Yesterday I had the pleasure of introducing the Machinto Project with two Grade 7 teachers (Erin and Christina) and their classes. These teachers were interested in a meaningful project that integrates technology and I had heard lots about Machinto so we decided to try it! If you’ve never done a global project, and you have access to at least one computer in your school…you want to try this! The use of technology will ‘thin’ the walls of your classroom (as Will Richardson would say) and enable your students to connect with learners and teachers from around the world.
Machinto is a project hosted at iEARN.org and coordinated by 2 teachers, Mali Bickley from Ontario, and Yoko Takagi from Japan, based on a picture book called Machinto written by Ms. Miyoko Matsutani. As you watch the slideshow that Mali has posted at www.machinto.org, you’ll quickly get an idea about the details and timeline of the project. Essentially, Machinto has three phases:
After a teacher signs up to the project and receives the storybook from Mali, they read the story and begin to post their reflections about the book up on the Machinto forums at iEARN beginning conversations with the other students reading the book in other parts of the world. We used a great graphic organizer that Erin created in order to have students record their words and pictures about…I see…I feel…I wonder…and the student had many questions that arose after our first experience with the story.
In phase two, students will connect with another class in one of the participating countries (Canada, United States, Russia, Slovenia, Argentina, Japan) and will have a video conference. Students and teachers are free to decide how they’d like to introduce themselves to their friends across the world. Students begin to post their artwork, reflections and poems up to the Machinto website as they share what they learn about this story and begin thinking about children who live in parts of the world that are experiencing conflict.
The final phase involves creating some storybooks that will be sent to children who are living in conflict zones today. These stories are photographed and posted on the Machinto website, and then are sent to the war zones as messages of peace from our students.
A global project like Machinto is an authentic, integrated, meaningful inquiry into the lives of other children around the world. These teachers won’t just be “doing” character education, they will be giving their students a broader, more meaningful understanding about what the lives of some children in war zones might be like. Curriculum expectations from language arts, media, visual art, geography and history have a part in this global project that is enhanced through the use of technology.
My experience with these kinds of projects is that students really take ownership and make connections outside of the classroom. While the project organizers provide a basic outline or structure that includes suggestions and timelines, students often come up with other ideas, questions, and activities that they’d like to explore over the year and I love to see this passion and engagement coming from them to direct their own learning. I urge you to try a global project with your students, or if you have, please share them here in the comment section so that teachers can hear about some new ones!