Conversations are happening all across the Province of Ontario related to Community, Culture and Caring and teachers are looking for opportunities to engage students in authentic opportunities for global connections with students who live nearby and those who live elsewhere around the world.
One of the ways that I’ve seen these kinds of experiences become deeply meaningful and exciting for both students and teachers are through iEARN.org global projects that are intended to get students learning about and connecting with students from around the world. Technology has been used for years to enhance these projects, but they have even been (and continue to be) conducted in countries where technology is very limited.
I recently wrote another blog post about a project that I’m trying called Machinto (for grades 4 – 8), but there are 3 others that come to mind for a variety of age groups that you might consider for yourself or recommend to a teacher you know.
The Teddy Bear Project is a wonderful project where two teachers from different countries exchange Teddy Bears with another class, and who then write back to students from their home country about the travels of the bear as he/she learns about the culture in that new country. You can read about my year blogging with a Grade Two class from Australia in the following Leading and Learning article from Dec/Jan 06-07 (teddy-bears-go-blogging) ; it was such a tremendously successful project that I’ve partnered for several years with classes in San Diego, Japan and Australia.
The My Hero Project is an outstanding project that integrates literacy, media, social studies and many other subject areas as students develop a definition of a Hero and write a piece or create a short film about a personal hero that is then submitted to the My Hero Website. Another authentic writing opportunity, this project inspires youth to make a contribution to an online resource and to think deeply about the difference between the celebrities they see around them and the sometimes surprising heroes they can find in their own communities. Wonderful teacher resources allow you to integrate this project into Ontario Curriculum expectations for Language Arts and media literacy. Even if you never formally do the project, check it out as an amazing teacher resource about a variety of heroes from all walks of life and from all periods of time.
A project perfect for students ages 12-19 is one called Debunk Stereotypes. Imagine having your students take a serious look at analyzing the stereotypes from their own country?
Check out this project description created by a teacher from Oman:
Description: Stereotypes are not usually true because they are based on inaccurate generalizations. In this project, students are to collect information about the cultural stereotypes of their countries. They can interview students from other countries, surf the Internet, and discuss with their friends. After that, they start to verify the accuracy of those stereotypes and then defend them. They may do a small-scale research to verify the information they have collected. At the end, they set up a blog where they include all the evidences in the form of essays, images, and short clips that support their defense.
I love the idea of students investigating, defining and then defending the accuracy of stereotypes around them. What a great opportunity for some authentic dialogue accompanied by purposeful writing between students from around the world. Also, what a great way to learn to be more critical of your own biases and sterotypes towards others once you have an understanding of the inaccuracies others may have in their view of your culture.