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Where to with the iPad?

Published on 09/01/14

This year, my geography class (8th grade, year 9) will be looking at the meaning of development and the process of globalisation. Nothing new in that, then.
The thing is though it seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstanding possible when studying this topic and, although it is clearly important to cover the core ideas and the tradition divisions of less and more economically developed countries, some of the more controversial aspects of the topic should be suitable for discussion with my year 9s (8th grade) at the Stephen Perse Foundation.

Take for instance the challenges that the wonderful Hans Rosling presents in his TED video (just the first 5 minutes or so):

Remove the stereotypes - it's about 'now'!

Videos like this start to unpack some of the stereotypes of development and to challenge our worldview. It is the sort of video that I would normally use with year 12 (11th Grade) but I am increasingly persuaded that these challenges should not be hidden from younger students - their worldview needs to be exploded! Start as early as you can!

The world is changing so quickly and the balance of powers is also developing at such a pace that some sense of the immediacy of the topic seems to be essential - studying from a text book or even from video resources therefore poses some problems - if it is not about ‘now’ then I could be perpetuating the myths of the topic. Just look at the quantum changes that are taking place in Mongolia or in Ghana at the moment, or across the continent of Africa more generally through Chinese investment and the point is amply illustrated.

A world of possibilities

Put this together with the world of possibilities, literally, of the online community and there is a potentially powerful solution. Connecting to students and teachers in other countries could bring a live engagement to the classroom. What if I could connect to someone in Ghana or from Ghana when we look at that case-study? Are there students who could join us in our lesson real-time via the internet? - I am hoping for Google Hangout here because of the possibility of referring to GoogleDocs at the same time and to record the whole link-up, live.

So far, I have used some of my own contacts and have also asked twitter. This has yielded another link to Ghana via Switzerland which I am now working to develop. Establishing the right links are important - just having someone in another country or even a class that wants to link up is great but unless the expectations are aligned the value will be very limited. That’s the tricky thing. I’ve also asked my class at our first lesson - their contacts within their immediate families stretch from Spain and France to Nigeria, China, USA, Australia, Canada and Peru. I am sure some of them have yet to declare their hand, too.

So, our global journey has begun and I will blog it here - may be some of my students will guest-blog what they have learnt - I hope so - it is another global link, afterall.