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Blended learning across the world

The following post originally appeared on Nick Martino’s blog Defenders of Ma’at. Since the blog was written, Nick’s visa was approved, and he is now with his students in Hyderabad, India.

As I sit sipping my white mocha espresso at Hyperion coffee shop in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I am very impressed with the ease of using technology to flatten my classroom, and in turn, the world. My Global Studies and Social and Cultural Anthropology students are currently sitting at their desks in our host-school, the INDUS International School, which is located just outside of Hyderabad, India. You might be wondering how or why I would be teaching students in India from Fredericksburg, Virginia. The answer to both questions is technological innovation in teaching. First, through the innovative ideas of Joann McPike, founder of THINK Global School, and second, through a host of Web 2.0 tools designed to help teachers use the internet in their classrooms.

The process to receive my Business Visa to work in India has been quite the conundrum, and due to this I was absent on the first day of classes for the first time in my teaching career. Visas are usually one of the trickier factors when choosing a host country, but usually the visa complications are with our students not our teachers.

This issue has left me in Virginia while my classes meet in Hyderabad. While no doubt a bit frustrating, the distance has actually helped me to grow as an educator. In order to start classes without a hitch, despite the many miles between myself and my students, I had to utilize the internet to flatten my classroom. THINK Global School uses an incredible platform, THINK Spot, to facilitate our online learning, and without it none of this would be possible. (A huge thank you to Lindsay, Mike, Jeff, Lee, and our entire tech team for doing an incredible job!)

Some of the Web 2.0 Tools I have used in order to blend the learning and flatten my classroom are:

Podcasts: I created a rap/podcast on GarageBand as a creative way to introduce myself to the students and provide their first assignment of the year. I will use the assignment results as a gauge to determine what level of researching and writing skills that my students possess. To hear my rap/podcast for Global Studies click here.

Forums: I have uploaded selected readings for my IB Anthropology students and created online forums to have discussions with them, despite our 9.5 hour time difference. The first one is Horace Miner’s classic study of the Nacirema, with a twist. This is a great article to start discussing emic and etic perspectives in an Intro to Anthropology class. To see the group forum for Horace Miner’s article, click here.

Keynote: I posted the file of a Keynote presentation to give an overview the first unit for Social and Cultural Anthropology the Intro to Culture.

Blogs and Prezi: I have created a blog that outlines classwork activities and group work that my students can carry out during our class sessions. On the blog, I have embedded a Prezi with documents explaining 21st Century skills as well as Intro to Culture worksheets. Another fun class activity that is included in the Prezi is for my students to collectively create an audio file in which they and willing participants from around Hyderabad say “hello” in as many languages as they can. Once all the greetings have been compiled, this will be shared with the world on Twitter.

Despite the physical distance, I am sure that my students are off to a great start to understanding both the country and the world around them.

Stay tuned for more from my class, hopefully I will be onsite in India before the weeks end. After learning how engaging these tech tools are for both me and my students I will absolutely keep pushing the digital envelope with my teaching.

Thanks for reading!

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