Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kansas on the Cutting Edge

Thanks to an "aggressive technology program" in the state of Kansas, students can almost regularly communicate with peers around the world. Marjorie Landwehr-Brown of Douglass Public Schools writes in T.H.E. Journal about the Global Learning Program she created with Jim Keller, the superintendent of Douglass Schools. The program started in the elementary school, expanded to the middle school, and will be used in Douglass High School this fall.

The Global Learning Program brings Kansas students together with international peers to work together on projects. At each level, the projects differ according to grade level; in middle school, the projects focus on music, science and art. Landwehr-Brown writes that teachers in the schools "introduce students to the technology fairly slowly, and...give students across the world a chance to get to know each other before starting the heavier conversations or more elaborate projects."

In a December 2007 exchange between middle school students in Kansas and Cairo, for example, students discussed their divergent definitions of the word "jihad." No matter the project, students on both sides of the ocean were changed by the dialogue between them. Another great example comes from a project with fourth and fifth graders in Hong Kong and Kansas on rain forests:
The kids were responsible not only for producing a report, but for explaining the guest mural, from the cultural context of whoever created it. My kids had to explain why Hong Kong kids draw faces on trees and that trees in Hong Kong have a whole different historical reference than they do in the United Sates. [sic] Because there are good and bad spirits in trees, according to Chinese culture, and our kids have to know that.
Part of the inspiration for the Global Learning Program came through Landwehr-Brown's and Keller’s conversations with businesses in the area. Representatives of companies like Coca-Cola, Cessna, Learjet, and Boeing said over and over that they wanted workers who could "not only...communicate with different cultures but...go a step further and be able to create a product with them." With help from Kay Gibson and Glyn Remington from Wichita State University, a curriculum was created to bring students and technology together for collaborative projects in art, music, math, science and language arts.

Landwehr-Brown's article gives more great detail on the programs and partners used. There's great advice and more examples. And there are the details of the high-definition conferencing equipment partly underwritten by Conference Technologies Inc. (CTI), "a LifeSize high-definition conferencing codec, two cameras, two 60-inch plasma displays, touch-panel controls, and an installed sound system." There's a picture on the article; it looks really cool.

SOURCE: "Global Learning Initiative Helps Kansas Students Collaborate with Peers Around the World" 06/09/08
photo courtesy of hive, used under this Creative Commons license

No comments: