Breaking boundaries through video conferencing

Social Studies teacher Eric Vichnick regularly uses video conferencing in his International Relations class to offer his students the chance to interact with and learn from students in other countries. England, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Where haven’t Eric’s students virtually traveled?

Eric is a lead teacher for Face to Faith, a division of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. The foundation aims to prevent religious conflict and extremism and promote open-minded and stable societies. Lakes Community High School is also a lead school, thanks to Eric’s five-year partnership with the organization.

In his experience, Eric said his students have learned that they have a lot more in common with these students of differing cultures, ethnicities, and religions than they thought, and that when differences do exist, they need to look beyond them to solve the problems of the world.

They also have learned about themselves.

“What do you believe in? That’s the crux of it,” Eric said. “Who are you? How do you speak intellectually about yourself?”

His students have seen Pakistani girls covered from head to toe. They’ve talked about friendships and relationships. One girl even had “Happy Birthday” sung to her.

It’s not all about offering students an eye-opening experience, though. Video conferencing also allows Eric’s students to practice 21st Century skills. They’ve been asked difficult questions about stereotypes of American teenagers and pop culture—questions that have forced them to think quickly and, later, to reflect on the way they represent themselves to their counterparts abroad. They’ve also had to formulate arguments, learn how to engage others, and be good listeners.

To any teacher considering this student-centered activity in their classes, Eric says, “Do it. Find where it would fit in your class because I think it could fit in any class.”

Skype in the Classroom is one way to collaborate with classes from other schools, to invite a guest speaker to talk to your students, or to take a virtual field trip. Talk to Kellie or Barb for help or to brainstorm other ideas.

Also, read about our new Mondopads, technology that will make video conferencing awesome for you and your students!

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