The school year 2009-2010 was an exciting year of participation in a Fellowship through the Internet2 high speed network aggregation point of the University of Pennsylvania's IT Department's group called MAGPI (Mid-Atlantic Gigapop in Philadelphia for Internet2), funded by the Thickman Family Charitable Foundation.
Throughout the year, I was a Fellow on the Global Studies Team composed of four K-12 educators in Eastern Pennsylvania. We developed two video conference applications to support and enhance the global vision of both elementary and secondary students.
Our first project, Education for All, was a secondary level experience that served to improve the awareness of students about the necessity of education for all children of the world. The students had 3 separate video conference experiences, each following a specific study area within the curriculum.
The first videoconference was a broad view based on the United Nation's work to bring all global partners together in a committment for all children to be provided a free, basic primary education. Our students' videoconference was with the United Nation's Chief of Education Outreach Yvonne Acosta.
The second videoconference was a focused view on what individuals have done to help provide children with the necessities for an education. This was based on the work of Greg Mortenson of Pennies For Peace who has helped to build and equip schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Our students videoconferenced with Christiane Leitinger, the Director of Pennies For Peace.
The third and final videoconference was a cultural exchange with the students of Po Leung Kuk Laws Foundation College in Hong Kong. The students from Hong Kong graciously stayed late into the evening so that all 3 Pennsylvania high schools could participate in the videoconference. It was truly a culminating experience for our students and one which their feedback confirmed our assessment that our original goals had been met.
Our elementary level project focused on the use of geography to understand the past, explain the present and plan for the future, again with a focus on education for all children of the world.
The first videoconference was between the Pennsylvania schools to introduce them to proper netiquette and videoconferencing practices. Prior to this, the students used Google Earth to research the areas of Tokyo, Japan, Rajasthan, India and also Kenya, Africa. They compared and contrasted the differences in terrain and how these differences might impact the lifestyle in the area. At their videoconference they shared their findings.
The second videoconference took place between the school Parahnos in Porto, Portugal and three elementary schools in Pennsylvania. Prior to their videoconference, students viewed Unicef's "What Makes a School" slideshow (http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/education/712_734.html) to see how different schools can look around the globe while serving the same purpose: the education of its future generations. Then they viewed Porto, Portugal in Google Earth and did some research on this specific area in World BookOnline and other online resources. Finally, working in groups, the students created "Culture Quilts" about their community, their classroom, their favorite foods, and their favorite activities. These culture quilts were then shared during the videoconference with the students of Parahnos. The videoconference went over time as a result of the excitement of all participants and their desire to share their customs and culture with the other schools!
I plan to continue working with both my MAGPI Fellow Colleague here at Hatboro-Horsham School District, Kathleen M. Krupa, and also MAGPI to develop new content-enriching video conference experiences for our students. I also plan to continue working with Mrs. Krupa in other projects to assist our colleagues across the District in their use of videoconference for their collaborative efforts with all of our Faculty within the District.