One Classroom in The Cloud
To all youths!
Do you care about under-privileged children around the world who lack learning resources (teachers, learning materials…) ?
Do you wonder how you can volunteer to offer your time and abilities to help them if you can’t travel often?
Have you ever thought that creating content in the way that interests you – be it making games, writing stories or scripts, making multimedia content, illustrating for stories – could become helpful learning resources?
Have you ever tried to do boring community services only to accumulate volunteer hours for your resume profile? Why not put a little more creativity into your kindness?
Think differently. Technology is a leveler, it can change learning and volunteering as well.
Is it possible to create a global one-room schoolhouse through new forms of mentorship with the aid of the internet?
“English for Everyone“(E4E) is about high schoolers creating open educational resources(OER), or being tutors and reaching out to help under-privileged kids learn English. The process is through online free digital tools to connect, collaborate and create. It’s initiated by Sarah Chen and a group of caring high schoolers in Westwood High and McNeil High, Austin, Texas, USA.
The volunteer opportunities don’t require a specific time slot to be set aside, not even require traveling, because it’s asynchronous. Not a big offering, but it’s an affordable action for everyone who is willing to spend 30 minutes in front of his/her computer every week for a disadvantaged kid on the other side of the earth. The social connection is a meaningful context for both sides. For the kid, learning English doesn’t seem irrelevant any more. The learning could be triggered by ongoing conversations, or by request. For the tutors (high schooler volunteers), they learn about a different culture (even language) and how to help others learn. Both sides could get a different world view from the exchange experience. Being connected to learn is the basis of this project.
They also built a way to monitor and manage the quality of tutoring (see the different roles of volunteer opportunities). But those high school volunteers aren’t qualified teachers, you question. Think again. Teaching isn’t equal to learning. The famous experiment by Sugata Mitra: “Hole in the Wall“(repeated again and again) told us children can teach themselves or help each other learn if they are motivated. His another talk ”School in the Cloud” is also about helping rural children through cloud-based solutions. Actually students teaching other students has been around for a long time already: it’s called peer tutoring.
While E4E project was looking for free reading materials – because learning languages needs lots of reading – they were frustrated. Since Sarah enjoys writing short stories as a hobby, why not use the stories as free reading materials? Her younger sister, a video game lover, used Scratch to create a mini game to accompany the story. Many teachers and education institutions are advocates of student publications. Our fast-changing world needs a new type of learners who are makers and tinkers, and the real world problem is the best context for project-based learning. Youth volunteers are growing their digital literacy, because trying using technologies creatively for the good cause is highly encouraged.
Open licenses let global collaboration become possible. The permission of re-mix and re-use means any one can improve their works or extend the content without asking. In E4E case, educators and learners are encouraged to modified the contents. This is exactly how open educational resources (OER) could change the way we learn. Actually everyone can lend a hand to help in a way you are passionate about.
Education isn’t only about consuming learning contents; caring, participation and creating contents are all parts of true learning. If you are an educator who appreciate student publications as a constructivism path of learning, why not use this cause to motivate your students. Your guidance, proof-reading, suggestions and commentary for student’s works could make them more useful for this cause.
Like technologies in classrooms, digital learning contents and pen pal tutors don’t aim to replace any teachers, actually local workers(or neighbor workers) are important in the whole picture, E4E project works with local educators. Based on the spirit of voluntary community service, the Internet make our world an earth village, so they can connect with learners “in the cloud”. Also, the kindness can be propagated through everyone that has ever been helped. The side effect of this project could include understanding and peace between youths in different countries.
The purpose of this article is to call you, teachers or students, to action: become a tutor, help create OER (writing, game making, illustration, or animation…), help improve OER, translation, or help bridge E4E to children in need in your countries. The purpose is to extend the virtual volunteer network with more high schoolers, teachers joining in so that there will be more hands and brains to grow the ideas, resources and reaches.
Tutoring a kid in need will be an experience of a lifetime. If you like to volunteer, but don’t know what or how to teach, don’t worry, we’ll post weekly activities on E4E blog, or share with you what resources you can use. Tutors can just follow up them with their students. Give your students help when they need it, or extend the activities, or just encourage them! The activities will include videos, games, quizzes or playlist of several kinds, they mainly come from Open Educational Resources(OER).
Write us if you are interested to collaborate: firstname.lastname@example.org