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Back To School: How to Get A Head Start on This Year’s Virtual Exchanges – Part One

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    For those of you still enjoying summer vacation – READ NO FURTHER!

    For those of you who, for better or worse, find yourselves planning for back to school, the following considerations may be of interest to you!

    When we think about our curriculum, the time we have with our students, and our goals for the semester, term, or year, it’s not until we come up for air that we have time to see the bigger picture. Summertime gives us the opportunity for the drone-shot aerial view of the calendar that we so quickly lose sight of when the academic engines roar on and the scholastic shuttle launches.

    So let’s take the last few moments of relative peace to weigh some considerations for your class this year. What aspects of back-to-school planning need to be carefully considered when you’re considering kicking off, or recommencing, a virtual exchange program in your classroom? In this segment, we’ll be discussing integrating your virtual exchange with your curriculum, tech, online privacy, cultural sensitivity, successful collaboration, and professional development. Here are factors to keep in mind regarding those topics, and how Level Up Village has got you covered in each of these regards.

    Curriculum Integration

    Depending on the flexibility you have with the material you can present, it behooves you to get wise with how a virtual exchange program aligns with your curriculum and learning objectives. LUV’s courses already identify specific topics, themes, or projects that can be enriched through cross-cultural collaboration and interaction with students from other regions or countries; putting them into your own words or creating connections with key phrases and subject matter from your syllabus and your department’s learning objectives only sews the virtual exchange better into the fabric of your coursework.

    What are some important goals for your students, and how is your virtual exchange program this year going to help achieve them? Your answer will interest everyone from your department chair to the parents on Back to School Night, so don’t skimp out on your motivations!

    Technology and Resources

    You know that classic dream where you show up to school late, only to realize your outfit is missing a significant component—like pants? Well, nowadays, the nightmare gets a reboot when they tell teachers that the WiFi is down, a laptop needs surgery, or the smart board won’t display properly. Why not ensure that the necessary technology and resources are available for both you and your students to participate effectively in your upcoming virtual exchange now, while things are quiet?

    What are the necessary components that you want to confirm? Reliable internet access, video conferencing software, collaboration tools, and access to appropriate educational materials could be a start. But don’t forget, LUV has done a lot of the legwork already with a highly functioning platform and offers your students flexibility on which devices they choose to use for recording and uploading video.

    Safety and Privacy

    Your students’ safety and privacy—a top concern for the folks at Level Up Village—comes with a stand-alone platform and several confirmation steps between them and getting their videos out there. However, preparing yourself to address safety and privacy concerns associated with online interactions is a growing need. It’s good to implement guidelines for online behavior, data protection, and parental consent, particularly when working with young students, and communicate those early and often.

    Is there a part of your curriculum, your syllabus, or other materials that goes into more detail about the aspects of safety and privacy? Do you or a colleague have particularly good language or copy that will preemptively address these issues for inquisitive students and their families? If not, why not get ahead of what we know to be a growing concern for parents with internet-aged children and set everyone’s mind at ease?

    Cultural Sensitivity

    I don’t need to tell you that promoting cultural sensitivity and awareness among students to ensure respectful communication and interactions during the virtual exchange is a paramount goal: you’re already going to run a virtual exchange, which tells me that the goal of cultural sensitivity ranks highly on your list of educational objectives. So too, with Level Up Village. Their courses encourage an open-minded and empathetic approach towards different cultural backgrounds and perspectives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your students are going to gracefully get hip to your jive!

    Think ahead if you can! What conversations might serve you and your students in these capacities? What knowledge about different cultures would equip them so they don’t fall on their face? Are there examples from a previous virtual exchange that you or a colleague conducted that could, now in hindsight, help clarify your vision? Make a few notes now, while you’ve got the time and the clarity, so that you don’t rush into this without undergirding the whole experience with tact, respect, and genuine curiosity.

    Communication and Collaboration

    Level Up Village, through the designated teacher chat, helps you establish clear communication channels with the partnering school involved in the virtual exchange. But, as you may have experienced firsthand, sometimes it’s between you and the partnering teacher, or teachers, to define the expectations, timelines, and methods for your ongoing communication and collaboration.

    Some virtual exchanges require timeliness for students to get full credit, while others espouse more leniency. How does your vision match up to your collaborator’s expectations? Well, to know that you first need to establish your own criteria for success, so you can fuel the conversation with your own expectations. Give it some thought, so you’ve got something to contribute when you get paired up with another educator!

    Teacher Professional Development

    A growing number of groups and institutions offer professional development opportunities for teachers to enhance their skills in facilitating virtual exchanges effectively. LUV’s webinars, videos, and blogs stop nothing short of this aim. Their training is designed to include intercultural communication, digital pedagogy, and best practices for virtual collaboration.

    I mean, that’s all well and good, but when are you going to take the time to indulge in these delicious morsels of knowledge and experience? When you’ve got everything else on your plate in the middle of the school year? No thank you! Why not schedule some time in your busy beach day to start diving into these resources? Or at least get your feet wet, so you’re not coming up dry on ideas later down the road!


    We all know that starting a virtual exchange program requires careful planning, communication, and dedication. By considering the aforementioned aspects of an exchange—like integrating your virtual exchange with your curriculum, tech, online privacy, cultural sensitivity, successful collaboration, and professional development—during back-to-school planning, you can create a meaningful and transformative virtual exchange experience for your students with ease and peace of mind.

    But did we cover it all?

    No! Of course not! You’re a teacher—you should know that you can’t plan for everything! So, we’ll be back with another six aspects of virtual learning and telecollaboration that you might want to consider before you get back into the classroom. Stay tuned for “Back to School!! How to Get a Head Start on This Year’s Virtual Exchanges – Part Two!