What could these three diverse places, a small town in country Australia, a large international city in China, and a mountainous state the US, possibly have in common?

I must say, when I started dipping my toes into the global education water, I had my doubts. It's not that I thought global education wasn't worthwhile... I thought of it as a "nice to have" rather than an essential part of my classroom. Like the best discoveries in life, the benefits of connecting globally have revealed themselves to me, little by little, and in surprising ways. I want to write about two unforeseen benefits.

On April 21st, I, along with my erstwhile colleague Simone Uren, presented our global work at the Social Learning Summit, with a cameo from one of a small group of online global colleagues with whom I have formed a real collaborative relationship with, Toni Olivieri-Barton. To be honest, I had modest hopes for the presentation. Yet for several hours afterwards, into the wee small hours of the morning, Simone and I couldn't stop talking about how well it went.

Much of this success was due to the contribution of Toni, who brought skills and experience that Simone and I simply don't have. How amazing it is to be able to draw upon the skills on someone you've never met. The other thing that struck me is how supported I felt in this community of international educators that, again, I've never met. This left me feeling humbled. I should mention in particular the support of Lucy Gray, who has been encouraging me from afar for quite some time now. And this to me is one of the unforeseen benefits of global education. For if you are reading this, you are probably a minority in your school. The culture of schools - endlessly subdivided into units, classes, schools, networks, whatever - can be horrendously isolating places if you think differently.  The knowledge that you aren't isolated, that there are educators out there who understand where you are coming from, can be a really important for your own sanity. And, as in the case of Toni, you can find that the people who ease this sense of isolation can also push you further.

Toni forms the link to the second unforeseen benefit. She works at Shanghai Community International School, but hails from Colorado. It is from Colorado that one of our recent(ish) additions to the Writers Club, Manitou Springs Middle School, is located. To say the students from this school, and this class that is involved, have taken the Writers' Club by storm, would be an understatement. The quality of these students' writing is incredible. But as importantly, the way these students use the community itself is a notch above what our students have been doing. They are self organizing into groups around reading and writing without direction from a teacher. Exposure to such quality would have been difficult at a small school such as ours.And so, our students at Castlemaine North, for so long the leaders, (and possibly a touch complacent) are now exposed to a standard of both writing and collaboration that is pushing them to new heights.

So really, I just want to end this rather incoherent post by saying thank you. Thank you to all who attended our session at the Social Learning Summit. Thank you Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray and all the moderators and everyone else who contributes not just to global learning, and provides teachers and students with possibilities not possible in a traditional school setting. Thank you to all the teachers who use and support the Writers' Club and have made it the most amazing journey so far. Thank you, Toni, for being a fantastic support. And thank you to the entire global community of educators who save my sanity time and again. I promise to get better at being a member of the community, and hope to give back what you have given me.

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Comment by Lucy Gray on May 10, 2012 at 9:25pm

I just saw this, Rob. Thank you! Every teacher out there deserves to have experiences like you describe... I think that's the magic sauce that can keep teachers going throughout the years. I know I've had moments where I've been amazed by the power of professional relationships and how collaborations have changed my professional practice (not necessarily teaching as I'm now longer in the classroom). These aha moments will probably differ for each teacher, and teachers have to have an open mind and be willing to experiment in order for this to happen. You can mandate teachers to value the use of technology in classrooms and for professional development... teachers have to experience it in a way that blows their minds. Hope this makes sense! 

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