untold suffering, the 21st century should be one of peace and dialogue. —Dalai Lama
orating classes hope to visit one another’s communities.
According to the students’ wiki, the long-term goal is “not
only to perpetuate the memory of these soldiers and their
comrades in arms, but also to reinforce for the new generation
of young people our common history and experiences.”
Another wiki provides a collaborative forum for Oklahoma
teachers and their French counterparts to exchange ideas,
links, and samples of student work to inspire one another.
Desa Dawson, an administrator involved in the project,
believes a wiki is a wonderful tool to use for cross-cultural
projects. “It can be monitored by the classroom teacher…You
can decide who can contribute and monitor how they
contribute.” Teachers, for example, can modify content in ways
the students cannot. Parents can also go to the wiki and
contribute or just view students’ work.
Culinary students in career tech schools in both countries
have also connected online to share their skills. Chefs give one
another lessons through videoconferencing. One group is now
crafting a joint cookbook accompanied by a DVD, on which
chefs from each country demonstrate prize recipes. Four
representatives from Oklahoma career tech schools recently
traveled to France to meet with their counterparts in the
French schools and plan the project. French language students
from Oklahoma high schools will help translate for culinary
students from their state who speak little French as they speak
with the French collaborators in crafting this cookbook. Oklahoma’s career tech centers are now considering integrating
French into their programs.
Connecting in “Critical Need” Languages
Until recently, Hindi—a “critical need” language spoken by an
estimated 400 million people worldwide—was rarely taught in
U.S. schools. However, a new program in Edison, New Jersey,
is teaching students Hindi, a language that’s likely to be an
important feature of the international business and technology
world. Funded by a federal Foreign Language Assistance
Program grant, the Edison Hindi program taps 21st century
technologies that connect the New Jersey students with
students in India.
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
The standards-based curriculum that Edison developed
offers thematic units, each including a project that demonstrates students’ linguistic and cultural proficiency and that
involves working and sharing with students in India.
The program operates at J.P. Stevens High School and
Edison High School and offers four Hindi classes, including
one for heritage language students. The International Education and Resource Network (iEARN), a network for project-based learning with programs in more than 118 countries, is a
partner on the grant and has facilitated the connection
between Edison classes and students in India.
For the initial activity, Edison students described themselves
with PowerPoint presentations and then uploaded the presen-
tations to Voice Thread, so the Indian students could watch the
presentations and comment. Voice Thread is a collaborative
multimedia slide show posted online that enables asynchronous online conversation—usually conversation related to an
image or text posted on the Voice Thread site. Anyone who
signs in to the password-protected slide show gets an onscreen
icon; by clicking on the icons accompanying each slide, each
participant can hear or read what other participants have
voice-recorded into the conversation and can respond.
In the second unit, students talked about what a typical
student day is like in the United States and heard similar information about their Indian peers’ days. Students visit the
forums to ask one another questions, talk about school
uniforms or favorite books, or discuss other topics on a typical
high school student’s mind. Although most communication
has been on forums and Web sites, the students have also used
Skype to interact in real time.
These conversations came to life when a group of students
from India visited Edison in April and met face-to-face with
their online friends. Each visitor was paired with a local
student and shadowed that student for a day, following a