Global Nomads Group Relies on Videoconferencing to Connect Students Worldwide
Students from around the world came together in December to discuss their holiday traditions and opinions about global events. This was not done, however, in a face-to-face meeting, but rather though a videoconference setup by the Global Nomads Group, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster dialogue and understanding among the world's youth.
Using videoconferencing equipment from Polycom Inc. and GlowPoint Inc.'s IP-based video communications network, the "Global Perspectives: One World, Many Celebrations" videoconference linked students from Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y., and The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles with students from Open House, a youth center in Israel.
For the participating students, getting used to the technology was not the most difficult hurdle to overcome. Breaking the ice is always the hardest part, says Mark von Sponeck, executive director of the Global Nomads Group, referring to the difficulties that come with moderating videoconferences. "Often at the start, students are a little nervous - especially those who have never participated before in a videoconference."
However, once the videoconference was under way, the students became visibly more comfortable and a real exchange began. Discussing how they would be spending their holidays, the teenage students found that they had much in common despite their drastically different geographic locations. The conversation soon turned to world events as the Israeli students spoke, with shaking voices, of living with the daily fear of violence, while the New York students spoke of how the Sept.11 attacks changed their lives. Watching the videoconference, it was hard to tell which location the excited, giggling students were from.
Getting the students to interact and debate honestly and openly is exactly what the Global Nomads Group had hoped to accomplish. Von Sponeck thanks technology for providing an educationally effective and cost-efficient way of making these connections possible. Videoconferencing, he says, is "just as powerful as the students physically meeting each other."
Aside from affecting their world perspectives, the benefits of these meetings can be seen in the students' academic performance as well. "Teachers involved in our programs have reiterated time and time again that their students learn so much faster when engaging directly with their fellow peers," says von Sponeck. He notes that teachers also report that students are more inspired to do background research on the topics and regions featured in the videoconferences.
Future Global Nomads Group videoconferences will connect U.S. students with their peers in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe to discuss AIDS and environmental preservation. Because of its powerful results, the ultimate goal of the Global Nomads Group is to expose every student worldwide to videoconferencing with their peers. "These kinds of connections that lead to such understanding and respect among the world's youth are truly the hope for a more peaceful future on our planet," says von Sponeck.
To view the "Global Perspectives: One World, Many Celebrations" videoconference, log on to www.gng.org.
This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.