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Get ready for globally connected classrooms

Last updated on: February 1, 2011 13:38 IST

Get ready for globally connected classrooms

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Lalit K Jha in Washington

Harnessing the potential of internet, an Indian American family has embarked on an ambitious project of connecting classrooms across the world to bring in virtual real time interaction among school students.

The aim of the Washington-based international initiative is to help students learn not only about culture of other countries, but also find solutions to complex math equations and science problems.

A brainchild of mother-daughter duo of Sonia Boveja and Naina, co-founders of Coalition for International Initiatives (CII), the pilot project launched recently connects eight American schools in the Pennsylvania area with three Indian schools in Gwalior, Ahmadabad and Ludhiana.

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Photographs: Reuters
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"We want to promote cultural awareness, global citizenship and academic excellence. So we want the students to share with each other academic things, their sports, and their history. We are hoping that we can also have math and science to be part of it," Naina said.

"Collaborative learning has become our first project. We want to bridge the achievement gap with new methodologies and cutting edge technology," she said.

Bovejas were recently in India touring the country as part of their efforts to identify schools for this ambitious project.

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Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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"The idea is that classrooms from India and classrooms from the US will be connected with each other through the portal," said Naina, who along with Sonia founded the CII last year with the goal of working in the spheres of education, art and environment.

After graduation from University of Maryland, with an academic citation from the CIVICUS living and learning program, Naina studied at Christie's Education in New York City.

She has received a certificate in Modern Art, Connoisseurship, and the History of the Art Market.

Sonia, also a graduate from the University of Maryland, believes that given the opportunity, a child from anywhere can develop a love for learning and a deep-rooted curiosity that is important to succeed in the 21st century.

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Photographs: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters
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"The inspiration for the Coalition came after seeing the abundant contrast of wealth and poverty in India; it became clear that we needed to do something to help. We decided education would be the best place to start, because education leads to a better life," Naina said.

To start with once a week, Naina said the teacher would log on to the secure portal where the students can upload the real pictures, hard facts and documents to the site and then the partner schools in India can check the website and see what the students have done in America.

"The idea is that classrooms from India and classrooms from the US will be connected with each other through the portal," she said.

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Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
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As the pilot project moves to the next round, Naina said, CII would be expanding this to other schools.

"Our goal is to connect classrooms all over the world," she said.

Noting that CII was created to implement social initiatives with specific outcomes in mind, she said through various partnerships across the world, they would be able to reach a larger area.

"Through our education project, classrooms in one part of the world are connected, via a web portal, to classrooms in another part of the world. Peers will teach peers using cutting edge technology. All of the lessons are standards aligned, and will be implemented in the classrooms once a week," she said.

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Photographs: Yuriko Nakao/Japan
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For this purpose they have established a website for educating kids with international possibilities.

As students connect with each other through this unique project, she said, students will be motivated to learn, will be exposed to another side of the world creating awareness and, understanding.

It is also hoped that the students will be exposed to global opportunities and teachers will be able to share best methodologies available.

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Photographs: Bob Strong/Reuters
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Eventually, teachers will be linked to parents for shared responsibility, administrators will be able to see how their schools are performing, and parents will have information needed to help their children.

"We will connect classrooms all over the world," she said, adding that a majority of their efforts are education initiatives.

"Our mission of working with artists has evolved into quarterly events, and our clean water initiative is being addressed with an environmental solutions company," Naina said.

 


Photographs: Kin Cheung/Reuters
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