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Students use 21st-century technology to connect with counterpart
Students use 21st-century technology to connect with counterparts halfway across the world
By SUE HOFFMAN
It was a "getting to know you" program, 21st century-style.
A dozen Chagrin Falls seventh-grade students in Johna Graziani's social-studies class rose at the crack of dawn to be at school at 7 a.m. recently. Halfway around the world, the same number of Chinese ninth-graders at Huipui High School, the Chagrin Falls School District's sister school in Linhai, China, returned to their classroom at 8 p.m. China Standard Time.
Using computers and Skype software, the two groups met each other and asked questions. They saw each other on a large screen in classrooms on opposite sides of the planet, and the fun began.
"They were nervous, but excited -- the same as us," seventh-grader Brennan Izzo said.
Each group came prepared with questions, but some of the Chinese students cast them aside to ask what was really on their minds.
"We were going to ask them about ancient China," Chagrin Falls seventh-grader George Coreno said. "They wanted to know what our music was like."
The Chinese students also asked about Christmas and Thanksgiving and described their Chinese New Year festival.
"They get the whole month off," Brennan said.
George said he also wanted to know what life was like for his peers in China. "I wanted to learn about their culture and what they like to do. We learned that they like to do the same things we do," he said.
The Chinese students were wearing sweatshirts similar to their American peers. The Chagrin Falls students learned that their Chinese counterparts live at school.
The session was part of Chagrin Falls' "Bridge to the World" initiative intended to help students and staff gain understanding, acquire knowledge and develop 21st-century skills necessary for living in a global interdependent and culturally diverse world.
Mrs. Graziani said her class was selected for the Skype session because it just completed a unit on ancient China. Even though only 12 could participate, many more seventh-graders came to watch the session.
Skyping has been used before to link local students with counterparts in other countries besides China, according to Chagrin Falls Middle School Principal Rebecca Holthaus.
Chagrin Falls' seventh-grade science classes, taught by Cindy Dean, are Skyping with a classroom in Slovenia on a regular basis.
"The goal for this program is to take the common curriculum standards we already have in place," she said. "The teachers plan activities that the students can complete and share with one another. They usually take one class period every couple of weeks to Skype. The students are beginning to develop friendships and relationships with one another.
"This is our goal with the Chinese students also," she said. "We are going to plan a variety of topics to converse about and schedule weekly Skyping sessions to have discussions and develop relationships. Our hope with the Chinese program is to continue those friendships as the students move into the high school and eventually have the opportunity to travel to China. We are just getting started with this type of programming, but realize the potential it has for growth."
Using Skype "is not as complicated as you might think," Mrs. Graziani said. "It's just a push of a button." Another Skype session is planned in the near future.
The first session was intended to be more structured, Mrs. Graziani said. The Chinese students wanted to practice their English. Their teachers were on hand to help with the dialogue when needed.
The Chagrin Falls students, having studied ancient China, wanted to learn more about the country today. "I wanted to know how it changed from ancient China to now," Brennan said.
At the end of the first session, students on both sides of the globe said they wanted a time to openly converse.
"It was neat to see how the kids in China wanted to become friends with the Chagrin kids," Mrs. Graziani said. "Some said they wanted to be our students' tour guides if they visit.
Chagrin Falls student Clara Young sang her choir solo piece during the session, and was applauded by the Chinese teens.
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