Connecting Students with the World

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This month we asked “how do you facilitate opportunities for students to connect with those from other cultures?” In the article below, Maria Cahill discusses the  results and offers resources and ideas for you to use with your students.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.


“Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance” (Mansilla & Jackson 2011, xiii). To prepare students to become globally competent, schools must meaningfully incorporate global topics within the curriculum, ideally through inquiry-based learning; integrate technology tools that enhance learning outcomes; and provide learning environments conducive to developing and sustaining creativity (P21 Global Education Task Force 2014).

We wondered what roles school librarians play in creating those learning environments conducive to global education; therefore, our One Question Survey this month asked school librarians to identify the ways they, individually or in collaboration with teachers, facilitate opportunities for students to connect with students from other cultures.

Given that the focus on global education is still in its infancy, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that school librarians are once again ahead of the curve on an educational trend! Though response rates to this survey were lower than we typically experience, at only 116, more than 40% of those participants reported engaging in at least one strategy to connect the students in their own schools to students from other cultures.

As reflected in the bar chart above, the most common way school librarians facilitate the exchange of ideas between students across geographically separated cultures is through coordination of virtual classroom visits via video telecommunications services such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc. Many school librarians also coordinate cultural pen pal or holiday card projects, and others organize global book clubs. Several respondents to our survey communicated their involvement in shared inquiry units or coordinated data collection projects through organizations such as iEarn ( and Flat Connections (

School librarians reported many “other” pursuits to connect students in their own schools with those across the globe. These activities include Marshmallow Challenge ( with other classrooms in other parts of the world, International Dot Day (, World Read Aloud Day (, and WorldVuze (

Several respondents indicated that they are not yet facilitating a global exchange of ideas, but they recognize the value of doing so and would like resources to support them in those efforts. If, like them, you’re ready to begin connecting students in your school with those from other cultures, here are some additional resources and ideas you might want to consider:

—Teacher Guide to K-12 Global Education Grade Level Indicators

—Oxfam Global Citizenship Guides

—Global Collaboration Day

—Around the World Challenge

—Global Education Conference

—Worldwide Culture Swap

—Global Math Project



Mansilla, Veronica Boix, & Anthony Jackson. Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World. Asia Society, 2011.

Partnership for 21st Century Learning Global Education Task Force. Framework for State Action on Global Education. Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2014.

mcahill_09_2014Maria Cahill, MLIS, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in both the School of Information Science and the Department of Education. She received her master’s degree from the University of South Carolina and her doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee. She is author of numerous papers in such journals as Knowledge Quest, School Libraries Worldwide, and School Library Research and has served in numerous professional leadership positions, including on the Educators of School Librarians Section of the American Association of School Librarians and the American Library Association’s Literacy and Outreach Services Committee.

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