Two Extraordinary Videoconferences

I’m watching two videoconferences at the same time this afternoon (on two different Polycoms of course!) and both are sponsored by Polycom.

Roosevelt Elementary is connecting to Mt. Rushmore for another session (continuing yesterday’s series). Today the students are hearing the story of a man who worked on the mountain and how he carved, what tools he used, etc. Mt. Rushmore does a good job of showing visuals along with the interview to add interest. Some of the student questions included:

  • Where you ever afraid you would fall?
  • What keeps the rocks from eroding? (Great answer on this one. The rocks will erode about 1/4 of an inch in 10,000 years. Mr. Borglum (designer of the monument) said that he took care of that by making the faces 1/4 of an inch larger. )
  • What inspired you to write your book?
  • Did you drop any tools when you were working on the mountain?

One neat thing about this videoconference was the class connecting from Texas had Mr. Borglum’s granddaughter in the class. That was a neat connection.

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Also New Buffalo High School is connecting to Global Nobads Group in a discussion on Islam led by David Macquart. He asked the students the following questions – and each school had a chance to give answers. One of the classes participating has 6 Muslim students, so this is definitely enriching the conversation.

  • Do you think the media portrayal of Islam is positive or negative?
  • Are the demonstrations against the cartoons justified?
  • What are the limits to freedom of expression?
  • How can we diminish the clash between the two cultures?
  • Each class also had a chance to ask specific questions directly to the Muslim students. The Muslim students were clear in expressing that the extremists are not following Islam. An analogy was shared by one class – Islamic extremism is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity. The students participating all agreed that was a good analogy.
  • How do you think that polygamy affects the treatment of women? Out of this conversation came several comments from the Muslim girls in New York that they didn’t want to share a husband with any of each other. Everyone had a great laugh at this. Another great comment that came from this conversation was that the Muslims think we in the U.S. don’t respect our women by how we treat them or how we let them dress or allowing prostitution.

David did a good job of facilitating the conversation. Sometimes you could hear the tension and nervousness in the students’ voices as they commented. David helped the students temper their views and understand the perspectives of others.

This was the first student videoconference I’ve seen with the “extended continuous presence” layout with the speaker in the top left larger box, and the other classes around the right and bottom. We use this layout for the TWICE board meeting all the time and it’s great for conversations. It was definitely the best layout for the conversation today.

On a lighter note, we had a class in Buffalo, New York participating, as well as our local class, New Buffalo, Michigan, which was pretty neat knowing the history of the towns.

These were two great conferences. I wish I could have duplicated myself and watched all of both of them!

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March 1, 2006 Addition. Tina Keller, the New Buffalo High School teacher who participated in the Global Nomads videoconference is also taking my Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections class. I am sharing her reflection on the videoconference here with her permission.

The videoconference that I completed for the month of February was sponsored by the Global Nomads Group out of New York City.  The title of the program that my high school world studies class participated in was “Bringing the World Into the Classroom”. 

The conference had a moderator/ David Macquart from the Global Nomads Group.  Four schools participated:  2 from New York, one from Indiana, and us (New Buffalo HIgh School/ Michigan).

I found that this video conference for me was a reflection on one of the articles that I read for January regarding connecting the classroom to the global community.  As a group we were able to discuss the topic of Islam/ particularly the Political Caroons published by many European newspapers depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

All schools had the opportunity to answer the questions and reflect on the following topics: Muslims in the media, Political Cartoons, justified violence?, generalizations of groups of Muslims, the clash between Western values and other religions / proposed solutions to the clash, pologamy, and the Quoran.

It was beneficial for all students to address the above-mentioned topics and answer questions posed to them.  Of particular interest for our school was that one of the New York schools who participated had a Muslim population. It was an awesome global connection for students in Michigan to hear what Muslims thought and believed from a primary source.  My students left this conference with greater understanding of the Muslim faith and of the culture of Islam.

As a teacher I am greatful to have an opportunity such as this. We were able to accomplish more curriculum in one class period on Feb. 15th than I could have in 3-4 days on a block schedule.  I had my students complete an evaluation regarding this program, and they had tons of compliments.  One remark made by a non-Muslim student from another school really stood out to my class.  The individual made a remark that “they” meaning the Muslims from the New York school “must be idiots”. Unfortunately, this individual didn’t understand that the school in New York was simply having audiory interference and thus they couldn’t hear well at some points.  Several of my students commented that racism and prejudice is alive among their generation!

For my students at New Buffalo this was “case and point” that racism is alive.  The topic of generalization that the conference addressed “all/ they” was made on this day, and my class learned from it. (as well did I)

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About Janine Lim

Janine Lim is an Instructional Technology Consultant at the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency in Berrien Springs, MI. Her main focus is on distance learning via videoconferencing and online learning. She also trains teachers in technology integration in the classroom and maintains the SouthwestNet Distance Learning web site. Janine is a past President of TWICE, a Michigan K12 videoconferencing organization, and maintains the TWICE website. She is also the TWICE Read Around the Planet Verification Coordinator for 2007. She also writes a regular column for the MACUL newsletter and was a member of the MACUL board of directors 2001-2003.
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