The following story comes from Alberto Herráez Velázquez (@alberto_hv) and Mario Herraez Velazquez (@mmarioherraez), two educators who took inspiration from a field trip to go big with a fun project that spanned several schools, classes and two language.
A note from Alberto: I was born in Salamanca, a beautiful city in the west of Spain, in 1993. Currently, I live in Farmington (Utah) and teach 5th and 6th grades at the wonderful school of Canyon Creek Elementary School.
A note from Mario: I was born in Salamanca as well. I spent all my life in Spain and I moved to Utah four years ago to finish my undergraduate and my internship. I currently teach 6th grade in a Spanish Immersion program.
How and why did you decide to start a collaboration project?
Our class went on a field trip to Antelope Island (Utah state park), and during our visit we realized that there was a lack of materials for Spanish speakers. Our students were surprised and concerned at the same time—they could not stop asking: What if a family from South America visits this park? How are they going to learn about it?
Going back to class, our students were determined to take action!
All the students were inspired to help, and since we were both doing the same project with the same materials and methodology at the same time, we decided to collaborate. Collaboration is a key part of our teaching approach, and it’s crucial to the learning process.
We knew that it was not going to be easy, and our main issue was how to connect three classes from three different schools with over 120 students who speak two languages.
The answers to our problems were easier to find than we thought! We would use Teams, OneNote and Skype – the suite of collaboration tools designed specifically for the classroom.
Students were divided into 32 groups (every group included students from all three schools), and a US national park was assigned to each.
Their goal was to research their national park and create a Spanish guide. They had to gather information on the weather, native plants and animals, ecosystems, and the best time of the year to go.
Apart from the fact that our students were passionate about solving this problem for Spanish-speaking visitors, this project was also related to key parts of our 6th grade science curriculum: weather, the water cycle, animal adaptations and ecosystems.
How did you blend all the tools?
Teams is the tool we used to organize and manage the project. We created and used a Teams site with 33 channels. Collaboration has never been like this before! Teams kept us organized, saved us time and helped us collaborate with each other.
Skype in the Classroom
Skype is our communication tool. We connected our classrooms once a week over Skype so they could keep track of the project’s progress, make decisions, plan next steps and set goals. Connecting our classrooms was a key part of the project as it enhanced students’ learning experience.
Every group had a section in the Teams collaboration space in our OneNote. OneNote helped us organize our documents, and capture ideas and to-dos all in one place.
After every call students evaluated themselves and their teammates to give us some feedback on the project’s progress and the collaboration level among them.
How did that help students?
Since the beginning of this century, we have built a global network to connect people around the world.
That connectedness has exposed us to different cultures and perspectives, opening our minds along the way. Thanks to this global network and collaboration we can get out of our own Plato’s cave.
We as teachers need to give our students the tools to connect and collaborate with other students around the world. We need to teach them to listen to their ideas and learn from them. We also need to teach them to speak their mind and care about global issues. This project helped our students learn the 21st-century skills they’ll need and made learning more collaborative and engaging.
21st century skills
What our project looked like in a nutshell:
- 32 national parks
- Over 120 students
- 3 Schools
- 2 Languages
- 1 Teams
- 32 channels
- Over 50 OneNote sections
- 32 weekly Skype calls
- 7 Microsoft Forms
If you are new to Skype, take the Introduction to Skype in the Classroom course. You can also create your own Skype collaboration: take the Skype collaboration course and get ready to connect your students with classrooms around the world!