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Global Learning

Global Learning: Online Artifacts

Global Learning, Literacy in the Classroom

During the fall semester, I was enrolled in a graduate course called Global Learning: Teach the World in Your Classroom. If you’ve ever read about our experience with the Global Read Aloud or my love of She’s the First, you know this is a huge passion of mine. This is the second in a series of four blog posts, in which I’ll be bringing what I learned from the course to you.


Imagine learning about the Mayflower by reading a textbook. Now, imagine looking through a captain’s log, a map, a list of passengers, and more in order to piece together parts of the Mayflower story. Which learning experience seems more meaningful and memorable to you?

Having internet access in our classrooms means that we have the opportunity to use primary sources that have not been previously accessible for our students. Instead of consuming facts about history, students can step into the shoes of historians in order to think critically and draw conclusions. In this way, we ask students to investigate evidence and use it to learn about critical periods in the history of our nation and our world.

How Online Artifacts Have Changed My Teaching

After creating a lesson plan through my Global Learning course, I taught a lesson in which my students visited a museum in our own classroom. As they walked to exhibits centering around different parts of the Mayflower journey, they looked at all sorts of primary sources: maps, photos from still-standing sites, drawings, a captain’s log, and more. They read captions for each item, but were asked to interpret the meaning of the items on their own in order to explain the motivations of the pilgrims and the journey of the Mayflower.

This focus on primary sources absolutely captivated my students. They couldn’t believe that they could read the words or look at the artwork of people who lived hundreds of years ago in order to answer questions about history.

Artifacts have played many different roles in our classroom. At the beginning of this unit, I printed photos of Wampanoag artifacts from the National Museum of the American Indian and hung them around the room. Without knowing this background information, students had to visit the photos of each object and write down where and when they thought the item was from. Students had to think critically, and also rethink many of their assumptions about the types of clothing, items, and tools used by different groups of people.

When primary sources are photographs with facial expressions, audio recordings with vocal tones, or written language with an authentic voice, they allow my students to connect to the emotions of the time period or event. This taps into students’ empathy skills, and by imagining the emotions of people from the time period, students are able to make meaning of the event’s significance. We need to trust our students to do the hard work of being historians so that they can learn from the history of the past and the history that is being created in the present.


Resources for Online Artifacts

  • The DocsTeach website from the National Archives makes online artifacts and primary sources accessible for teachers. The investigation tools included on the site help teachers target learning experiences for their students. DocsTeach lives up to its name by allowing primary documents to teach us more than we thought possible.
  • AwesomeStories compiles primary source documents in order to tell stories about events in history. This was a fantastic resource when I was looking for primary sources to go along with my Mayflower unit!

Have you used online artifacts to enhance learning in your classroom? Tell us how in the comments below!

Global Learning: Virtual Field Trips

Global Learning, Literacy in the Classroom

During the fall semester, I was enrolled in a graduate course called Global Learning: Teach the World in Your Classroom. If you’ve ever read about our experience with the Global Read Aloud or my love of She’s the First, you know this is a huge passion of mine. Over the next four weeks, I’ll be bringing what I learned from the course to you in a series of four blog posts.


We live in a day and age where it is easier than ever to travel outside the walls of our classrooms. In the global learning course, we explored the concept of Virtual Field Trips: using video conferencing, 360° videos, and other resources to transport students to places around the globe. This allows for learning experiences that are memorable and meaningful, and will stick with students far beyond their time in your classroom.

How Virtual Field Trips Have Changed My Teaching

Last year, my students had the opportunity to write letters back and forth with a class at the Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda. After months of letter writing, we had the opportunity to Skype with the students. That 15-minute video call is something my students still talk about today. Across oceans and continents, our third graders had the opportunity to communicate with kids who live their lives in completely different ways, and yet have so much in common. Being able to see the classroom and speak with the students took our lessons about global citizenship to a whole new level.

My students have also been able to Skype with researchers stationed in the Arctic, authors who live in different states, and other third grade classes in places as far away as California and Argentina. Through these experiences, my students have had an opportunity to investigate the world. They have seen places that look different from Massachusetts and spoken with people who have different lived experiences. It’s my hope that these virtual field trips encourage a drive in my students to keep broadening their horizons and expanding their understanding of the world and its citizens.

After this section of the global learning course, I’m thinking more than ever about the power of virtual field trips. How powerful would it be for students to see a butterfly sanctuary when studying pollinators? Or chat with a historian in Virginia when researching the lost colony of Roanoke? We have so many opportunities to create powerful learning experiences for our students.


Resources for Virtual Field Trips

During the course, I was absolutely amazed at the wealth of resources our instructor and classmates shared. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • National Geographic has amazing 360° videos on their Youtube channel. You can watch them with a Virtual Reality viewer like Google Cardboard to make them more immersive, or you can use the directional arrows on a laptop or desktop to see the whole video. If you have a mobile device, you can move the phone around to see the whole video. Here’s an encounter with a Hammerhead Shark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG4jSz_2HDY
  • This Statue of Liberty eTour allows students to travel to one of our nation’s historic landmarks. While many students haven’t had the opportunity to visit the statue in person, this eTour allows them to see what it looks like on the inside and outside, as well as discuss its significance in American history. Similar eTours are available online for other National Parks sites.
  • Skype in the Classroom allows students to connect with people they are unable to connect with in person. Students can connect with role models, interview subjects, and even other classes using video calls. Students can ask questions and have them answered, promoting inquiry and engagement. Skype has the ability to enhance learning experiences for students at many different grade levels. Best of all, all the opportunities listed on the website are free!

Have you used Virtual Field Trips or Virtual Reality viewers in your classroom before, or is there something you’re excited to try? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!