Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iranian Protests, and "Students Without Borders"

If you thought the way social media is being used in the context of the Iranian protest movement was a flash in the pan--think again. The web and social media is changing our world and the world our young people are growing up in. A world where a twitter, a text message, a new facebook photo forms part of a continuing conversation with peers, the media and a planetary network of others they know are out there but who they may never meet.

As proof of this new set of realities and the way some creative teachers are realizing the educational potential of a fast moving world, take a look at this recent Washington Post article:"Ballou High School students in the District made a dance video to go-go music, and an Israeli school sent back a folk dance video. A New York class talked to French students about Barack Obama's July visit to France as a presidential candidate. Students in Montgomery County and Romania last fall shared ideas on whether cyberbullies should be punished. Harford County students -- including many who had never visited nearby Baltimore -- debated the merits of chocolate milk with peers in Uzbekistan and Morocco. (Chocolate milk, the students report, is popular in all three countries.) The sixth-graders from Harford's Magnolia Middle School also chatted with Iraqis and Slovenians about popular music. Eminem was a universal hit."

Let's hope that more teachers draw confidence from such accounts and begin to connect their classrooms with the wider world. Part of the reason is that we need to prepare our young people to use the new Web 2.0 tools in a way that extends our ability to create a community beyond our own geographical boundaries. We also need to help our students understand that people in countries like Iran share the same kinds of human aspirations they do. One simple human exchange can counter efforts by politicians,media and even textbook writers to prevent us looking at others as more like ourselves than not. It is clear that through the kinds of contacts that Post writer Maria Glod describes, these "Students without Borders" are beginning to see themselves (as one of their teachers remarks,) as "global citizens."

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