Yesterday a colleague offered me a possible project collaboration with a country in Asia. Obviously to make it work, we have to address some time zone issues! It will definitely mean students coming in late for a videoconference on one or both ends of the videoconference. So then last evening as I was mowing, I began considering what kind of connection would make it worth getting up early for? or coming back to school in the evening for?
What would I want students to get from a collaborative exchange with students from another country?? I want them to understand what it’s like to live in another area. I want them to realize people have value from all different cultures, points of view, experiences. I want them to feel connected to the world around them – pulled out of their selfish little worlds and into an understanding of global issues. What kind of experience would help them gain this new understanding & empathy for others? I want them to have more than just tolerance of other cultures, but appreciation for the value that other points of view bring to an informed dialogue. Is that possible for high school students? is it possible for elementary students?
Maybe it is possible…. The Becta document on “What the research says about videoconferencing in teaching and learning” includes this:
Collaboration with schools where the pupils come from different cultures leads to the development of multicultural relationships and understanding, while enriching traditional activities (Cifuentes& Murphy 2000).
What type of collaborative events/projects/activities would result in the development of multicultural relationships and understanding? ….
Another angle to think about it is the curriculum….. certainly teachers at all participating schools have established curriculum to cover. The school is a K-12 school – so there are possibilities at each level. A simple “how do others live” type connection for K-3 ish? The Museum of TV & Radio has a great program called Around the World. Maybe we could do something similar comparing how others live? What is the same & what is different? Or what about writing/alphabet/simple reading for both schools… it would be fun to have students teach each other a few words and letters in the respective languages….
Many of our schools have global issues classes at the high school level. I’d love to see the students address a global issue. Something big. Difficult. Almost unsolvable. Poverty? They could find out about poverty issues in their own countries and share. Then each class could research another country’s poverty issues. What would be common among all four countries? What would be different? What solutions might students think of? Students could ask big questions about the issues….
For middle school I can’t help but think of my MysteryQuest program. If it weren’t for the timezones – what a blast to have a school presenting their actual location somewhere in Asia! Would the students figure it out by accent, skin color or dress? Would they suspect? or would they think it was just another very diverse class from New York City? The possibilities are intriguing! What would be their reaction when they found out? We’d definitely need a follow-up connection for students to ask each other questions and interact. They love that part!
Am I just really geeked by kids connecting to other kids?! Yes I am!!!