Collaborative projects to develop students’ global competence

Adam Bodly-Tickell

Adam Bodley-Tickell is a high school Biology teacher. He teaches Thai students who are enrolled in an English-speaking programme ...

Website: biologycheewit.blogspot.co.uk/ Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Images courtesy of author. Images courtesy of author.

In today’s climate of rising nationalism, closing borders, and increasing tension in the world, the need for education around cross-cultural awareness and understanding is greater than ever. The advent of social media and other technology means collaboration between classrooms around the world has never been easier. So how can we, as educators foster, this vital skill of global competence? The concept of global competence ‘articulates the knowledge and skills students need in the 21st century’. One approach we can take to develop this competence is through global collaborations and projects, and in this post I will explore some of the ways in which teachers can get involved to help their students become more globally-competent citizens.

 As a Science teacher, my subject offers numerous avenues to explore in terms of global collaborations. There are many global STEM projects that students around the world can become involved in, and I will outline some of them below. These kinds of projects can also lead to more direct collaborations between schools in different countries. If we extend STEM subjects to include the Arts subjects (STEAM), there are yet more opportunities to collaborate. For example, some of my students have submitted work to the H2You Project, a geographic literacy project created by US-based educator Laura Schetter. This project encourages students to submit water stories, poems, or any other art or creative work they have done, inspired by our shared global resource of water.

Climate Club students presenting at an international webinar about El Nino.


A few years ago, my colleague Craig Wardman and I established a Climate Club in our school. Students who joined the club were encouraged to participate in various projects relating to climate change and the weather. These projects included school outreach projects supported by NASA, such as the Student Cloud Observations Online (S’COOL) project, and the CloudSat project. For these citizen science projects, students record observations of clouds as seen from the ground. Their observations are timed to coincide with the overpass times of NASA’s cloud-observation satellites. Students upload the data they record to the appropriate websites, and these data are used by NASA scientists to calibrate and refine the images they receive from above via the satellites.


These projects can be taken a step further if “There are many global STEM projects that students can become involved in.”teachers sign up to the GLOBE Program and receive additional training in one of the various protocols they offer. At my school we have been participating in the S’COOL and CloudSat projects for some time, as well as holding regular videoconferences for our students where they have the opportunity to chat with real scientists. We were even lucky enough to have two NASA scientists, Dr Dorian Janney and Peter Falcon, visit our school recently, when they spent an afternoon chatting with our Year 8 students and members of our Climate Club.

Climate Club students making observations for the CloudSat project.


New technology has made it easier than ever for students in classrooms around the world to interact directly with one another. One example is Skype, which has given rise to the popular Mystery Skype phenomenon, a critical thinking activity where students in one classroom try to guess the country of students in another classroom, and vice versa. Another option for similar activities would be Google Hangouts. Indeed, the increased connectivity we see in the world has led to the development of connectivism, postulated as a new theory of learning to frame the current digital age we are living in, or at least as a way to conceptualise new approaches to pedagogy in it.

Welcoming NASA's Dr Dorian Janney (centre) & Peter Falcon (left) to my school.


Time zones can often be an issue for direct classroom-to-classroom interactions and live link-ups with other countries. One way around this is to use an asynchronous approach. In the past this could have been done using an online discussion forum or similar. However, there are now apps available that allow students to record short video messages, which students in another classroom can watch and respond to at a later time. One such app I have used for global collaborations is Flipgrid, where students recorded “One such app I have used for global collaborations is Flipgrid.”video messages to compare and contrast their local ecosystems. (Teachers need a paid account, but once they have that students can download and use the app on their smartphones for free).


Shared Google Documents are another option for either asynchronous or real-time collaborations between classrooms in different countries. For example, a shared Google Doc could be used to create a collaborative student newsletter. Using Google Docs can become easier still if your school signs up for Google’s suite of educational tools, G Suite for Education.

Students having fun listening to Peter Falcon from NASA.


Finally, in order to help our students to become better connected, globally-competent citizens, we should model this ourselves as educators. One of the ways we can do this is by forming and participating in global personal learning networks (PLNs) using social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. PLNs can help us connect with like-minded educators, find potential partners for classroom collaborations, and develop our own professional development strategies. Importantly, they can also help us to model good digital citizenship for our students. A useful Twitter chat for developing a global PLN is #GlobalEdChat, where many useful resources are shared, for example the Global Oneness Project, a website which showcases global stories and provides accompanying lesson plans.


Global competence is a key attribute that our students must develop if they are to become productive and successful members of today’s rapidly changing society. Collaboration, communication, and cultural and social awareness skills are all important qualities individuals will increasingly need to possess in a knowledge-based economy. In addition, as students become more globally aware, it should enable them to see current events to be the intolerant, short-sighted, and inward looking approaches that have proved to be so destructive in the past. I feel that global collaborations are a great way to instil a sense of global citizenship in our students that will be of benefit to us all in the future.


How do you encourage global competence? Let us know below!

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