Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Using Technology to Bridge Cultural Differences

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Using Technology to Bridge Cultural Differences

Article excerpt

The purpose of the study was to examine the outcomes of a literacy program, the International Book-Sharing Program (IB-SP), from the perspectives of students, principals, and teachers. The IB-SP was intended to be integrated into the literacy program in schools. The project is based on a twinning program developed by Partnership 2000 of the Central Area Consortium and Western Galilee. Connections between classrooms in Israel and the United States are made to develop collaborative programs that engage students in joint learning activities (Jewish Agency for Israel, 2005). The IB-SP matches a middle school in the United States with a middle school in Israel. School administrators and teachers in both schools agree to participate and receive training from an IB-SP administrator who oversees the project. All students read The Island on Bird Street by Uri Orlev (1997), and each Israeli student is paired with one U.S. student. Teachers from both Israel and the United States pose questions related to the reading for students to respond to via e-mail. Teachers in each respective country follow a curriculum developed to engage students in the classroom and in e-mailing and to foster understanding of culture (Jewish Agency for Israel, 2011).

More specifically, in this qualitative study, middle school students in the United States and Israel, their teachers, and their principals identified key issues pertinent to a shared international educational reading project. We used semistructured interviews and questionnaires to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of the IB-SP and analyzed data from these sources using QSR NUD*IST 4 qualitative software.

Research Questions

1. How does the IB-SP promote understanding and appreciation of diversity?

2. What technology and communication need to be addressed in the IB-SP?

Background

Twinning. Educational twinning is the pairing of two classrooms from separate geographical and national areas in order to infuse added value to traditional learning (Peled & Dunnivan, 2011; Zimmerman & Peled, 2009), As students participate, their understanding of the wider world is expanded. The ability to communicate worldwide easily and quickly creates a new paradigm for the international collaboration of educators and school children, creating a classroom virtually without walls (Chen et al" 2004; McLuhan, 1960).

Gone are the days of international pen-pals and the occasional letter exchange. Now individuals can communicate quickly and easily via e-mail and chat rooms and can see and talk to one another in real time via video technology (Harris, 2001), thus becoming a community. Communities of practice are groups of people who have a common interest and are engaged in a shared enterprise, through which they both have, and further develop, a repertoire of knowledge, skills, and practices (Edens & Gilsinan, 2005; Wenger, 2000).

Video clips, audio recordings, and photography-especially when accessible universally through World Wide Web browsers-can enrich the mix of contextual clues available for multilingual, intercultural learning (Frydenberg, 2011; Sayers, 1997). Through the IBSP, individuals in both schools learn about the wider world and broaden their horizons as current affairs are brought to life. School twinning provides pupils and teachers in both partner schools with valuable learning experiences: developing their communication and inquiry skills; reflecting on their attitudes toward other people and places and their own behavior and traditions; developing empathy and openness to others; learning that stereotypical views are often inaccurate; and beginning to act as global citizens (Uzunboylu, 2006), Successful collaborations can benefit not only school personnel but also the wider community. Chen et al. (2004) claimed that students in classrooms around the United States gain the most from collaborations that work to involve members of the community.

Successful twinning is based on a partnership model: a working relationship based on respect and equal contributions from each partner and a recognition that students will learn from each other. …

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