Newspaper Article

This article appeared in The Daily Star on May 18, 2012

Project brings world to students through technology

A few of my students working on the project.

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer

ONEONTA — Fifteen Valleyview Elementary School students are working regularly with their counterparts from around the world — without leaving their building.

School librarian Emily Gibson has teamed up with fifth-grade social studies teacher Adam Hoover and his students in the “A Week in the Life” global collaboration project. Many talked about the experience Thursday at Valleyview.

It allows Oneonta students using iPod Touch mobile devices purchased through a community donation, along with existing school hardware, to collaborate on the Internet with 600 peers in 31 schools on four continents, for a better understanding of their similarities and differences, Gibson said.

Besides the United States, other countries include China, Lebanon and Australia.

The Oneonta students started their work, using a variety of software programs, in March.

They have divided into groups to explore a variety of themes: school, leisure, housing and transportation, language and clothing, food and celebrations and environment. They are already working on their final project, a multimedia project that will share photos and comments showcasing their topics.

Hoover said he and Gibson were looking at different projects that deal with “digital citizenship” including Internet safety, when they found this program. It went beyond that while addressing a curriculum that calls for learning about different cultures, he said.

“The technology is the hook that allows teachers to focus on education,” he said. “Students are learning a lot and having a great experience without realizing it.”

The project started by students recording a “digital handshake,” introducing themselves to others around the world, Gibson said.

Fifth-grader Erin Stalder, who talked about the project Wednesday, said she is working in the “school” group. “We are talking with people around the world, learning about their cultures.” This includes “taking pictures of Oneonta and putting them online to show others where we live.”

In comparing her experience to others, she has been surprised to see how big some of the other school cafeterias area.  She was glad she doesn’t have to wear uniforms like some other students do.

Internet safety issues are addressed because no student last names are used, Gibson said. The project is helping students use the computer in a productive way.

This includes several students who were working on their projects Thursday. Shaun Jones said he is focused on housing and transportation. He has taken relevant pictures to show students in other locations what can be found here.

“I like the project,” he said. “It involved learning many new things.”

Cassidy Fetterman, is researching language and clothing. She was looking at photos of students and was glad that students in Oneonta did not wear uniforms that some of her counterparts did.

She has enjoyed talking pictures with the iPod and being able to describe them. She also enjoys commenting on others.

Paul Zimmer was looking at photos from all around the world. Working on schools, he had posted several photos of Valleyview. It was interesting to see how it compares to other facilities.

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