What happens when students around the world are connected via modern technologies to share their experiences and perspectives?
The Millennium Cities Initiative is determined to find out through its exciting School-to-School partnership program, which brings together schools from the United States with schools in the Millennium Cities – underserved urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
While we have had a number of exchanges to date, our first real foray into the School-to-School partnership program took place on March 3, in celebration of World Read Aloud Day (WRAD). This day was organized by our partner LitWorld, which is dedicated to promoting literacy around the world.
For WRAD, we lined up two groups of students. The first group included Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC; Arya Primary School in Kisumu, Kenya; and Ecole le Progrès in Bamako, Mali. Those students joined each other via Skype, reading aloud a few “wild adventure stories” they wrote together in serial fashion, in advance of the event. The students seemed genuinely thrilled to interact with one another and to be able to connect with a school on the other side of the world.
The second group paired fifth graders from Miner Elementary, a public school in Washington, DC, with students from Opoku Ware Junior High School in Kumasi, Ghana. Despite a power outage across much of Ghana that day, the students were able to connect briefly via Skype, make introductions and ask a few questions of one another. The students at Miner were also able to read aloud the “wild adventure story” they had written together with their DC and African counterparts and to send instant messages to the students in Kumasi. The students were hugely enthusiastic and wanted to know all about the other culture. The coordinating teacher at Miner, Ms. Dianna Hicks, said she was thrilled to have the opportunity to use this Skype session, both for the children to “learn more about their own ancestry,” and as a teaching tool to help her kids with reading and writing. “When these kids came to me, they were not writing this way,” Ms. Hicks told MCI. “I see this exercise (the joint adventure story-writing) as a catalyst to help them learn to think, as it gives them the ability to consider and build on other people’s ideas. I truly hope they remember that they communicated with their fellow students in another country to come up with a great piece of writing.” Representatives from Ericsson, MCI’s partner which, together with Zain, is currently linking 18 Kumasi schools to the Internet for this project, were present at Miner Elementary to witness this exciting event in person.
Our School-to-School partnership program was launched in a truly meaningful way – promoting literacy and universal education on a day intended to do just that, World Read Aloud Day. Several additional shared learning activities will take place this spring and into the next school year, when we launch a broader School-to-School partnership between New York City and Kumasi schools, as well as between many more Millennium City and U.S. schools. These partnerships will focus on integrating the new technologies and the Millennium Development Goals into the teaching and study of science, math, geography and literacy.