Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hangouts as Mirrors

  At the core, I view my role as a library teacher as that of a connector.  Sometimes this means connecting a teacher with a set of resources from the web or our physical library.  Other times it means connecting them with a teaching strategy or technology and the confidence to go back and use it well with their students in the classroom.

   It could mean connecting a student who might not view themself as a reader with that book which will open up the possibilities and the power of literature in their lives.  Or it could mean showing them how to use a research source-be it print or electronic that they were not aware existed.

  One of my favorite connecting roles is when I can get one of my classes of junior highers in Northwest Arkansas to interact with students or experts around the globe through Skype, or Google Hangouts. At times I will joke with students that I may not be able to fly them to Java, Trinidad, or Transylvania, but I can serve as a conduit to help them interact on the global stage and see their connections to other peoples and parts of this world.

  I believe such interactions are truly valuable in shaping who and how our children will interact with the rest of the world in the future.  Sometimes, they produce humorous results such as when one of my students interacted for the first time with a peer who wore a headscarf in Java.  She asked if she wore the piece of clothing when she slept.

  Other times, such as during our Skype with a class in Trinidad last week,  the results are much more thought provoking.  During this visit, the concept of the American melting pot came up.  We were discussing the multicultural elements of Trindidad's soceity including celebrating holidays across a much wider spectrum of faiths than in the United States. In Trinidad, Diwali, Ramadan, as well as Christmas and Easter are celebrated on a national scale.

   During our conversation, one member of the class in Trinidad suggested that while the United States is culturally diverse, although it may not necessarily be a true melting pot.  This notion caused a palpable pause in the room for my students that they truly stopped to consider.

   The discussion continued, and my students looked around the room at their peers.  After a few minutes, they started to verbalize their feelings about the assertion.  Some of them suggested students in America may sit in the classroom and learn next to students from other backgrounds, but when they are self selecting their seating, they tend to choose to sit with peers who have a similar heritage.

 

   This interaction illustrates one of the key benefits of connecting learners with their peers around the world. Sometimes they provide a different perspective on America that is both refreshing and thought provoking. It can literally produce a new level of understanding.  Almost like stopping to look in a mirror and noticing something about yourself that you had not realized before.

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