Monday, January 28, 2013

Global Collaboration: EHS French Skype

Edina Public Schools Mission Statement states:

The mission of Edina Public Schools is to educate all individuals to be responsible, lifelong learners who possess the skills, knowledge, creativity, self-worth, and ethical values necessary to thrive in a rapidly   changing, culturally diverse, global society.

Today, French Teacher, Kim Caster helped her students meet the last part of that mission through a video chat Skype session with students in Montpelier, France
Caster spent a year teaching in France a few years ago, as part of a Fullbright grant. Two-thirds of the students in Caster's class were students in the Edina French Immersion program.

Caster's students spoke in French in their questions and responses to their pen pals, and in turn, the French Students spoke English. 
Here are some of the questions that the French students were curious about:

  1. Which part of American History do you prefer? Why?
  2. Do you think the Amendment which allows people to own a gun should be repealed? Why/Why not?
  3. What do you think of French people's style?
  4. What are the best things about living in Minnesota?
  5. Which French celebrities do you know?
  6. Do news programs report about France?
  7. How important is the Super Bowl to you? What do people do on the Super Bowl?
  8. Where do you go when you travel?
  9. What comes first to your mind when you think of France?
  10. What sterotypes do you have of French people?
  11. If you could live in France, where would you live?
  12. Which is your favorite American hero, real or fictional?
This exercise gave students to break down the walls of their classroom, and connect globally with students their age. 

When asked what they think about when they think about the United States, the French students responded, "TV and Fast Food!"

Caster was part of my Connected Educator book study last summer, and it was cool to see her incorporate some of those ideas to help connect her students. Earlier in the year, the same students collaborated on a Voicethread project. 

Caster noted that in France, technology is frowned upon in most schools. Cell phones are banned, which meant that opportunities for further collaboration via backchannel was not an option. Still, hopefully successful opportunities like this will embolden teachers to explore further collaboration.
Here is a sample exchange:

It was telling near the end, when one of the French students commented that she liked the U.S. because of the greater access to technology. Caster noted that because French High Schools are run by the federal government, funding for technology is limited. In addition, pedagogy in France is based primarily on  teacher instruction and student regurgitation. 

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