How Video Chat Is Creating a Global Classroom
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Tasked with teaching an elementary school class stories, customs, holidays, foods and popular culture of many different places, student-teacher Maggie Holmes hopes to squeeze in some firsthand accounts. She’s asked teachers of global elementary schools to set up an exchange with her class.
Until recently, connecting students with those living elsewhere would have likely been more headache than it was worth. But as more teachers look to the Internet to make such global connections, it’s become a matter of posting a short blog post in the right place. In Holmes’s case, she posted her request on Skype’s network for teachers, Skype in the Classroom.
The network is designed to connect teachers for cross-classroom projects. One teacher, for instance, used the platform to coordinate a “weather around the world” unit. A middle school in Massachusetts regularly chats with an Afghan youth peace volunteer group. Another was able to host a virtual visit from Barbara Bush.
Video chat — and projects like Skype in the Classroom — are making it easier than ever for teachers to connect their students with experiences from around the world, helping these students to develop into worldly citizens.
Skype didn’t come up with the idea to connect teachers through video chat. Independent teacher registries and organizations such as the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration started matching teachers for cross-classroom collaboration years before it launched. What Skype did was give the idea scale by putting 21,000 teachers and 1,500 projects in the same virtual space.
With the integration of video chat into Google+ and Facebook, connecting with teachers around the world for classroom collaboration could get even easier than Skype’s dedicated network has made it already.
“Our main mission is to offer entrepreneurs from developing countries the opportunity to earn additional income through teaching their mother tongues,” says the organization’s website. “At the same time we promote intercultural dialogue.”
A startup called Verbling takes a different approach to video chat language exchange. The site hosts learning language sessions at specific times during the day. It pairs users with others who are fluent in the language they want to learn. So if I were an English-speaker who wanted to learn Spanish, I’d be paired with a Spanish-speaker who wanted to learn English. Halfway through our talk, we’d switch languages, so each of us could practice.
Video chat has also opened a door to cultural exchange, another lesson that was once most often learned from travel. Students in one New Orleans eighth grade classroom, for instance, were able to chat with their peers at 1,000 miles away in Aguascalientes, Mexico, last year through a video call organized by the Digital Opportunity Trust.
“I think they learned that kids are kids, no matter where they live or what their background is,” the principal of the New Orleans school told The Times-Picayune at the time. “I was surprised to hear they had a lot in common, yet I shouldn’t have been with global television and things like that.”
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[Image Credit: superkimbo in BKK]