Widening the World for Students
The following is a guest blog, authored by David Homa, an anthropology and economics teacher at Los Gatos High School in California, one of MCI’s School2School partners.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this blog do not represent the opinion of the Millennium Cities Initiative, the Earth Institute at Columbia University or any of its professional consultants.
As the world shrinks through the use of technology, it is possible to widen the world to students all over the world. During the past week, I have been in Kisumu, Kenya, visiting the Kisumu Day Boys High School. Kisumu Day is our partner school through the School2School program, started by Millennium Promise and the Earth Institute’s Millennium Cities Initiative. Over the past two years, Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, California has been working with the Kisumu Day Boys High School in Kisumu. Students from both schools have done cross-circular activities and Skype calls, which allow the students from both schools to directly interact in real time.
I have been working with Lois Wadeya at Kisumu Day to develop our partnership. Lois and I create assignments that will help students at both schools develop a better understanding of each other. The Skype calls are used to enhance the assignments and give the students a chance to discuss topics ranging from political and social issues to personal questions such as asking about girlfriends and boyfriends and what students do in their free time.
The two schools have used Skype and email to get to know each other, but I decided I could strengthen our connection even more by coming to Kisumu to see things first hand. Over the past week, Heath Clark, another teacher from Los Gatos High School, and I have been spending time at Kisumu Day getting to know better the students and teachers. Actually being at the school is helping me gain a deeper understanding of the school and the surrounding environment. We also have been visiting other secondary schools in and around Kisumu.
Skype has allowed students to interact in a very real way. With that in mind I decided I would try using Skype to teach my classes back in Los Gatos from Kisumu Day. I set up a web camera at the front of my classroom and then connected my computer to an LCD projector so all my students are able to see me. Last Monday evening at 7 pm in Kisumu I called my first class which was starting at 8 am Pacific Time. Amazingly, it worked; I have enjoyed teaching my classes via Skype from the other side of the world.
The boys at Kisumu Day have been part of the Skype calls, allowing them to talk with my students and be part of the class. On Wednesday I did my Skype call from the Kisumu Girls School. The girls had a great time asking questions of my students and talking about their school day and what they want to do in the future as they finish school. The girls in Kisumu even sang Kenya’s national anthem in Kiswahili to my students in California. The real-time interactions bring students from two countries together in a way that books or even a teachers could never do.
Another important benefit of being in Kisumu is to give me a chance to talk with other teachers at Kisumu Day so we can expand the School2School link. The long-term goal is to connect more teachers and students from both schools. The benefits have the potential to be far-reaching for all involved. It has been an amazing and eye-opening experience being in Kisumu. I truly hope other teachers and students will be given the same opportunity I have had during my visit here.