Middle school students at White Plains Public Schools have sharpened their digital citizenship skills and learned about collaboration by participating in the Schoolwires Greenleaf Virtual Cultural Exchange Program.
“The Greenleaf program provides technology tools that allow students from different cultures to communicate with each other in way that is meaningful to adolescents,” said Dr. Christopher P. Clouet, superintendent. “Our district embraces opportunities like these to provide a global-oriented education to our students and help them understand and participate in today’s global society.”
Designed for K-12 education, Greenleaf is supported by a curriculum guide that enables American and Chinese students in partner schools to collaborate and gain skills that will help to ensure their success as global citizens in a digital work environment. Fifty-seven students in grades 6-8 at White Plains district have been partnered with students at Suzhou Lida Middle School in China since January 2012. The students interact using blogs, chat, and videos as they move through the standards-based curriculum.
Although students in the district have participated in one-time video conferences with students in other parts of the world, the Greenleaf program gives them a unique opportunity to build relationships with Chinese learners and gain a deeper cultural understanding over time. The participants learn how to work in virtual cross-national teams to conduct research, engage in ongoing dialog and complete projects that address real-world problems.
“The curriculum and guided topics allow students to build their knowledge of another culture over a longer period, and this makes it more impactful,” said Jody Kennedy, program teacher. “The depth of the program also helps students collaborate more effectively online. I stress ‘effectively’ because students often think they are communicating well when they are not. With the Greenleaf program, they get continual feedback and opportunities to develop the 21st century skills that will be critical to them in the workplace.”
All the student participants at White Plains volunteered for the program which they engage in during study hall or after school.
“When I asked for their feedback on the program, the students all agreed that it was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Kennedy. “Having interactions with peers their own age and getting information straight from the source is worth its weight in gold. The program has been an invaluable opportunity for the students.”