They participated virtually and then gave their reflections on the Conference. We are working to improve the virtual participants for next year's conference, but for now, here are the blog posts that resonate with me the most:
"While I was participating in the Flat Classroom Conference virtually, I began to realize that this project has more meaning than just a classroom assignment, or busy work for the students. Several people have taught me that there is hope in this world. Watching Jeff discuss issues around the world i realized just how advanced the world is and how much in control we are...
hearing about the camels, seeing the videos, blogs; one by Emily, was really motivational to me, and pictures made me see the middle east in a whole new light. Before, i was slightly frightened thinking about being around the people with the turbans on their heads, thinking they were a threat to North America and our society. But i now realize they are people just like us, and they want to make the world a better place as well."
"I think that this conference helped change my view of the Middle East. At first, I didn't think I wanted to attend because it was so far away, but the people who did go had an awesome time. It has changed how I view the Middle East because I have seen pictures from the conference and Qatar looks like a beautiful city. Overall, I think it was a great project and conference, and I think that it definitely helped students realize everything that we can change in the world just by working together."
"My views of the Middle East have changed somewhat. I didn't go so I didn't get to interact with the people from the Middle East, but the people who did go were very complimentary. I think Americans make the common misperception that all Middle Easterners are terrorists, but that is wrong. This has opened our eyes to their culture."
Jake K says:
"My view on the middle east has changed a little bit. I used to think when I heard middle east the first thing that came to my mind was the the War in Iraq. But now after talking to John who went over to the conference in Qatar my view has changed. Now I do not think terrorists because the middle east is just like all the other places in the world, it has good and bad people just like everyone else. From talking to John I have realized that the middle east is no more dangerous than anywhere else in the world."
So, the point to take away here is that:
- Connect students FIRST to build trust so that you can eventually meet face to face.
- Face to face meetings always force students (and adults) to face their stereotypes and either change them or reinforce them.
- Good experiences can change long-held stereotypes that are reinforced by a nation's media.
- The media does not always tell the truth. (We know this but do we REALLY know this!)
- Student views can be changed when only a few of them go somewhere. Virtual participation should be a part of any "class fieldtrip" for those who cannot attend in person.
- Never underestimate the power of connection.
So, really - there are two choices for schools.
- To build the BRIDGES today that the society of tomorrow will WALK across.
- To build the WALLS today that the society of tomorrow will have to BRIDGE in order to advance.
How will the future remember your school?