Last year my students and I joined a new global project set up by the inspiring and creative Arlene Blum. Slowly she has been enlarging the number of high-school programs for deaf and hard of hearing students from around the world participating in the project. You can see her new welcome post for the new school year, introducing us to Cambodia (and its sign language) here: A Global Blog For Deaf and Hard Of Hearing Students
Keeping up the students’ interest in a global project over a long period of time is challenging. We added a private group on Edmodo.com so that the students could post more personal things in a protected manner (the blog can be viewed by all). I think the feature my students love best on Edmodo is the poll feature. THAT they are always ready to do! But the fact that Edmodo looks a lot like Facebook (but is NOT connected to it) actually emphasized the issue that “turned off” many students. They are unable to chat “live” with their global partners. Even if the program offered it, the time difference doesn’t allow it. These teens are used to instant gratification. Writing and then having to wait for a reply seems so odd to them. Particularly as our American friends have a two day weekend. If one of my students comments on a post Sunday morning, asking a question, the earliest possible reply will be read Tuesday morning (assuming the American student answered first thing Monday morning, which is Monday afternoon here).
I ended the school year thinking about how to deal with that problem (hadn’t come up with a solution). Now that I have been moved to a different classroom (updates on THAT story next week!) I no longer have an Internet connection in class!
I think participating in such a project is very important for my students. There is so much they don’t know about the world! Some didn’t even know that children abroad don’t go to school on Sundays or that it rains in the summer!
So how do we do it without and Internet connection in class?
My ideas so far are:
1) See what we can do with cell phones. Last year only two of my students didn’t have a smart-phone, one of which because she lost hers three times and her parents wouldn’t buy her a fourth! Edmodo has an app, but you can’t yet use it for all the functions on the site.
2) Look for volunteers to take students to the computers in the school library. A lot of luck involved in this plan…