As a first step toward the establishment of a world-wide "academic alliance", The Ellis School 8th grade 20th Century World History class will exchange views on current global issues with students their age (12-15) in other countries. The students will create a short survey to be conducted in April of 1999 about awareness and opinions related to these issues. This activity will be used as an important component of the class' final project in the Spring, when students will present the data to their peers as part of class-long presentations on their assigned issues.
Background & Motivation
I teach 6th and 8th grade history at The Ellis School, an independent, K-12 girls' school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and am the school's "internet guru".
Having already established a web site for the social sciences department during the 1997-98 school year, I began to consider ways to use the internet to more effectively bring the world into my classroom. My goal was to establish an international "academic alliance" which would involve a group of schools interested in exchanging information and opinions that were both relevant to the curriculum and useful to all participants in a broader sense. An idea for a pilot project was conceived and became known as "Global Perspectives".
Although I was familiar with previous attempts at collaborative projects, I was interested in doing something with more substance and relevance to my specific curriculum. Furthermore, I wanted to establish a more lasting relationship with these schools for the benefit of future classes.
This project involves the students of my 8th grade 20th Century World History classes. Their task is to exchange views on current global issues with teenagers in other countries. After a period of e-mail exchanges among classes, my students would create a survey to be conducted in April of 1999 measuring awareness levels and opinions related to these issues. Such topics as terrorism, the "new" Europe, trade with emerging East Asian nations, crisis in Africa, human rights, global technology, and more would be examined. This activity would be used by my classes as an important component of their final project in the spring, when they present the data to their peers as part of class-long presentations on their assigned issues.
Participating schools would have the same collection of multi-national viewpoints as we receive. All communications, including survey results, are shared via the project's web site (http://www.ellis.k12.pa.us/WorldClass/GP-index.html). Those schools wishing to continue as active members in this consortium would be invited to remain in the alliance for future projects.
The above-mentioned web site would include an overview of the project, list of participating schools (with direct "mailto" links to faculty contacts), as well as information about the schools and their home countries. The survey results would also be posted after the results were processed.
Planning & Procedures
In the summer of 1998, I began to create an overview and plan for the project; establish a project web site; and seek schools outside of Pennsylvania and the United States. I first contacted schools that demonstrated interest regarding the use of this technology as a valuable communication tool. Contacts were established largely through two internet sources for educators: "e-Pals" and "Kids' Space". These listings for collaborative and student-to-student e-mail projects were quite useful in establishing a core group of schools for the project. With a goal of between twelve and twenty participants to represent the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, I began the process of recruitment.
By the beginning of the school year, I had received commitments from ten schools. All continents were represented, with the exception of Asia. I updated postings I had made through the aforementioned sources, and sent follow-up messages to teachers who had initially expressed interest, but had not committed. Finally, I updated the original recruiting message and targeted it to schools in Asia.
By the end of September, I had received confirmation of participation from two schools in Asia. By the start of October, the alliance included schools in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Denmark, Latvia, Israel, Australia, South Africa, Japan, and Sri Lanka. Having met the recruiting goals, we were ready to move on to the next phase.
During the early part of the school year, I established an "e-pals" club, comprised of ten eighth graders who enthusiastically accepted the opportunity to become the contact students for the establishment of communications among schools in the project. They first created individual letters of introduction, then sent questions about the participating schools that they had developed as a group. These were sent in October. At this point, we were confident that the project was firmly established and that schools would continue to honor their commitments.
Responses to those first messages continue to be received, and the school profiles we are receiving will be added to the project's web site so that all schools may learn a bit about each other.
By the start of 1999, the contact students at each school will begin to exchange information about themselves and their peers. Information about culture, daily life, and more will exchanged during this phase.
Having established some rapport with one another, my students will create the "Global Issues Awareness" survey in the spring and distribute them in April. Contacts at participating schools will compile results and return them to my students in time for the presentations for the final class project in May, so that the results may be included for assessment.
Finally, both my students and I will send messages of appreciation to the participating schools, and calls for future project ideas involving the alliance will be sent in June.
At the time of this writing, two major objectives have already been met. First, we were able to recruit schools representing various views and geographic areas. Second, lines of communication have been established that are both efficient and secure for the students involved.
The project's success to date, as well as its ultimate triumphs, are directly related to much planning and perseverance. Those with whom I am collaborating are committed to the project because they share an interest in the use of this technology and are convinced that this is a well-developed program. An appreciation for certain logistical considerations have also been helpful--from the mundane (limitations involving different school schedules) to more critical (being mindful that most participants speak English as a second language).
A new project format, dubbed "Global Perspectives 2000", is being developed for the 1999-2000 school year. It will involve gathering a global perspective on a significant event in 20th Century history. After an event (ie: the Holocaust, World War II, the rise of communism in Russia and China, the Cold War) has been chosen, each school in the alliance will submit a summary of that event from their school's text book, as well as a account of the extent to which the event is taught and student opinions as to its significance in the development of national, regional, and global developments.
Copies of relevant text pages will be submitted to accompany the summaries on the project's web site. As before, all communications will be performed by way of this internet site and through faculty contacts.
The Project as a Model
The elements of the "Global Perspectives" project have now been field tested, and step-by-step procedures for the establishment of such an ambitious and viable collaborative effort have been established. Everything, including: creation of a timetable, elements for a professional-looking web site, a communications policy for students, form letters for recruitment, questions about schools and student cultures, helping students create effective surveys, analyzing and graphing survey results, a plan for the future, and more will be part of the presentation.
|Global Schoolhouse||Dewey Web||The Learning Space|
|Online Internet Institute||e-pals||Kids' Space|