My Wonderful World is thrilled to introduce our second guest blogger, Silvia Tolisano. Silvia is the Technology Integration Facilitator at San José Episcopal Day School in Jacksonville, Florida, where she has established a Global Studies program. In this first of three posts, she describes how she uses Web 2.0 technology and a lovable teddy bear named José to bring the world--and 21st century learning--to her students.
Part I- Global
Studies- Making Connections with the World Around Us
I am sure you have heard of the saying: Geography is all around us? When I first arrived in the United States, almost 20 years ago, I learned quickly that for many people that did not seem to be the case. I had the following kind of conversation more than once.
Becoming a teacher later on, I knew it would be important for me to instill in my students a sense of “Where in the World” are we, in relationship to other countries, people, cultures, customs, and traditions.
I was instrumental in establishing a Global Studies program
at San José Episcopal Day School, a private elementary school that serves
students from pre-kindergarten through 6th grade. Geography skills
play a significant part in forming connections with a greater world: a world
that is bigger than our own backyard in Jacksonville, Florida
Through a grant from the Jessie Ball duPond Fund, myself and another teacher were able to travel physically to China in 2006 (http://www.sjeds.com/blog/china)and Egypt in 2007 (http://www.sjeds.com/blog/egypt ).
Through the use of web 2.0 tools, we were able to take our students along virtually. Daily entries to the travel blogs kept the school and the travelers connected, while photos, video clips, audio files and video conferencing brought the experience to life. The school was transforming their traditional classroom, blurring the boundaries of space, time and closed walls. Opening these dimensions created opportunities for students and teachers alike to become engaged co-learners.
We took the school mascot José, the Bear, on the trip and
reported the travel adventure back from the bear’s perspective. Each grade
level spent a day in school, before the trip, bonding with the stuffed animal
and sent him off with a special trinket, accessory or outfit to take on his
journey. The desired connection was evident for the children, when they would
see José wearing “their” present in a photo or video from the Great Wall of
China or in front of the Pyramids in Giza.
Students were eager to follow José and us, the teachers, on our adventure. We mapped our trip on Google Earth (http://www.googleearth.com ) and added screenshots to our blog entries.
Since our trip was in the winter holiday month of December, it was especially exciting for our elementary school students when they read on the blog (http://www.sjeds.com/blog/china/archives/40 ):
“The airplane flew an amazing route. Can you tell from the picture where we were flying over?
That is right…. THE NORTH POLE!!! WOW.
No, we could not see anything below, since it was dark. So we cannot claim a Santa Clause sighting. We are sorry…
The captain of the plane informed us that we flew over Newfoundland, Labrador, East of the North Pole, Siberia, Mongolia and then across China South to Hong Kong."
Once José had returned from his travels, it was not long before students started asking, if they could take the Bear on a family vacation. The school received a donation from Build-a-Bear (http://www.buildabear.com/) for 50 additional identical twin brothers, sisters and cousins of our school mascot. Students and their families are checking them out in record numbers and returning them with a souvenir from the country that they have visited, along with pictures of the student with the Bear or blog posts. The father of one of our school’s families has been deployed to Kuwait this past school year (http://sjeds.com/blog/teddybear/2008/03/jose-in-kuwait/). He took a Travel Bear with him and has been communicating through a blog with our students.
Once the Teddy Bears return to Florida, the stuffed animals are placed on a shelf under the name of the country it has visited, the photo is added to a wall collage and a teddy-face sticker is placed on the location of their travels on a giant world map.
Students are mesmerized and linger for a long time in front of these items in our computer lab.This proved to us that personal connections, like a classmate’s picture, a story of a familiar character, or personal object will support sustained interest and enthusiasm in a subject.
Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
Technology Integration Facilitator
San Jose Episcopal Day School
Professional Blog- LANGWITCHES – The Magic of Learning through Technology http://www.langwitches.org/blog