The national conversation about online learning has focused on what and how, but has given with whom short shrift.
In his remarks this week to the Foreign Service Institute Overseas Security Seminar, US Secretary of State John Kerry underscored the importance of “with whom,“ highlighting virtual exchange as a key US government strategy to provide educators and youth with a meaningful cross-cultural experience:
… today we also have digital bridges to connect different cultures – and I don’t just mean Facebook and Twitter. The State Department’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau runs a virtual exchange program that connects teachers and students in the United States with their counterparts in the Middle East and North Africa. These students are working together online, learning from each other about their cultures and history, and they’re forging lasting relationships.
iEARN has worked closely with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 1998 to develop immersive online professional development courses and project-based virtual exchanges worldwide. iEARN is pleased to be helping launch the Christopher Stevens Youth Network, which Secretary Kerry believes:
can lead to the largest ever increase in people-to-people exchanges between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. And we believe it will also dramatically increase the number and diversity of young people who have a meaningful cross-cultural experience – the same experience that Chris, and I think all of you understand is so important.
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
This vision is also shared by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whom iEARN hosted for teleconference with his counterpart in Jordan. The International Affairs Office of the US Department of Education new strategy document, Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement affirms:
The Department’s commitment to preparing today’s youth, and our country more broadly, for a globalized world, and to engaging with the international community to improve education.
This vision of international engagement is increasingly shared by hundreds of organizations and millions of educators, students, and parents in the United States. A World Savvy survey found that American students are keenly aware that it is their best interests that they understand global issues, engage with their peers worldwide, and gain the skills needed to find employment in today’s global economy.
Yet, while opportunities for international exchange are expanding rapidly in many countries around the world, only a small fraction of American K-12 students currently have access to some kind of international experience, whether physical or virtual. A survey released today by American University graduate student Corey Smith, “Study Abroad in Cyberspace,” showed that American teachers say they are interested in virtual exchange, but are deterred to do so in their classrooms by “lack of formal assessment, work overload, technology issues, and lack of information about virtual exchange.”
These deterrents, however, can be overcome if Americans expand the national conversation about online learning to include “with whom,” and then commit to providing our teachers the support they are asking for. The outcomes of a national commitment to increasing cross-cultural experiences will be a critical mass of American youth with empathy, trust, and respect for their peers abroad, who are committed to social justice and human rights, who have college and career-ready skills, and who have the passion to work together towards a healthier and safer planet.
This is an online learning conversation worth having.
Last fall, we introduced the Christopher Stevens Youth Network, an Exchange 2.0 effort that will offer complementary physical and virtual exchanges for 10,000 students and 400 educators in 20 countries. iEARN will support online project-based learning focused on eight thematic units: conflict resolution and peace education, the environment, civic education, social entrepreneurship, empowering girls and young women, food security, health, and literacy and education.
This spring, four teachers taking the new Christopher Stevens Youth Network online course shared their thoughts:
Even since I became a full-fledged iEARNer, I have discovered that what unites us outweighs our differences and discords. I have found out that we face the same challenges and we share the same aspirations, the same hopes, and the same dreams. My students and I have been stunned by the warmth and generosity of all the community. Now, we refer to a Thai project as though Bangkok is just next door, and when our friends in Islamabad visited an orphanage, we shared their success as though we were there.
I was truly amazed that iEARN was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Why hadn’t I heard of you before? … Seriously? I feel like I have been under a bushel basket!
I really liked some of the projects on the Imagine section of the board. I have shared the cookbook idea with our foods teacher and the mural with our two art teachers. I will be using the ZeroFootprint [Youth Calculator] with my classes as soon as we return from spring break.
Global collaboration, aside from the obvious importance of globalizing our students, is important because it sets the tone that will carry our students into successful careers, which will incorporate all the components of our global society. Our students need to learn the tolerance that is essential in our current world and they need to understand that they are not the center of whichever universe they are currently focused on. In addition to that, learning about and with people from other places is just exciting and fun!
“Stop teaching, let them learn” this statement summarizes my week reflection. Being connected with iEARN community, i realized that we are living a wonderful, interesting, unique but achievable experience that i called “iEARN-D”. “D” refers to my dream, my students’ dream, everyone in iEARN dream.
DREAM to make teachers from different parts of the world join and make a whole community express and share their ideas, hopes and expectations of a better world.
DREAM to link our students regardless their differences via technology , make them know about each other while working collaboratively.
DREAM to enable the new generations put hand in hand beyond the existing barriers to create a wonderful world.
DREAM to plant knowledge, peace, and tolerance buds in their spirits.
DREAM to be stronger than the world leaders to live and make a world completely different from the horrible one we are living in.
So, let the new generations, not only learn about and with the world , but teach the whole world that they are better prepared to change the WORLD, simply because YOUTH can.
This week I learned a great deal about iEARN and feel that I have a better understanding of the foundations of the program and its goals. Of the new insight I gained the most meaningful moment came from the first video, on the anniversary of iEARN. I learned about the first ever iEARN project, the teacher-student exchange between Russia and the United States. I was taken aback by the teacher who described her first encounter in Russia, after all the polite pleasantries of first meeting one another, when she was asked: “Why do you want war with us?” The teacher said firmly, “I do not want war, I have a son.”
This exchange truly captures the philosophy behind everything iEARN does. That moment was powerful for the individuals on that first exchange trip, and it still holds power for me today, as someone who was not even born yet when it happened.
Every day the leaders of our nations partake in a never-ending ballet, where everyone has a part to play. They battle each other for the staring roles and do their best to trip one another up when the audience is watching. They are careful, elegant, and practiced in their movements, following the laws, the codes, and the ethical outlines they have written on their own behalf. Yet, for all that grace and delicate balancing they are in their own show, and we are the audience.
… The greatest changes happen when a small group of people take on something greater and more powerful than they are; like those teachers who bravely faced their nations’ enemies, only to find that they shared more than words could ever say.
It is important for us, as teachers, to pass that idea on to our students. We must be ever mindful of generalizing, oversimplifying, and putting words into the mouths of the millions of people across the world. We must be ever vigilant in reminding them that they have a voice and a say. By participating in iEARN they have a forum in which to share those voices, and to hear the voices of thousands of other students across the world. It is by sharing those voices that we can truly learn about our world and build bridges where they most certainly need to be built.
On February 9th, iEARN-UAE and the Dubai Modern High School hosted the first professional development workshop under the auspices of the new Christopher Stevens Youth Network. The workshop marks the ninth year in which UAE teachers and students have participated in iEARN activities.
In 2005, Egyptian Association for Educational Resources received a MEPI grant from the US Embassy in UAE to initiate iEARN activities in partnership with the Information Resource Center at the Embassy, the Ministry of Education, and the Emirate of Fujairah. iEARN-Egypt provided 25 Emirati teachers from government schools with training and materials needed to join iEARN projects. Later that year, iEARN-USA hosted two teachers from the UAE attended the Master Trainer Seminar in New York City, and iEARN-Lebanon hosted two teachers at the BRIDGE Regional Conference in Beirut in July 2005. In July 2006, four teachers from UAE attended the Annual iEARN International Conference in Enschede, Netherlands.
A recent highlight of iEARN-UAE participants has been the Finding Solutions to Hunger collaboration with schools in the US and other countries. Principal Fatima Martin of Al Ameen School in Dubai collected writings by students, including this poem by Khadija Aliasgar:
Eager to get fed
Raise money to help the needy.
Hunger is grey,
Like a rain cloud over my head
It sits in my heart,
Like a heavy load I have to carry.
It makes me feel scared,
Like when I’m away from my family.
It makes feel sorry for those who have no food.
Hunger is blue,
Like the depths of the ocean.
It tumbles through my mind,
Like a stone tumbling down a hill.
It makes me feel depressed,
Like a child whose parent
Can not feed him or her.
It makes me want to help somebody.
Hunger is brown,
Like a hollow log inside of me.
It flows through my body,
Like a raft on a river.
It makes me feel empty,
Like a shell that’s been left behind.
It makes me want to help others.
iEARN-USA is proud to be working with iEARN-UAE coordinator Ms. Basma Musamih and her teachers and students, and we’d love your help to increase the program’s impact by offering as many US and UAE teachers and students as possible to find solutions to hunger together, so that hunger is neither grey, blue, or brown, but just a fading memory for future generations.
The team at iEARN-USA invites you to join us in celebrating the 5th anniversary of ELT@lgeria, which facilitates iEARN in Algeria. ELT@lgeria was created in January 2008 by Mr.Mustapha Louznadji, founder and president of the Association of Teachers of English and Inspector of National Education, and Ms. Kheira Mezough, educator and webmaster. For five years, ELT@lgeria has served as a space for educators to share teaching experiences and practices, to build relationships, to engage in reflective practice, and to have interactive opportunities that develop and broaden their existing knowledge.
Last week, Mr. Louznadji spoke eloquently about the accomplishments of ELT@lgeria:
From articles on different educational issues to courses on teaching practices, from teacher true stories to critical school situations to reflect on, from poems, games and other contributions to advertising books written by Algerian
authors, from downloadable teaching materials related to the curriculum to exam papers designed by teachers and supervisors, from students project work to teachers project pedagogy, from case-studies, to educators’ professional development, from supporting teachers in their teaching practices to praising and celebrating the teacher of the year… These wonderful achievements made in improving education outcomes since January 22, 2008 are the product of ELT@lgeria team hard work they have put passionately into the website.
But, if you take the time to truly think about it, you will realize that our achievement is only a small step away as compared to what is done in the field of education. To all educators here today, we are proud to celebrate the 5th anniversary, but we have to consider this progress as an extension of our ‘learning’ career, and we sincerely hope that we continue to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you when collaborating with iEARN and other forms of education.
We’d love your help to enable as many U.S. teachers and students to learn with, not just about, their peers in Algeria and across the Arab world. We’re excited to offer a limited number of online course scholarships to U.S. high school teachers new to iEARN. Teachers who complete the course may also have a chance to participate in iEARN’s Annual Conference in Qatar in July 1- 6, 2013.
Congratulations to the team at ELT@lgeria and we look forward to learning with you, not just about you, for many years to come.
Since 1998, iEARN has been privileged to work with the US State Department to develop programs and projects to foster strong relations between the West and the Islamic world. Our efforts have focused on direct student and teacher interaction to build trust, mutual understanding, and a commitment to shared goals. Highlights include: the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), and the Global Connections and Exchange (GCE) Program.
So there are costs, but that’s no reason to retrench from the world and it is I think a reason to honor the memory of Ambassador Stevens and the others who were deeply committed to a strong American role in the world, that’s why he was out there.
So in the end colleagues, we are all Americans first. We can’t lose sight of that fact, particularly in the face of this tragedy. We’re very pleased that Secretary Burns and Secretary Nides have come here today. Secretary Burns recently established the Christopher Stevens Youth Network to honor Chris’ memory by building bridges of understanding and compassion between American youth and their Middle Eastern peers. We look forward to continuing that work with them.
The Christopher Stevens Youth Network is an Exchange 2.0 effort that will offer complementary physical and virtual exchanges anchored by iEARN’s Global Connections 2.0 program. iEARN will support approximately 10,000 students and 400 educators in 20 countries to interact and learn with each other through online project-based learning focused on eight thematic units: conflict resolution and peace education, the environment, civic education, social entrepreneurship, empowering girls and young women, food security, health, and literacy and education.
iEARN will select educators from each country to attend a master trainer workshop at the 2013 iEARN Annual Conference in Doha, Qatar, where they will share, both face-to-face and virtually, project objectives and outcomes with thousands of peers from around the world.
Like YES, NSLI-Y, and GCE, the Christopher Stevens Youth Network will leverage new educational technologies, social media and partnerships with an increasing number of schools and organizations connecting classrooms worldwide. Mobile learning, open data, cloud computing, MOOCs, social entrepreneurship, and other tools and resources are evolving and changing teaching and learning and classroom-powered public diplomacy at a remarkable pace. Like their YES, NSLI-Y, and GCE peers, Christopher Stevens Youth Network participants will seek ways to make a positive difference in their communities, with new cross-cultural appreciation and skills. The Christopher Stevens Youth Network will advance our national security, enhance our education system, and enable our country to move closer to the goal that EVERY student in the U.S. have an international experience to gain critical skills and knowledge.
For many Americans, “Benghazi” is associated with election politics, Muslim rage, and the tentative relationships between people in the US and people in predominately Muslim countries. We hope, however, this tragic Libyan city becomes a catalyst for greater investment in programs that help young people to build the trust, respect, and empathy needed to take action with peers and contribute to the welfare of planet and its people. We invite US educators and their students to join us for the launch of the Christopher Stevens Youth Network and to help us promote peace and conflict resolution through exchange and meaningful collaboration.
iEARN-USA is proud to be a partner of iEARN-Bahrain, and in 2013 we seek to enable as many U.S. and Bahraini educators and students as possible to connect, to learn from each other to build lasting friendships.
iEARN in Bahrain began in 2003 with support from the US Embassy, Manama, and the Ministry of Education. Impressed by the project work of students and teachers at Al Ma’arifa Secondary School (Moving Voices; What is Sacred to Me); Ahmed Al-Omran and Isa Town Secondary Schools (My Hero); and Khawla Secondary School for Girls (One Day in My Life; My Country; International Teen Scrapbook), and other schools, the Ministry of Education set the goal of expanding iEARN into every secondary school in the country by 2010.
iEARN participants in Bahrain have embraced Global Youth Service Day and have participated in both iEARN’s Adobe Youth Voices and Global Connections and Exchange Programs:
In 2008, iEARN-Bahrain hosted the first Adobe Youth Voices Regional Workshop for Gulf Countries at the University of Bahrain’s E-Learning Center. Ten educators from Oman, UAE, and Bahrain examined youth media in both theory and practice, and discussed ways to use multimedia to promote youth engagement in their classrooms and communities.
As part of the Global Connections and Exchange Program, a delegation of four students and one teacher from the Khawla School for Girls traveled for a three-week home-stay visit to The College of Staten Island High School for International Studies (CSI) in Staten Island, New York City in 2006. This was the first-ever US government-sponsored visit of Bahraini high school students to the United States.
At the time, CSI Principal Aimee Horowitz, now Superintendent of High Schools at New York City Department of Education, shared:
Students who participate in this exchange certainly realize how similar teenagers from all over the world are and how much they have in common. Both online and in person exchanges promote dialogue among students, dispel stereotypes and promote understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures. [Global Connections] is one of the most valuable experiences students can participate in.”
Lead teacher Nancy Kaplan, who worked with CSI administrators to organize and select US host families and prepare CSI students and the school for the Bahraini arrival, noted:
collaborative global exchanges, either online or in person, are essential in the twenty-first century in order to foster understanding and friendship. I feel strongly that the Bahraini/NYC exchange is a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other and build lasting friendships. It is my goal to continue our dialogue through Internet forums and live teleconferences.
Today, iEARN-Lebanon is hosting its first teacher’s workshop of the new year, and the team at iEARN-USA sends its greetings to all participants. We’re privileged to begin our 14th year collaborating with our Lebanese peers, who have helped pioneer online project-based learning in their country under the auspices of the International Education Association (IEA), a non-profit organization (AD-42) founded by Lebanese educators committed to the development of global partnerships in education and the capacity-building of learning communities based on the effective use of ICT for Lebanon and the Arab World.
The vision of IEA is to empower teachers, students and communities to use ICT in active teaching and learning, through projects that make a meaningful contribution to society. Under the leadership of Ms. Eliane Metni and her team of talented educators and volunteers, IEA undertakes projects that promote the inclusion of ethnic and racial diversity, equity among genders, people of varied abilities and of diverse socio-economic status based on respect, tolerance, understanding and harmony.
The iEA strategy:
To achieve our goals, and reach simultaneously global and local engagements and activities, as well as online and face to face
interactions, we have focused our activities on five areas:
- Education Networks
- Professional Development
- Classroom Projects
- Conferences and Events
- Custom-Designed Programs
Each of these areas plays a specific role to connect classrooms collaboratively. The complementarity among them has provided IEA with the capability to fulfill its vision in a holistic and sustainable manner. The teacher and the student are central to all our activities. Our point of contact is the teacher who is enabled to become the agent of change at the classroom level, and the student is given a wide range of opportunities to master the 21 Century skills.
Highlights of iEA’s work includes facilitating:
- The I DO project in 21 Lebanese public schools in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education; it is funded by Cisco Systems. I-DO complements the Fifty Connected Schools initiative, is which aimed at connecting 50 secondary public schools from various Lebanese regions with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, MEHE, via a WAN operated and supplied by the Ministry of Telecommunication and Ogero. Together, the I DO and the Fifty Connected Schools projects form a model for a National Education Network (NEN) in Lebanon.
- YouthCaN Med an off-shoot to the successful YouthCaN program, a global youth-run organization that has used technology to inspire, connect and educate people worldwide about environmental issues since 1992. YouthCaN Med is designed for students to enhance their understanding of environmental, social and civic education issues in the Middle East.
- The Global Teenager Project (GTP), which offers thematic Learning Circles to Elementary, Secondary and Vocational schools, including Special Needs Education. Founded in 1998, GTP offers collaborative global learning to over 20,000 students in 42 countries, in the following seven languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Arabic and Papiamentu.
Teachers worldwide are invited to connect with IEA and to learn with, not just about, their peers in Lebanon.
Most Americans associate Yemen with one or more of the following: kidnapping, corruption, poverty, qat, al Qaeda, terrorism, drones, and the USS Cole.
iEARN educators and students in Yemen, with the support of iEARN partner SOUL for Development, offer several alternative word associations:
iEARN-USA is privileged to be a partner of SOUL, and we’d love your help to increase the number of U.S. classrooms connected with Yemeni classrooms and increase the positive associations between US and Yemeni teachers and students.
Dear Members and Friends of iEARN-USA,
Thank you for the positive response to our year-end Global Connections Campaign. We’ve already reached 42% of our goal. That means that we can support more than 200 U.S. teachers and their 5,000 students to learn with, not just about, their peers in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, and Yemen.
We’ve been moved by your comments and contributions to this campaign. One of our donors, Jo Anne, dedicates her contribution to iEARN with the following words:
For the world’s children, who deserve our love, protection, and support for a life of learning.
We’d love your continued help over the next two weeks to share word of this campaign to enable as many U.S. classrooms as possible to participate in this exciting opportunity to engage in hands-on, people-to-people, global collaborative projects at a critical time in U.S.-Middle East relations.
Contributions allow us to offer online course scholarships to U.S. high school teachers new to iEARN. Teachers who complete the course, which will guide educators in evaluating and aligning global projects with curriculum standards, may also have a chance to participate in iEARN’s Annual Conference in Qatar in July 2013. To take part in this opportunity, teachers are encouraged to fill out the statement of interest by December 31, 2012.
Thanks and happy holidays from iEARN-USA.
This fall, iEARN-Iraq has partnered with Touchable Earth, the first digital world book for kids where kids in each place explain all the facts about it. Touchable Earth founder Tudor Clee describes the program on Facebook:
Traditional world books tell you what a place is. Touchable Earth tells you what its like – from the perspective of 10-year-old kids in each place.
Every piece of information is presented with a portrait photo of a child – click the photo to see a video of them explaining or demonstrating something.
We cover the important facts – where it is, the capital, flag and anthem. From there the focus moves to experience. Visit famous locations with 360 degree virtual reality imaging and have kids explain traditional clothing, dance, music, language and other unique things. Follow their school day, see what games they play, meet their family.
iEARN-Iraq participants have been “first-adopters” and successfully joined two million of their peers worldwide to integrate new technologies into teaching and learning. The overall development objective of the program is to create opportunities for youth to engage in meaningful and constructive activities and projects that contribute towards facilitating them to become contributing citizens of their local and global communities. Based in Erbil, Kurdistan, iEARN-Iraq has built innovative partnership since 2003, and now serves more than 700 youth from 35 schools in partnership with the Ministry of Education.
Highlights during the past nine years have included community service in city parks and joining the Machinto, Teddy Bear, and My Hero projects. The Ronaky School For Girls’ My Hero project is a good example of iEARN-Iraq’s efforts from its Global Connections and Exchange (GCE) Program participation. In the My Hero project, a classroom chooses a hero to research and then uses a provided space to share an essay, video, or website about the hero with others in the project. For their hero, the GCE students in Erbil chose the Minister for Education of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Dr. Dilshad Abdul Rahman Mohammad. The class chose Dr. Mohammad because he has helped them by improving the education system and because he has supported iEARN-Iraq and the GCE program and offered his support and encouragement to participating teachers.
GCE Country Coordinator Bina Bayan and their GCE teacher, Sirwa, arranged a meeting with the Minister and he met with the GCE classroom for an hour and a half. The GCE students interviewed the Minister in English in the style of journalists, and Dr. Mohammad answered every question clearly and was impressed with the questions the GCE students came up with, as well as their English speaking skills. The GCE students of the Ronaky School For Girls were thrilled to be able to meet with the Minister and have him answer their questions and the visit was a great encouragement as they continue to learn English and about journalism.
iEARN-USA is proud to be a partner of iEARN-Iraq, and we’d love your help to enable as many U.S. and Iraqi classrooms as possible to share Teddy Bears and stories of heroes, and to learn with, not just about, each other.