Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TeensConnect: Maryland to Estonia

In a recent Gazette.Net article, Mankaa Ngwa-Suh reports on TeensConnect: Teens and Technology that brings together 11-17-year olds in Maryland and Estonia. Teens collaboratively work on language skills and learn more about the world and other teens while having fun.

Made possible through a partnership of the Carroll County Public Library, Carroll County Public Schools and McDaniel College, TeensConnect offers safe online places for teenagers to blog, search online, connect to each other and learn about Web 2.0 tools. Teachers and librarians create presentations on the tools and how to use them safely and effectively. One member of the committee in charge of TeensConnect is Pam Lichty, a media specialist at Mount Airy Middle School. Though she creates the lessons with student needs in mind, she says she has "really learned a lot" about the tools and potential uses of them through teaching the students.

Free Internet chats through Skype have been a popular part of TeensConnect. Starting this school year, Carroll County students signed up for chat sessions with students in Paide, Estonia. The Estonian students use the sessions to hone their English skills while all students involved benefit from the cultural exchange. In the first two Skype chats of the year, students discussed how holidays are celebrated in the U.S. and Estonia and how the Estonian students set up and held a fashion show. Students in Mount Airy and Eldersburg participating in the chats have also connected with each other, expanding their understanding of their own small corner of the world. In general, the chats expand teens' understanding of the world, said Heather Owings, a library associate and a project manager for TeensConnect: "[It’s] really important that they get that sense that there are other countries, there are other cultures and there isn’t a Target on every corner...It broadens eyes. I just think it’s a great opportunity.”

The third chat between Mount Airy and Eldersburg students and Estonian students took place yesterday, March 24, at 8:30 a.m. For more information on the chat sessions or to sign up for future ones, teens can send an email to howings@carr.org. You can also check out the TeensConnect website for great links for middle schoolers and high school students.

SOURCE: "Teenagers connect to each other and the world via technology" 03/20/08
photo courtesy of daneen vol, used under this Creative Commons license

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