In 2013, Justin Stump connected two classrooms of students separated by 10,000 miles utilizing modern day technology in seconds.
Phileas Fogg’s primary means of travel when he circumnavigated the globe was split mostly between trains and steam ships. In less than three months, he journeyed from London to India to Japan to the United States and back to the United Kingdom. Both Phileas and Jules would’ve been impressed with the ability to open up a window halfway around the world with the click of a button.
When I first arrived in South Korea, I quickly adapted to the learning culture in the classroom and found it wanting. English education left something to be desired. There was something missing; something that could be easily incorporated into the weekly or monthly routines of our students to not only increase their fluency and comprehension of English but also provide exponential benefits toward their personal growth as human beings apart of a global society.
In August, I submitted an official business proposal to my director who in turn, passed it up to the owner of the school. These wise and forward thinking men gave me the go-ahead to begin preparation for the first global classroom in the school’s history. My idea wasn’t a new one. It wasn’t that original. It wasn’t that unique or creative. In spite of that, no one else had managed to achieve such an undertaking.
The reason? Cross-continent classrooms require two teachers, two classrooms, two webcams, and two groups of willing students. Believe it or not, that combination is much harder to find than you might think. After a handful of dead ends, false starts, and broken promises, the program was ready to begin (seven months after my initial proposal – everything takes longer and is more expensive than you plan). On top of that, the time difference becomes an issue since the east coast of the US is 13 hours behind the Korea peninsula and the west coast is 16 hours behind.
My program consisted of three components:
- Connecting two classrooms via webcam
- Weekly emails between pen-pals on a variety of topics
- Online discussions utilizing social media (Twitter, Facebook)
Last week, the first of a series of webcam classroom exchanges took place and was a great success. A handful of my best Korean students, for the first time in many of their lives, met their peers from America – students of the same age who have similar goals, problems, and interests yet live thousands of miles away. In Korea, the opportunity to talk with native English speakers is highly coveted and I was proud to deliver that to mine.
The kids had a lot of laughs together as they asked questions of each other regarding their hobbies and interests, daily lives, school systems, and culture. Two of my students strutted the catwalk wearing their school uniforms and another shadowboxed. Both groups were enthusiastic and interested in meeting their email pen-pals face to face.
My personal thanks go out to the technology staff at Cumberland Regional High School in South Jersey as well as Mrs. Linda Cristuado for spearheading the operation from the Western Hemisphere. Everyone enjoyed themselves during the exchange and my students can’t wait to do it again!
Until Next Time…