You know that look you see on someone’s face when they witness something astonishing that they have never seen before, and their mind is trying to make sense of it while they are filled with awe? That totally unguarded flash of amazement? We hardly see that look anymore. We live in a time when if we haven’t done it ourselves, we have seen it on TV or youtube or something. Well, I had an opportunity to witness that look the other night, and every time I think of it my eyes start tearing up. Some kids in my school have been working with classes in other countries on a project. They have had a bit of interaction via something similar to email, but that’s it. One of the teachers in Taiwan and I arranged a Skype video meeting one night last week. The kids all arrived and sat in front of the large projector screen. When I called Wen Ya elementary school in Chia Yi City and the life size video of their class came into the room at Mill Creek elementary school in Geneva, Illinois… and there we were face to face…that first second when the picture came into the room… I saw that look. Wow. That was the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.
published in edutopia.org
as Fifth Graders Go Global with Holiday Card Exchange
I shut off the lights to my classroom and lock the door behind me with a smile on my face. It’s 8:00 pm in our town of Geneva, IL and we just wrapped up a video Skype call with students in Chi Yi City, Taiwan. They are our partners in an iEARN project called Holiday Card Exchange. At 6:45 pm our time, our students returned to school with their parents and excitedly assembled on the floor making sure they could be seen on the screen projecting our camera. At precisely 7:00 pm you could hear a pin drop as we dialed Chi Yi City, and as Mrs. Hou answered, we could see her students hurriedly assembling on the floor in their school. It was 8:00 am, and their school day was just beginning. There was a buzz of excited chatter on both ends. Our school was finished creating, packing and mailing our holiday cards for this class, and now here we were face to face with the students that also made cards for us. A few adults had tears in their eyes as we watched the interaction across thousands of miles. Several students on both sides of the world nervously took turns projecting their rehearsed city and country information into the microphone. Applause was given, and greetings were exchanged in each other’s native language.
Watching this filled me with pride in these students, awe in technology, and gratefulness to school leaders that can envision this amazing future for these, our nation’s future leaders, our own children. In this world of rapidly changing technology, it is easy to get caught up in fear of the unfamiliar. It takes much stronger leadership to be able to see the possibilities and the transformation possible. As a Flat Classroom® certified teacher, I have learned with some of the best teachers in the world. There are safe, responsible, and confined ways to interact globally. These experiences have changed my idea of teaching and learning, as well as my understanding of how our country, and the world, must adapt to continue to be leaders in an ever evolving planet. I am committed to taking my seat in that system and to bringing my students the best the world has to offer. In a world driven by testing and data, how do you measure the need for global understanding in our world? The world is changing, and it is in adaptation that the power lies.
Now, off to the computer lab as my 5th grade class logs on to edmodo.com to discuss the context of cultural differences through literature with students in China, Czech Republic, Canada, New York, Maine, and Massachusetts. This reading project will be discussed in two sessions in the Global Education Conference; Designing a Global Collaboration using the Flat Classroom® Model, http://bit.ly/vHL9Z1 and Reading Across the Globe: addressing the context of cultural difference through collaborative discussion, http://bit.ly/qbfHVU. You can also catch Mrs. Hou and I in a session describing our iEARN Holiday Card Exchange project, http://bit.ly/rPv5Qu. I hope that you can join in the discussion by logging in to this incredible free conference.