Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pennsylvania to Poland

Fifteen lucky middle school students in Canonsburg, PA, recently got to have an interactive videoconference with students in Poland. Crystal Ola reports in the Neighborhoods section of The Post-Gazette on this exciting online interaction that has made Canonsburg Middle School students feel like "pioneers."

CMS principal Greg Taranto spearheaded the meeting after seeing an article on Internet safety in schools by Bob Lyons, a technology teacher at the American School in Warsaw, Poland. Lyons' article included a survey on Internet safety that asked middle schoolers in the American School about topics like cyberbullying, chatting with strangers, and downloading. The videoconference between CMS and the American School included a discussion between students about Internet topics and their use of technology in and out of school.

Even though there were some glitches with the linkup, both sets of students were deeply engaged. They found that they had similar rates of illegal downloading of games and music. What surprised the CMS students was
that more than 60 percent of third-graders in Poland have e-mail accounts activated by their parents and more than 50 percent of Warsaw students have computers in their bedrooms connected to the Internet.

The second statement was met with gasps by the local middle school students, who couldn't believe parents would allow it. The Warsaw students asked why it was so surprising.

"Their parents want to know what they're doing online, that's the problem with that," Mr. Taranto explained.

The discussion also turned to more cultural exchange topics like the sports, foods, and activities both sets of middle schoolers liked. One CMS student, Dan Buker, asked the American students at the American School what it was like to live outside the U.S. The Warsaw students also answered questions about the Iraq war and European impressions of the U.S. and its citizens.

Through the videoconference, the middle schoolers got to directly experience their similarities and differences in real time. The videoconference also created a lot of buzz at CMS, with students hoping for more videoconferences with middle school students around the world, with Japan, China and Italy the most popular choices so far. Kudos to principal Greg Taranto and teacher Bob Lyons for bringing students together in such an exciting and inspiring way.

SOURCE: "Seventh-graders find peers in Poland share activities" 04/06/08
photo courtesy of Jarosław Pocztarski, used under this Creative Commons license

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