International educator Barbara Anna Zielonka talks about an ambitious project that aims to expose students to real-world situations and inspire them to be true global citizens.
What is the SingleVoicesGlobalChoices project in a few words?
It is a global and collaborative project for middle and high school students and their teachers starting on the 1st of September 2020.
Who is running the SVGC project?
The project is run by three educators who are passionate about transforming education and spreading their expertise in the field of global connections, global competencies, Education for Sustainable Development and project-based learning.
In the team we have Lesley Fearn who is a secondary-school teacher and a doctoral researcher in the field of Education and Education Technology, specialising in language learning and teaching with the Open University’s CREET. Lesley is also my first project partner and a friend whom I have known and worked with since 2011. Together we have created more than 10 eTwinning projects and I could not be happier to have her in this global project.
As we get bigger and bigger every single year, we have also decided to invite Lynn Thomas to join us. Lynn is a passionate secondary school English teacher at Dunnville Secondary School in Ontario, with a broad experience in the field of health and wellness, social and emotional learning, global collaboration educational technology.
What is your background?
In 2007, I earned my master’s degree from the University of Silesia, Poland and made a bold move to relocate to Norway. Since 2008 I have been teaching English at Nannestad High School and sharing my expertise and knowledge with educators on a regular basis. I have also completed many post-graduate studies here in Norway and have participated in hundreds of courses and webinars.
I tend to joke that I am addicted to professional development and keeping up to date with research, new teaching methods and strategies:) I cannot imagine my work and my life without access to education, books, journals and synchronous and asynchronous meetings with like-minded educators.
First of all, how did you come up with the project idea?
I have always been a great fan of global projects and internationalisation in education. In 2011 I learnt about the eTwinning platform which enables European teachers to create projects and connect with educators. I signed up and the whole new world opened up for me. Together with Lesley Fearn we created our first tiny project called Interaction, Interdependence and Interculturalism.
By joining the eTwinning community, I met inspiring teachers who had the same vision and mission and who wanted to teach English in an unconventional way. I say unconventional because at that time there were very few teachers who were thinking about opening the doors of their classrooms and inviting peers and teachers from other countries. Following what is going on in the news and becoming a #teachSDGs Ambassador has made me realize how important it is that we focus on Education for Sustainable Development in our ongoing projects.
What is the aim of the project?
Our main aim is to infuse curricula with more project-based learning, to expose students to real-world examples and to empower them by giving them the opportunity to co-create knowledge and learn through mistakes in a safe environment. We believe students need to develop global competencies while still at school, so that they can become successful citizens at future workplaces. Our students will work with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, and will learn to understand the importance of appreciating different ideas, perspectives and worldviews.
What age groups is the project designed for?
Even though we are all high school teachers, we have decided to open this year’s project to middle schools. We received many messages in the past from middle school teachers who wanted to join us, and that is why from 2019 our global projects are both for high and middle school students.
What are the learning objectives for the students?
Students in today’s classrooms, who will grow up to be global citizens and leaders of the future, will require a remarkable insight into some of the challenges our world faces. We expect students participating in this project to expand their digital citizenship, develop their global competencies as they collaborate with peers from more than 50 different countries and discuss global problems which require immediate attention.
Can anybody join this global project?
Teachers working both in public and private schools are welcome to join us. All the teachers who have already signed up have received access to our digital hub where we share resources, create lessons and assignments together, exchange teaching ideas and learn about research and other online events they can participate in. We want to offer teachers an online space where they can feel there is always someone who has similar ideas and who understands the importance of connections and collaboration.
When does the project start and finish this year?
It is a long term project starting on the first of September and ending in April 2020. We know that in some countries students start their school year later or earlier on and that is why we are quite flexible and allow teachers to select their own starting point.
How many projects have you completed so far?
When it comes to eTwinning projects, we have had 9 projects so far, but in 2017 we decided to design global projects so that we could invite teachers outside Europe.
Our first global project The Universe is Made of Tiny Stories had 36 schools from more than 20 countries. Over the past four years the number of schools has reached over 120, so we have made a huge progress. My dream is to have at least one school from one country which means I still have to work really hard on it:) Who knows, maybe in 2025 we will cover all 195 countries. I stay positive and know that turning dreams into reality is possible.
For the previous projects, what has been the response from students and teachers?
The response from teachers who are active on social media networking sites has been very positive. We have tried to spread the word about #singlevoicesglobalchoices on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. Besides this, we have shared information about it with educational bloggers who were also willing to write about it so that more educators could learn about it.
So, how can someone join the project?
The easiest way to join this project is to fill out an online form. The form can be found here.
Finally, what is the Ambassador Programme?
It is an opportunity for teachers to get involved in many different types of work involved in the process of designing and coordinating our project. Our Ambassadors are typically confident, dynamic and strong communicators with an active presence on social media networking platforms. They spread the word and represent #singlevoicesglobalchoices team.
Where can someone find more information?
We suggest visiting our website and checking #singlevoicesglobalchoices on Twitter. This video summarizes our main concept:
Barbara Anna Zielonka is a full-time high school English teacher, educational technologist, teacher trainer, project manager, judge in international educational competitions, speaker, lifelong learner, catalyst for change and author.