Reaching around the Globe: An Increasingly Wired World Means More Opportunities for Cross-Cultural Experiences. Here's How Two Organizations Are Using Technology to Bring Together Students and Teachers from Many Nations. (What Works)

Article excerpt

Immediately after September 11, member e-mails started pouring in to the International Education and Resource Network's Web site. "We are as shocked as the rest of the world by the attacks," wrote SchoolNet Africa. "We Iranian Muslims condemn the terrorists," e-mailed iEARN Iran. The Cambodian Youth Association expressed its "deepest sympathy." This is just one example of how the nonprofit iEARN, an online network of over 4,000 schools in 100 countries, is being used to connect and offer support to students and teachers worldwide.

iEARN's goal is to enhance student learning through interactive projects: "By addressing local, national, and global issues in these projects, students can make a meaningful difference in the quality of life on the planet." To do so, iEARN offers over 120 online and offline teacher-created projects that are multilingual, international in scope, and target students aged 5 through 19. In addition, all projects address specific curricular standards and have minimal technical requirements. As long as a school has access to a computer and modeM as little as once a week, it can participate. Projects span all content areas. In the Art Miles mural project, for example, students of all ages are creating murals to be attached to those created by other students worldwide in an attempt to construct the longest children's mural for the Guinness Book of World Records. Mural themes are mulTicultural/diversity, the environment, and indigenous people. Another project, Connecting Math to Our Lives, involves students exploring how math is used in their communities and employing critical-thinking skills to investigate social concerns.

Every project has a product or exhibition of learning, such as a letter-writing campaign, a play, a publication, or a Web site. These products help to solve real-world problems, enhance self-esteem, and demonstrate the powerful effects of online collaboration.

iEARN costs $100 per year for one teacher, or $280 per year for an entire school (teachers and students). Teachers joining iEARN are sent a packet of materials, including a list of existing projects, directions on how to participate, and a password to a global directory of teachers who can be contacted to discuss world events, new project ideas, and more. They also receive access to iEARN's online professional development on international collaborative learning.

Ed Gragert, executive director of iEARN-USA, says the organization's experiential nature "shows online education works--students can change how they view the world and make a difference." In a time where global understanding and communication is needed more than ever, this is a heartening thought.

In London students all write with quill pens, and in Los Angeles they all live at the beach. That's according to some of the fourth-graders who participated in WebPlay, a cross-cultural, Internet-based theater project developed by British drama educator Sydney Thornbury. By the end of the project participants not only gain new perspectives on life in both cities, but they also learn about dramatic arts, get the opportunity to critique the same dramatic production, and collaborate on developing plays of their own. …


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