Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time Zone Experiences Ahead

Several months ago, I was chatting online when the book Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney came up. I mentioned that I always thought that book could turn into a great project. Lisa Parisi agreed, but it was the end of the 2007-2008 school year and just too late to start something new.

How Projects Evolve
Fast forward to summer 2008. I asked Lisa if she wanted to collaborate on a project related to the book. She mentioned that she had been talking with Jo McLeay in Australia and they had a need to find a time to talk synchronously. This led to a discussion about how hard it can be to get a feel for what time it is in your home country when it is 2pm in a country half way around the world. It was about this point that Time Zone Experiences was born. As I talked with Lisa, I decided that it would be a great opportunity for exploration with my students as well.

Some Brainstorming First
Lisa put together a beautiful image for the Time Zone Experiences wiki. She used Glogster (now another site I have to explore). We spent some time on Skype doing a little brainstorming. The basic premise of the project is to introduce the idea of global collaboration with our fifth grade students. We would like them to do all the research into what GMT is and how it relates to our world and others who live far from us. Lisa had a nice outline to ensure solid learning gains in the students. Before they really begin much work, the children must come to a classroom concensus on what GMT stands for and how it is used.

Time Table
There is a table of times from GMT 00:00 - 24:00. In this table, the students will write short pieces on what happens throughout the day. For example, at 12:00 GMT we are just ready to start our school day since we are GMT -4. They will make a short notation of what happens throughout the day in one hour increments. In addition, the students have a link for each time slot to share creations demonstrating what is happening in that time period. The creations can be a video, audio podcast, photograph, drawing, poem, song, or anything else the students make.

Month Table
The world is very different by hemisphere. Christmas time will always mean hoping for a white Christmas. In Australia, though, it is summer. The wiki contains a month table. Again, the students will reflect on what their part of the world is experiencing in each month. In addition to the short written piece, there are links on each month to share creative works.

The Paths Can Diverge
We are trying to make this a very "low threshold of pain" project. I teach my fifth graders twice per week for 42 minutes. Lisa has her students in a self-contained classroom. We are hoping for global participation. Anyone can jump into this project and take it at their own pace. The intention is to have our students begin to react to the differences in the varied classroom settings after the new year arrives.

My Focus
I am starting out with a bit of research. My students are going to work on learning about the many ways of performing research on the Internet. I am going to start by brainstorming how students currently research topics tomorrow. I want to allow them to use their methods to try and find out what GMT stands for and what it means in global communication. After ten minutes at the computer, we will gather together and take a look at the following resources:

Once that is accomplished, I have created a separate table on my own wiki for the students to do some brainstorming. We should have established, at this point, that New Jersey is GMT -4. Each student has three time periods to personally research. This will allow us to work as a group on the Time Zone Experiences wiki with pre-work accomplished individually.

From Start to Finish
We will continue to build on the work by using our digital cameras. Those images can be included in the creative section for each time zone and month.

The Main Takeaway
There is a lot of pre-work to this project. We have had a fair number of educators request access to the wiki. With Lisa and I both in GMT -4, we hope many other classrooms outside our time zone will be able to keep up the enthusiasm and build a nice reference for student reflection. It will be a good, concrete lesson on how big our world is and what a difference our location on our planet makes to communicating with others.

Image Citation:
"Time zones." Andrei Z's photostream. 2007 Aug 18. 2008 Sep 11.


  1. What a fabulous project you have all made. You have managed to find a way to work in a collaborative yet separate common goal way whilst exploring the very aspect that keeps you apart - timezones. Your students will be so much more prepared with knowledge to collaborate "inside & outside timezones". My students and I will be watching to see how it goes. Have fun!

  2. I'm looking forward to seeing it unfold. The students are very excited about the idea of working with other students outside the building. This group did not have that opportunity yet. Lisa has done an amazing job with the wiki. I hope we are able to keep several different times zones interested throughout the project so that there will be a fair amount of creative work to reflect on.