Connecting Classrooms to Build Understanding


I have recently had the great pleasure of working with an AFJROTC Global Studies class in North Carolina and an English class in Dezful, Khuzestan, Iran.  Students met via Skype, asking and answering questions they developed.

When speaking with Col. Henry Gaither this summer about a Global Studies class he was teaching, we both became very excited about the opportunity to connect his class with the cultures they would be studying using web tools such as Skype.  When I asked where he wanted to connect to first, he selected Iran, Iraq, Israel, or Syria.  I was a little worried about finding a partner in one of these areas, but turned to several wonderful sources that list teachers looking for global connections.  I have linked several of these resources on this Global Collaboration LiveBinder.

I was lucky to find Ali Talaeizadeh with the Fahim Language School in Dezful, Khuzestan, Iran on ePals.  After several Skype calls between teachers, we were able to schedule a time to connect the two classrooms.

We used Google Docs to plan our call.  You can view our planning document by visiting our agenda.  Students in both Iran and North Carolina generated questions for their partners and formulated responses to their assigned questions.

Here in North Carolina, we experienced a little hesitation and reservations on the part of some faculty and parents.  Col. Gaither suggested that we write a letter to our parents clearly explaining our goals and objectives and requesting their permission.  Sending this letter seemed to alleviate many of the concerns that had been expressed.

The day of our scheduled call came and Ali was experiencing difficulties with his Internet connection.  Luckily I was able to use Skype to call his cell phone and his class spoke to us on speaker phone.  The Iranian Internet connection was restored while we were on the phone and we were finally able to connect with video so our students could see their partners.

The audio was not perfect and there was a bit of a language barrier I think.  (You should have seen our North Carolina students’ faces when the Iranian telephone operator starting speaking Persian over our overhead speakers!)  But there were many indications that this activity was a huge success.

We asked the students in North Carolina to reflect on their experience and these are some of their reactions.

“It changed me because people judge them without really knowing who they are.  They actually seem like really nice people instead of what some people say or think about them.”

“I now know that most of them aren’t bad.  They are nice and outgoing.  They also seemed really interested in knowing about us and how we felt about them.”

“My perceptions were different than I thought. I thought that when we saw the Iranian people they would have both boys and girls in a class instad of being separated. Also, I thought they would have worn clothing styles similar to ours.”

To read more about this project including additional student reactions you can visit our Google site, Connecting our Class to the World via Web Tools.  We are looking forward to our next global connection with a school in Morocco!


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