Beyond geography – A global collaboration

Geography, when I was in primary school, included rote learning of capital cities and populations and, most fun of all, making flags and colouring in maps.

Half a century later, Year 2 (7-8 year olds) at my school are inquiring into how geography affects the ways people live. They will explore landforms, climate, people and how they live, not from a textbook, but by connecting with children their own age in other parts of Australia and the world.

So far, each of our five classes has made contact with a class in another part of Australia and partnered up with classes in Indonesia, China, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and Cambodia. Some of the teachers on both sides are new to this kind of interaction, but all are keen to connect via Skype, blogs, email and whatever other creative means they can think of.

Romy, one of new Year 2 teachers and her class connected this week with Sari and hers, from Surabaya, Indonesia, who was one of the participants in my recent digital citizenship workshop.

“The kids were so fascinated that they could be in touch with a school in another country and it really provided them with an opportunity to think about how different things are between the two schools and countries, but it was wonderful to see the smiles and wow moments when they realised they had things in common.”

A few years back, many of our teachers were nervous about getting involved in this kind of interaction without a great deal of support. Connecting with kids in other places has become more natural over time, but has often consisted only of a single Skype session, with little if any follow-up. Before each Skype session kids would prepare questions… and then sometimes be so busy waiting for their turn to ask, that they’d forget to listen to responses. We’re great learners though, always refining the process and learning from our mistakes.

This is the first time a whole Year level is on board at once and I’m as excited as the teachers are. They have made initial contact with their collaborators and most have decided it’s worthwhile connecting with their classes informally the first time, so that the children know who they’ll be interacting with. They have come up with a range of lovely ideas such as creating puppet videos to introduce themselves first!

There are many opportunities ahead for reading, purposeful writing for an audience, speaking and listening, mapping, learning about our own and other countries… and a host of worthwhile trans-disciplinary skills. And there will be opportunities for the development of a variety of attitudes such as appreciation, confidence, curiosity, respect and cooperation.

In the next few weeks, our Year 2 learners will be calling for photos from all over the world, with descriptions of how local geography (in the broadest sense of the term) influences the way you live.

Watch this space!

6 thoughts on “Beyond geography – A global collaboration

  1. Edna,

    Its great to see you and your teachers doing so much great stuff to support the students learning. I used to love geography (my highest score in a rather ordinary HSC), but how technology and a different approach teaching has opened it up for our students.
    When our Y6 students were interviewing experts for the PYPX over the last month or so, I’ve recorded Skype conversations so that the students can review the interviews. It has worked quite well so far. On an Apple computer its a simple as doing a screen recording with QiickTime, not so sure about PCs.

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  2. Dear Edna
    I am deeply troubled to learn that your young children are now pursuing undergraduate activities with you rather than blue shading Islands and rote learning capitals and great rivers of the world. Surely you must have recognised the sheer folly that exists in troubling young children with the realities of life. Until children learn about the past, and memorise the roles that James Cook and Ferdinand Magellan had in discovering ‘Stralia, at least a 5 year process, frankly you might as well ‘ Foster’ into the wind! Don’t you know anything about old fashioned pedagogy as pedalled by Michael Gove here in the UK.
    Alternatively, take a bow. Not withstanding choices children have to make, the best bit about your blog is that you recognise in public how exciting modern education can be.
    All best
    James

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  3. Wow! This is so amazing, the children will never forget what they learn from this experience. How much better then rote learning!!!

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