Guest post by Heather Womersley, Teacher at All Saints Academy in Winter Haven, Florida.
Part 2 in this blog series can be found here.
Picture this: Rafay is teaching Kayaunna a few words and phrases in Urdu, his native language. Andrew is excited to hear that his partner Hakia also uses a PlayStation 2 video game console and shares his passion for video games and sports. Zoe, who is a voracious reader, is delighted to learn that Eksa’s favorite book is Narnia.
Although they have never met in person, a group of ten students at All Saints Academy are now 21st century video pen pals, so to speak, with students at iEARN Pakistan. They are collaborating together in Level Up Village’s Global Web Designers course offered as part of our after school program this spring.
For eight weeks, we are crossing geographic, cultural, and language barriers to work on solutions to a common environmental problem and learning web design skills at the same time. The children are also getting to know each other by asking and answering questions each week. Through the Level Up Village portal, they create and send video messages back and forth.
To prepare them for the video exchange, we discussed the types of get-to-know-you questions we typically ask people. For the younger kids in the class, it’s all about finding common ground: favorite t.v. shows, video games, animals, colors and food. However, the sixth grade students are ready to delve a little deeper with their questions, asking about travel, geography, language, politics, and education.
In one of the first classes, when students shared with each other their favorite scientists, inventors and writers, my students realized they didn’t know who these people were that their partners admired. This gave us the opportunity to research facts about the famous people from their partners’ country.
Last week, when students were asked,“What do you do when you lose power in your home?” students had similar responses. Lighting candles, turning on flashlights, and reading books were common answers to that seemingly universal problem!
In another exchange, students discussed where they live. When Eska in Pakistan asked Zoe to share her favorite region in the U.S., Zoe asked to borrow a second laptop in order to find a website where she could color in certain states. Then she videotaped herself while pointing out all the ones where she had lived and uploaded the video to her partner. This quick thinking demonstrates how she automatically applied 21st century skills to create a more meaningful exchange.
Second grader Ajay followed suit when answering Arwabe’s question: “What does your flag look like?” Instead of taking time to find a book or draw a flag, he simply asked for a second laptop, pulled up a page with a full-sized color photo of Old Glory, and turned his laptop toward the image as he pointed out the features of the flag.
My favorite part of teaching this class typically comes at the end of the week after the children have recorded their videos. Before uploading them, I review and approve each one. It is at this time that I can take note of and appreciate the conversations that take place between each set of partners. By having these conversations, students are discovering that while their lives are different, they also have things in common, and that is helping them to bond and make connections.
One of Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” What better way to exemplify this habit than to spend eight weeks getting to know a student in a school on a distant continent? Though we’re just three weeks into the course, our Level Up Village experience thus far is helping All Saints Academy students become experts in this particular habit
See my next blog post about the students’ web design collaboration!