Seeing YOUR world through someone else’s eyes

Penpals, epals, skype sessions, Hangouts…

skyping with HI5For decades students have benefited from the classroom practice of communicating with students from other cultures.  Two decades ago email allowed that communication to be almost immediate.  Chat, and then videochat gradually increased the value and the linguistic and social-emotional power of creating connections across borders.

A colleague recently forwarded me a blog post from the HI5 English School in Bétera, Spain.  In the post the writer chronicles the connections that his students have forged with students at my school.  Seeing pictures of my students and athletes projected on a screen in front of engaged and curious Spanish schoolchildren deepens my understanding of how powerful (and how necessary) this practice truly is.

When I see a student from another school projected on a screen in one of our classrooms, she is a novelty.  A fun, interesting, and potentially meaningful artifact (please forgive me for referring to a person as an artifact) of student learning.  When I see MY kid (let’s call her Lucy) projected on their screen, I see a child, one of many at my school, LIFTED UP as a representative of the school.  What makes Lucy unique and lovable in our community makes her equally well-regarded to that far-flung group of students.  And even better, she projects that image on our school as a whole.

I saw MY WORLD through the eyes of someone else today.  It made me realize how important it is to share my world with others.  And to welcome their world into mine.

Should vocational education be a part of plain, old education?

I was reading an interesting New York Times article by Christina Hoff Sommers about how grading practices create a bias that affects male academic success.  Interesting stuff, but what causes me to write today is the mention of a word that I haven’t heard since my days in Rappahannock County, VA: vocational education.

Since I was young the term “Vo-Tech” or vocational education has been synonymous with “remedial”–trade-oriented learning for the kids for whom traditional education is not a good fit.  But the increased attention toward “work-readiness” and project-based learning makes me wonder if vocational education can point us in a slightly different direction.  Can science students learn about volume and pressure by learning about how an engine functions (and comes to not function, as my 1980 Datsun 510 once taught me)?

What can we learn from vocational education as we prepare the classrooms of the next 50 years?