Look Out, Columbus! The World is Flat

By Marissa Engelhard, TES author and guest blogger

How do you help your students connect with the world around them?

Every year, we celebrate Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492. While Columbus sailed with the idea that the world was not flat, Thomas Friedman's popular book, The World is Flat, brings up some valid points against this explorer. Technology has leveled the playing field in business, and students need skills that allow them to relate to their peers outside of the four walls of the classroom. A generation ago, students in developed countries were more likely to be successful. Today, a genius in a developing country has many of the same opportunities as an average student in a first-world country. Students with the ability to collaborate, explain, adapt, and synthesize will have lifelong skills for the workforce.

We can also see evidence that the world is flat in our classrooms. The Internet allows my students to stack and study graphing with first graders at a Lutheran school in Asia. Google Apps for Education help my students write stories with their peers across the continent. My students can Skype Spanish-speaking students in Mexico to practice their communication skills.

I actively use technology in the classroom in this way, and you can too. Last year, I was teaching state history and looking for a project for my students to connect with other states in a real way. After failing to find a group to join, I created my own project: the Postcard Exchange. Each classroom sends 49 postcards to the other states in their group. In return, they collect postcards from the other 49 states to learn about the culture, geography, and statistics of our country. We only had 40 states in the first group and the other three never started. One year later, we have 50 groups, over 1,000 teachers, and almost 10 completed groups. All of the participants will have the opportunity to join this year. We also have our own Facebook group for you to follow the fun. We'd love for you to join us!

I am so excited to see what this project is doing for students around the country, and I wasn't the only one. Sign Up Genius is a website used to coordinate group information for snacks, meetings, and other activities like the Postcard Exchange. They saw our project and featured us on their blog! We’re so grateful for the opportunity to connect students across the country.

Want to join us? Learn more about the Postcard Exchange.

Like her work? Read more articles by Marissa on her blog.