school in in our sister city of Ningbo China.  

2. Do educators find the concept of global education and/or the practice of online global collaboration challenging? Why? Any suggestions to help them?

Yes because initially I believe our teachers see online global collaboration challenging and as an add on to an already busy curriculum. However as I work with our teachers I support them in the journey to realise that it is should be part of what they do because we are preparing children for the now and future. I believe that if we can teach our children to develop empathy through working with children when they are young then maybe one day as world leaders they can make decisions that support peaceful initiatives in the world.

3. What is required for the design and management of online global collaboration? Can you provide examples?

I have been part of online global collaboration since I was a child and my Canadian teacher set me up with a penpal. Then when I was a younger educator I was part of UNESCO’s peace project. You do not need flash wifi or the latest technology to make connections. Just the determination to make it work. For example whether it is via snailmail, email, skype, wechat and my latest favourite technology, a  bit of bluetack to the television so that the iPad works as a camera. However the work I do and have done with Julie has allowed me to push the way I do things to a new level. One of this is the importance of values when online. The respect we show for others through the handshake, though developing connections like using a digital handshake,  because without establishing connections, collaboration just does not work.

4. Can you share outcomes of global connections and collaborations that have changed or shifted the practice/approach/understanding of you or colleagues or students? Shifted in what way?

My biggest personal shift in thinking is about construction. In 2015 I was approached to judge some of the digiteen co-constructed videos and blown away by the quality of what I saw. It takes longer to do this however the relationship building in the process is what I believe is the true learning. Last year I set up an online system to do the same thing with about 38 educators and I saw first hand that the product was just the tip of the iceberg. The relationship building through making connections and working together was the real learning.

That was my ahhah moment. This year I have just joined a community of learners (CoL) as part of our Auckland Central 11 Schools. Again we have a massive achievement goal that we have set.  I already see that making connections and relationship building across our schools is actually the key learning. Because many of our teachers have never experienced global collaboration as a pedagogy they continue to believe that face to face learning is somehow the only way. They have yet to experience face to face through technology. There appears to be a belief that somehow technology is a barrier to relationship building.

I think of my own journey with Julie. For months I cyberstalked her work and then when an opportunity came to work with her in person, I jumped at the chance. But my real learning developed when I undertook her online course as an educator. Last year I brought in teachers and students to work with me. This year I am doing the same. But even more exciting is having convinced my principal to do this because to really shift a school in thinking we know that it takes a whole school approach. I can already see the results of this happening as we plan for next year.

Some of my takeaways from the online panel discussion

  • Collaboration is collective and is about the group succeeding not the individual. Hattie calls this effective teacher efficaey.
  • We need to set up conditions and systems for collaborations. I am doing this right now with our Auckland Central Community of Schools (ACCoS) group.
  • Opening up to the world we have to admit and anticipate the unexpected. This will go wrong and it is the thinking of how we deal with the challenges.

What is it that we can know that we don’t know. Taking risks and making mistakes is valuable for learning. Perfection gets you nowhere. When I am encouraging teachers to take part in a global project I give them some idea of what they are in for. However that is never enough because they will really learn by doing. 

Being part of Flat Connections Week in the Life bring children and teachers together to work on a common issue. However the learning is really about working together to build wisdom and knowledge.

Sow and create possibilities for future generations. I am speaking here about the generation that is online in the next hour, week, month and so forth.

Create knowledge through relationships. We have been learning coaching skills as an ACCoS Across school leader and embedded in the professional learning is the importance of building relationships and everything we say and act with others must come from the human layer.

I am passionate and curious to how far I can learn online with the teachers I work with. I am not focused on an endpoint because there never is one but I am focused to see how far we can go.

As an aside you can read more about the work I do in Julies Book, The Global Educator. 

A Week in the Life Global Project

SOLO Taxonomy

Those of you who work with me know that I frame everything I do using SOLO. Even as I worked with my student groups in the Week in the Life project, SOLO was there guiding my thinking all the way. This time for this blog post about the Week in the Life Global Project, I thought I would share with you how I use SOLO to guide my thinking and writing. Like the children I have been using Google Draw to create HOT Maps to guide my thinking. In addition I have used HookEd Rubrics to push me even further and in addition I used the HookEd Questioning Generator App to help frame ideas I might not have thought of. Here is my SOLO Describe Map that links to the original with links. ( I needed to adapt the map using slides because when publishing in draw, the links do not work.)

Effect”>Describe Map


In October 2015 at Ulearn I presented Newmarket School’s involvement in online learning and collaboration leading up to the Flat Connections Global Projects and why I believe that teachers and schools should seriously become involved in global education. I shared a little about our involvement in the ‘Week in the Life’ student collaborative project that we were part of from July until December.

Flat Connection

Flat Connection

The purpose of Flat Connections is global learning for teachers and children. As I began to define what Flat Connections is I found this image that defines what the community of learners is all about. I have borrowed this straight off

After becoming Flat Connection Global Educator Certified in 2014, this year from February until June, I trialled the ‘Week in the Life’ with a small group of student leaders. The outcome of that trial was as a school we embraced Edmodo to compliment our Google Apps for Education Tools.

Our year 5 and 6 classes and teachers used the Edmodo platform to communicate and share learning across three classes. I encouraged the rest of our staff to become involved as observers and most set up their own teacher Edmodo accounts. Magic can happen when teachers set up their own online accounts. Teachers must be actively involved online with their classes and using Edmodo across three classes enabled this.  As a further wall with our children three other administrators must also be inside that class account. With Flat Connections Edmodo was used for collaborative learning across 6 global schools. When you sign up for Flat Connections you must show evidence of police verification. That is why it is important to be part of a community that already has systems in place for our children’s safety.

A week in the Life

Meanwhile our trial group pushed through with learning and the outcome of the trial was so successful that in the second 2015 cohort of A week in the Life saw Newmarket school take part with 86 students and three class teachers. Because I had been involved I was able to support our teachers by attending most of the online teacher meetings and they attended whenever they were able to attend. The difference between cohort 2 and cohort 1 was that I was no longer attending teacher meetings at midnight on a Thursday. The benefit of having our classes take part was that a Week in the Life learning happened as part of their in class programme. My trial group had been doing their part during a 40 minute lunchtime once a week. Basically children are placed into groups with children from other schools across the globe. The goal is to produce an artefact that shows the outcome of the children working together.


I have learnt the importance of curating when I am learning online and I do this digitally using my wiki. So I curated the information that Julie @julielindsay fired at us such as who the teachers were who were involved, and I added links and curated meeting clips and slides because sometimes we needed to revisit them to keep up to date with schedules and deadlines.

We also had the google group emails coming at us. The challenge was that if teachers registered using their school email address then a lot of information would clog up their inboxes. I had learnt to deal with this by using an external email for Edmodo mail and Flat Connections. This allowed me to see at a glance where all the information was.

Teachers working together

When us four teachers from Newmarket school worked together on the online project I was really excited because I knew that a shift in learning had happened. More so than when I was by myself with the trial group of students. As much as I could, I supported our teachers during report writing by dealing with most of the communication.  In addition we had our cultural festival and end of year business looming.

This time I was determined to have our students take part in the student summit. A student summit is when the children share their learning within a short time frame. I gave Julie a date for when we would be ready. I worked with the teachers and the teachers worked with the children and it all came together. I was really proud of Anna @MissSpeir, Belinda @BelindaHitchman and Veni @JamiesonVeni from Newmarket School. I know that taking part in the project stretched their thinking as learners themselves. We problem solved some of the technical issues and we connected with other educators and their classes via skype and Edmodo. They also helped monitor the online activities happening between student groups. I believe they were excited to see their children collaboratively learning with children from 6 other countries. When we met other educators via our Fuze meetings and via skype I think they were excited at the learning connections they made. They learnt about time zones and about everyone being responsible for our children, for each other and for other  for when we work collaboratively online.

Tools used

We used the following digital tools

  • Edmodo
  • Google Draw
  • Voice Thread
  • Fuze
  • Skype

As we navigated through a variety of tools we found that Google Draw was not that easy to use when on iPads yet is perfect for Chromes. So the schools using ipads used padlet. As a school I set up class accounts for Voice Thread, but my recommendation would be to have a school paid account and the children would have their own individual accounts. The class accounts worked to a point. but we found that only one user could use the account at a time. We had great excitement when we skyped Chipeta Elementary School in the United States of America and Wilderness School in Australia. The classes took part in the session like a skype in the classroom where they try and guess where the class in from using yes and no type questions. We also skyped in an air scientist to answer some of our questions. Fuze is like a google hangout but is more private. We used Fuze for teacher meetings and for the student summit. Edmodo continues to be a winner for us and all our children were really excited to talking to children from other parts of the world. I could see them trying to set up times for when they would all be online together. I love Edmodo too because I watched how our second language learners used translating tools to personalise and adapt learning to help them get their message across. They were so fast with flipping between two languages on their Chromes. The tools enabled their voices to be heard and often before they were ready to share orally in class.  During the Week in the Life Project I really liked observing our teachers giving feedback to student’s reflecting on their learning as part of the learning task. 

Student Summit.

The student summit happened in the final week of school as we raced towards the end of our school year. Out of our 86 children 30 children were selected to share their learning in the project. I basically gave them a single slide to build to accentuate their learning. Then narrowed down the selection group. We had one morning to prepare for the final sharing and so the presentation group had two shots at preparation before we went live. I invited our principal to watch and had some of our other classes watching too. Because of our time zone we did not get the global viewing from the other schools. So that would be something I would consider again for next time. At the same time with technology I know that the other schools could come back and rewind our session. I was really proud of our children. The final student summit is really the process of the learning.

Would I do again? Definitely. Learning is amazing when our teachers and children work with other schools. However something extraordinary happens when we cross oceans and time zones.

Difference to other learning.

The difference that The week in the life project has to other learning is the online collaboration that the children and teachers have with children from other countries. There is an ocean to cross and time zones to conquer. Together teachers and children create a shared artefact about their learning and this is usually to do with global issues. I think that this time children created their own artefact rather than contribute to a shared google doc and next time I would remind them about the importance of having everything in one space.

Visible Learning

As I observed the children working collaboratively, I could see teamwork happening as various members stepped up to ask and answer questions about their global topic. I saw examples of citizenship as members of our Travelwise Team took responsibility to run a school wide campaign to encourage our children to walk to school. The activity helped students to understand the impact of their actions and their role as citizens. Online and offline there were opportunities and examples of children speaking respectfully to each other as they learnt together. In Edmodo there was some discussion but probably the greatest evidence of teamwork was in co constructing information using Google Paint and in the dialogue happening on Voice Thread. I watched as my colleges helped students make connections across learning areas and to the wider world overcoming barriers of distance and time.

Julie helped us too by curating learning artefacts on a dedicated wiki.

 Overall impact of the WITL

The greatest impact is a glimmer of how far we can push learning through enabling students to join the Flat Connections community of learners. Learning does not have to just be within a physical space, or confined to a certain way of doing things, or even constrained by a language, distance or time. Learning extended well beyond the classroom using digital tools. Myself I learnt a lot too. I watched how the other teachers tackled problem solving and communication across time zones. I myself learnt about air quality from a student in Singapore and an air scientist somewhere in Auckland. Do visit the Flat Connections site to find out more about becoming involved.

Where to next?

As a school Newmarket has joined the ALLiS Cluster (Asian Language Learning in Schools).

I am the lead teacher for our school and I have proposed that we be involved in Connect with China project. This semester I have been an observer teacher in the project and have watched how teachers from America and Australia have made connections with Chinese education. The main tool we have used has been WeChat. I think that as a school we need to seriously consider using WeChat as a communication tool with our families as most of our families use WeChat in preference to Facebook. WeChat is a smartphone app that allows you communicate using text, photos, videos and funny stickers! You can even leave voice messages. WeChat is available across all mobile phones and it’s easy to use!

I have sent out the invite to our teachers at Newmarket School to join me in learning to use WeChat. I have been using WeChat for about three years now and I am slowly building an incredibly different PLN to what I have on twitter and facebook.


Add Me: ulimasao

Further information

If you are interested in Global Education and want to know more about flattening your walls, then join a Flat Connections group in 2016. Julie offers a range of projects that cover a range of age levels.

If you want to know more about SOLO Taxonomy then join Bridget Casse. Pam Hook and myself next year for a TeachMeetNZ Google Hangout where we will be sharing some stunning New Zealand Educators using SOLO in their teaching. Details are being finalised.

  • Date: Saturday 18th of April 2016
  • Time: 2.00pm

You can also visit Pam’s Site of incredible resources or get her into your school for professional learning. Personally I recommend her as an amazing educator who can help shift thinking within schools.




Participatory Oriented Citizens:

In October of 2012, I attended Ulearn as an attendee. From the flood of information that washed over me I set two goals.

The first was to run a TeachMeet in New Zealand using Google Hangouts to provide a space where teachers can share their stories. That goal has eventuated and has grown into a curated resource for education that currently has over 70 teacher stories in 3 minutes.

The second goal was to to have our children collaborate on a Global project. This second goal is drawing closer. This year a school global project will be launched that was developed as part of my #FlatConnect Global Educator outcomes.

In the past we have coordinated and run two global projects and have taken part in a few others. Our coordinated projects involved hosting an author in the hot seat. The first session was hosted face to face at the National Library and we hosted Sandra Morris. We had six New Zealand Schools involved and one came in via Skype. Most of the asynchronous communication took place via email. Except for two teachers via twitter. During the global event we used synchronous communication such as Skype and the children used the ‘author in the hot seat forum’ on Superclubsplus to ask questions of the author.

The following year in May 2012, our children took part in a Global Project coordinated by the BBC. You can read more about that here. The asynchronous  tools used were email and youtube. Later that month we ran anothercoordinated global session using Superclubsplus and this time directly from our school. We hosted Ant Sang, kiwi graphic artist extraordinaire.  The story was featured on TKI as part of the Snapshot For Learning series. The link can no longer be located so have added the link to the shared doc used to create the entry. Virginia Kung our assistant principal was the driving force behind this project as part of her inquiry and I coordinated the tool supporting her. Again our synchronous tool was the ‘author in the hot seat forum’ on Superclubsplus. Note here, Superclubsplus is now known as Skoodle.

Where to next? 

As 2015 begin, I think about how our next global project will eventuate. As a Travelwise school with a focus on reducing traffic at the gate, we will take a leading role in this Flat Connect global project and this time I want the children much more involved at the connecting, collaborating, creating and sharing process. I have observed some of the global work we have been involved in and have led and have identified the one offs. Using SOLO Taxonomy this is multistructural in thinking and in order to move to relational thinking we need to create learning experiences that last longer than a one off synchronous session. The skype in the classroom our students were recently involved in was another example of these one off sessions. I regard these one off sessions like a tourist hopping on and off the bus. ‘Stop, take a photo- here is the evidence I have been here and taken part.’

At Newmarket School the #FlatConnect Global Project Travel2School for children will focus on students as participatory orientated citizens as framed by Westheimer and Kahne’s (2004) conceptions of citizenship. We will unpack what this means by identifying responsibilities such as.

    • take skilled and active role in groups that work for the common good
    • know effective strategies for collaborative action

Connections between students will be more than a one off communication session. Collaboration between students will involve students working with others outside their own schools. Across schools an artefact will be co-created that will make a difference to school communities. The students will celebrate learning by globally sharing and reflecting on their part in the process. Underpinning this project will be citizenship. You can read how my thinking is evolving around the term citizenship here.


Routledge.Westheimer, J. and Kahne, J. (2004). Educating the “Good” Citizen: Political choices and pedagogical goals. American Political Science Association