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Appealing Apps for Educators: Going Global

by Lucy Gray

As an educator, I wear many hats. In addition to my interest in mobile learning, I’m also very passionate about connecting classrooms globally via technology. It’s essential that our students grow up with opportunities to understand the complex and ever-changing world in which they live if we expect them as adults to address the challenging problems facing our planet. To learn more about developing global competency in children, check out the free ebook, Asia Society’s Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World, by Veronica Boix Mansilla and Anthony Jackson.

As part of my global education work, I run an online network and free virtual conference focused on creating opportunities for engaging students, educators and organizations around the world. During International Education Week (November 12-16), over 300 webinar sessions will be presented via Blackboard Collaborate by thought leaders and pioneers in international education. Our conference is completely free; all you need is an Internet-connected computer to participate. We will have sessions scheduled around the clock to accommodate time zones, and each presentation will be recorded for later viewing.

In today’s Appealing Apps for Educators column, I’m combining two of my passions by making app suggestions for educators who want to go mobile and global. I believe that educators can connect their classrooms to others around the world and create wonderful project-based learning opportunities for their students using mobile devices. Additionally, there are many apps out there that provide useful information about the world around us. Here are a few to bring the world into your classroom!

Develop geography skills with Stack the States, Stack the Countries and Barefoot World Atlas ($0.99, $1.99, and $4.99 respectively)

Stack the States and Stack the Countries are very well designed, motivating kids of all ages to learn geography. My 10 year-old son is a big fan of these games developed by Dan Russell-Pinson. Both apps have similar formats, but offer different geographical content. Stack the Countries can be played in English, French or Spanish. It takes a bit more time for kids to conquer as there are more countries than U.S. States, and this also makes it more challenging. In these games, users answer questions and if they answer correctly, the country drops down to the bottom of the screen. Ultimately, the goal is to stack the countries up to meet a goal line. As students win games, they “win” countries and unlock bonus games.

Barefoot World Atlas is a visually beautiful and highly engaging app designed specifically for kids by Nick Crane and David Dean. This atlas uses spoken word, music and text which can be read aloud with just a touch of a finger. This makes it particularly great for emergent readers who need more support when learning content. Not only are geographic features depicted, this atlas also contains a great deal of cultural information. Kids can pinch and zoom into this globe, clicking on various objects to learn more. Additionally, one can search by country or by features.

Document travels and tie into children’s literature with Flat Stanley (Free)

Flat Stanley is a character from a famous children’s book series, so visit this site for activities and information for kids, parents and teachers. Insert a Flat Stanley or Flat Stella character into your photos using this Flatter World app and share them with the Flat Stanley community or via social media. Reinforce geography skills by viewing photos from other classrooms and discussing the various locales depicted.

Connect your classroom to the world via Skype for iPad (Free)

Conduct text, audio and video messaging with other classrooms using this free tool. Skype also has an initiative called Skype in the Classroom and recently announced that they have added eight organizations to their partnership program: NASA's Digital Learning Network™, The National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, British Council, Woodland Trust, VerbalizeIt, Action Aid, Education through Expedition and Choose2Matter. These organizations will join many existing affiliates to help enrich the educational experiences of teachers and students worldwide.

Additionally, Skype recently announced a new campaign, Skype for Peace, with its long-time partnership with Peace One Day, the organization responsible for establishing September 21 as Peace Day (recognized by a UN resolution). Skype for Peace is a global crowdfunding initiative to fully institute a Global Education Resource to all teachers around the world. This resource includes 15 interactive lessons promoting intercultural co-operation, global citizenship, and non-violence. It is currently used by over 10,000 teachers in 197 countries. More information can be found at www.skypeforpeace.org.

Skype is also available for the iPhone and iPod Touch and also for Android devices.

Encourage students to give to others and monitor microloans using the iKiva for iKiva.org app (Free)

Kiva is a non-profit organization that encourages people to lend money to help others, rather than just giving a straight donation. Lenders can give microloans to others around the world, can monitor the progress of the loan online and get paid back. These loans empower others to start businesses and/or to get additional education and in turn, impact local communities around the world.

Giving microloans through Kiva is a great family or classroom activity as it teaches geography, financial literacy, and empathy among other skills. I helped my teenager last year set up her own Kiva team for a middle school service learning project and each member of my family continues to make microloans as our original donations are paid back. Kiva has produced materials, including case studies, for educators to use in the classroom, so make sure to explore their Kiva in the Classroom page.

Join the 2012 Global Education Conference via Blackboard Collaborate Mobile (Free)

Learn more about connecting your classroom at our upcoming conference! Participate in over 300 general sessions given virtually in a webinar format using the Blackboard Collaborate Mobile app. Our schedule will be posted in mid-October, and the conference takes place November 12-17, 2012.

If you’d like to try this app beforehand, use Blackboard Collaborate Mobile while checking out Steve Hargadon’s weekly and free Future of Education webinar series. Check out the Future of Education series schedule, and then simply enter the Blackboard Collaborate Session URL and your name, and you’ll be up close and personal on your iOS device with education experts as they are interviewed by Steve.

If you have other globally-oriented app suggestions, please let us know in the comments section below!


As an education consultant, Lucy works with a variety of institutions on 21st century learning initiatives, including directing the Consortium for School Networking’s Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative. She began her career as a primary grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools, and has served in various capacities related to educational technology at the University of Chicago's Laboratory Schools, Urban Education Institute, and Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education. In 2007, Lucy founded the Global Education Collaborative, a network for educators interested in project-based learning which has been expanded into the Global Education Conference. She has also been awarded the Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator distinctions.

For further information, visit her web site at http://www.lucygrayconsulting.com. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.