Student Connections Foster International Education
Published: Monday, January 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 08:01
As it has grown over the past semester, The One World Youth Project, has continued to innovate as its volunteers increasingly innovate in the classroom.
The program, a nonprofit founded by Georgetown alumni Jess Rimington (SFS '09), is housed in the Center for Social Justice. It is designed to foster a cross-cultural dialogue on global issues through online video calling, social media sites and courses designed to increase international awareness in secondary schools.
"To create a more just world, we will have to combat ignorance and instill in these children a sense of internationalism so that they can address the challenges in a way that is not provisional," project ambassador Asjed Hussain (SFS '15) said.
Since its founding in 2004, OWYP has connected U.S. secondary schools to classrooms in foreign countries to develop students' understanding of the increasingly connected world.
Students interact across the globe using Yammer, a sort of private Facebook that allows media sharing, and Chafte, a phone recording service, according to Communications Director Anjali Daryanani (SFS '11).
"We like to think of these techniques to link classrooms together as innovative and also equal-access," she wrote in an email.
The students involved have also introduced their own ideas, using websites like Freerice.com, which donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme for every quiz question that is answered correctly.
"We had to balance education and fun," Hussain said. "For example, we would play games … [to] introduce the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The students were right on the spot to talk about topics like illiteracy, poverty and hunger."
According to project members, discussing these international issues is crucial for students from underprivileged neighborhoods, as they are unlikely to be exposed to these topics in their classrooms.
Georgetown students have been working with students in Hart Middle School in Southeast D.C. and the Columbia Heights Education Campus. The Georgetown volunteers teach in conjunction with students from the Kosovo's University of Prishtina, who work at Elena Gjika Elementary School.
According to one of the seven Georgetown project ambassadors, Brian Potochney (SFS '15), the ambassadors worked with experts who have taught in inner cities. Potochney, who has been leading weekly lessons in local schools since October, said that one of the greatest challenges was to keep the students engaged.
"You wanted them to have fun while also taking it seriously," he said.
Another challenge has been the inconsistent Internet access at Hart Middle School.
"Sometimes the Internet cuts out in Hart Middle School, so it's not a guarantee that the students will be able to connect with their partner classroom in real-time," Daryanani wrote. "But when the university students are responsible for collecting their students voices in the forms of media, uploading, downloading and sharing with the partner classrooms, all students can benefit from the international experiences and meeting peers from the other side of the world independent of technology access."
According to Hussain, project leaders also benefit from their participation.
"The service is horizontal. You give and receive at the same," he said. "The kids teach us a great deal, too. Growing up in a totally different background makes you more aware of the privilege and responsibility in dissolving injustice, which is one of the core Jesuit values."