From a personal standpoint, I used our videoconferencing suite to expose my high school students to events and conditions around the world that they had trouble visualizing. Specifically, my Grade 10s participated in a VC with kids in Uganda a couple of years ago. The impact was tremendous! My students were able to interact with students in Uganda, who had stayed after school hours to participate in the session. We got to see their tiny four room school house with no electricity, and listen to their horrific pasts where they described unimaginable experiences of losing relatives, limbs and childhood.
One of my students said something that hit home with me shortly after the videoconference was over. She said,
"We now just walk down the hall, put away our books and go out for lunch with our friends, while those teenagers in Uganda are starting a 6 mile journey in the dark back to their village. Kinda puts it all in perspective."
This opportunity wouldn't have been made possible without a fantastic organization known as the Global Nomads Group (GNG). They are a non-government organization (NGO) that focuses on bringing awareness of global issues/events to students world wide. They provide the manpower, power generators when necessary and technology to allow students to connect with those all over the world -- even the most remote locations.
If you're a Social Studies teacher and looking for a way to have a dramatic impact on your students, I would highly suggest checking out their site: http://www.gng.org. They have pre-scheduled sessions based on important global events, as well as impromptu VC discussions after a major occurance. These videoconferences are sometimes free, sometimes cost money, but always provide background resources and a fantastic learning experience.
A great organization that, in my opinion, demonstrates the powerful impact that the thoughtful use of current technology can have on real-world learning in today's classroom.
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