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Connecting around the world with technology

Over the past year, we have witnessed the value of technology in education. Technology has not only been an essential tool but an important bridge for learning when students could not attend school physically. Technology will continue to play an important role in education and we must teach our students to leverage its possibilities for learning.

An example of how this is being done across the Copper Country is the Japan Postcard Project. Locally, this project is led by the Copper Country’s Educational Technologist, who coordinates with the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. On the surface, the Japan Postcard Project is like a traditional pen pal project but much more high-tech.

One local seventh grade teacher said, “This project is a great opportunity for students to learn about Japanese culture firsthand while also helping them become good global citizens.”

Roughly 30 classes across the Copper Country are matched with classrooms around Tokyo. Each class creates a postcard to share information about their school and community. The classes then upload the postcards to Google Drive and share it with the class they are matched with.

One local elementary teacher shared that her second grade students really enjoy learning about what students in a different part of the world like to do and what activities their schools participate in. They were very excited to start on their postcards and came up with great cultural ideas to share.

A local high school teacher expressed that this exchange for her students is beneficial in many ways – creating and seeing postcards as mini works of art, reading and writing skills, and listening skills – even though everything is written the class talks about how the back and forth of letter writing means you respond, acknowledging and taking an interest in what the other person is writing.

Several of the classes also share short videos using FlipGrid. This has become a valuable tool for asynchronous discussions and allows classes to work around the 12-hour time difference.

The Copper Country ISD has been very pleased with the project and the opportunities it has created for students.

Writing the postcards is the first step, but the discussions that it generates about food, language, culture, weather, geography and the upcoming summer Olympics are what make it become a powerful learning experience. This project acts as a springboard for learning and offers an authentic learning opportunity to bridge curriculum topics.

Classes are encouraged to visit their Japanese partner school’s website and use the translation feature of Google Chrome or Google Translate to read their announcements, review their lunch menu and learn more about the school. Some classes have even taken this a step further and toured Japan via virtual reality tools to engage deeper with a given topic and the culture.

Another local high school teacher stated that an additional great benefit is just connecting with someone from a different place and culture and finding out we are all more similar to each other than we are different.

The Copper Country ISD is fortunate to have an educational technologist who can work with local educators on unique projects like the Japan Postcard Project. This project has been a great success and there is hope to grow the project to include more classrooms in the future.

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