Rather than just being places where students learn about the world, schools are now places where students can learn with the world. I teach History in Sydney, Australia and I have been involved in various global teaching projects over the past four years: Skyping with overseas experts, connecting my students with Turkish students to discuss World War One, collaborating with a US history class about World War II, and participating in Liz Dawes Duraisingh’s on-line pilot study Personal Reflective Spaces in the History and Social Studies Classroom. “Why isn’t that in our textbook?” has become a common refrain in my classroom. At the end of last year my students reflected that, “We have seen different points of view”, “We have found unseen truths”, and “We have learned that we only study history from an Australian point of view.”
Having had these experiences, when I was offered the opportunity to participate in the Project Zero pilot study for the Out of Eden Walk, I jumped at the chance. My Year 9 History class responds to a weekly online prompt through the secure Edmodo platform. So far they have sketched and photographed their own neighbourhoods and responded to online contributions from students in India, England, Canada and the US. My students are enthusiastic about their involvement in the project and it is interesting to observe the development of their thinking as they compare and contrast their thoughts with the ideas of other students around the globe. I believe that these global connections enable my students to break out of the straitjacket of single identities and view history as a continuous process of interaction between the present and the past.
I have just finished reading Al Gore’s recently released book The Future, in which he claims that, “We are witnessing the birth of the world’s first truly global civilization.” Thanks to Paul Salopek and the researchers at Project Zero we are forging new ways for our students to learn and new ways to do this thing we call school.