Classroom Technology

Students Think, and Discuss, Globally with Web 2.0

January 06, 2009 3 min read

Web 2.0 technologies are showing flashes of potential for allowing K-12 students to collaborate globally about important issues.

I glimpsed some of that potential recently in a Web conference on global warming that involved some middle and high school students on the east and west coasts of the United States and in Africa.

Taking part were students at the Ni River Middle School, in Spotsylvania County, Va.; the Insight School of Washington, an online school based in Spokane, Wash.; and Le Petit Séminaire de Pabré, near Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, in central Africa.

The schools are in the Fire and Ice Program, sponsored by Elluminate Inc., a Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based company that makes a system used to conduct Web-based learning and collaboration. “Our objective is to drive projects that involve global warming, and are specifically focused on schools in need, in Africa and South America, to facilitate cultural change,” said Stace Wills, who works on contract for Elluminate.

Participating schools are asked to develop curriculum-related projects addressing global warming in their local communities. Periodically, students from two or three schools meet online to exchange ideas and status reports, which are also posted on Web sites and wikis.

I watched the 90-minute session on December 16, from my office computer, in Bethesda, Md.

I could see on the screen the Ni River and Pabré classes taking part via live video. The Insight School, which has students spread across Washington State and beyond, was present through audio links, not video. But participants at all of the schools could post PowerPoint slides, send text messages, and write on an on-screen whiteboard.

Wills, as moderator, doled out control of the screen tools and provided some interpreting, when necessary, between French and English. He did so from his home in Calgary.

The Pabré students were crowded on benches facing the Web camera, as Hermann Yaogo, their teacher, interpreted a poster they presented using PowerPoint: The old man standing in a desolate field was a witness to environmental degradation. “In time past, there were green pastures and plenty of water, but in less than 50 years, there was no life. He was so disappointed about what was happening,” Yaogo said.

The Pabré school is combating this degradation by planting trees in the community, Yaogo said. The students also showed a logo they had designed to convey the message that preserving nature is a task for everyone.

Later, Wills explained to me that, a year ago, before the Pabré school had an Internet connection, its students were trucked off campus to a makeshift center to participate in the Fire and Ice Program sessions using a digital white board. Then, by winning a contest that Elluminate sponsored, the school received a digital projector, Webcam, speaker, and whiteboard; and the school now has dial-up access to the Internet, which is adequate for sending and receiving grainy video. The company also arranged for lessons in “accent-free English,” to help the French-speaking students and teachers more fully participate in sessions, Wills said.

The Insight School’s teacher, Mishelle Smith, and several students, described their new Web site on global climate change and their research on the declining water quality in Spokane’s Hood Canal, a locally important crab and salmon fishery.

Low oxygen levels have caused massive deaths of fish in the canal, they said, showing slides with their water quality measurements.

But students have discovered that the alder trees that have sprung up on the banks of the canal are contributing to the problem by allowing more nitrogen into the water than the mature forest that preceded them allowed. The students plan to replace the alders with cinder trees, which are effective absorbers of nitrogen.

Another of their findings--that contamination from leaking sewage tanks was entering the canal--led to an interesting cross-cultural exchange with the Pabré students.

Yaogo, the Pabré teacher, asked via audio: “Talking about the septic tanks, is it possible to use the content of those septic tanks to make manure for agriculture?”

Smith, who is based in the United Kingdom, replied by text message: “It is human waste and cannot be used.”

Yaogo: “But human waste is used in Burkina in fields. And it’s very efficient.”

Smith: “Interesting ... on food crops?”

Yaogo: “Yes, but it is sterilized first.”

Perhaps the schools will build on this exchange this month, when the Insight and Pabré students plan to exchange letters about their projects, according to Wills.

Some images from various Fire and Ice events are posted here.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Opinion Q&A Collections: Using Technology With Students
Ten years of advice on "what and how" to use ed-tech to improve instruction.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Classroom Technology Want to Make Virtual Learning Work? Get Parents Involved in Meaningful Ways
The growth of remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic is showcasing the increasing role of parents in online education, study shows.
2 min read
Student Maddi Dale focuses on her remote French class in her bedroom in Lake Oswego, Ore., Oct. 30, 2020.
Student Maddi Dale focuses on her remote French class in her bedroom in Lake Oswego, Ore., Oct. 30, 2020.
Sara Cline/AP
Classroom Technology Accelerating Learning: Tech Advice to Make It Happen
Accelerating learning through technology isn't as easy as putting a kid in front of a computer, experts and educators say.
7 min read
Image of a digital device.
Marianna Ivanenko/iStock
Classroom Technology Opinion The Company Crowdsourcing Homework Help
Rick Hess speaks with Michal Borkowski, co-founder of Brainly, about how the site crowdsources homework questions to its millions of users.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty