American, Iraqi children learn about each other via VTC
Morris Hill Elementary School fifth-grader Kristina Warner, left, talks to a child of a 1st Iraqi Federal Police Div. Soldier May 3 during a VTC between the school children. Soldiers with the 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd HBCT, 1st Inf. Div. down range and stateside worked with Morris Hill to conduct the conference. Photo by Shandi Dix, POST.
Story by: Shandi Dix
Students today live in a "global" world where everyone is connected; and using the power of technology, Morris Hill fifth-grade students were connected to students of all ages in Iraq May 3 through a video teleconference.
"When I grew up, it did not seem as important to see issues from another perspective besides the one owned by Americans," said Greg Lumb, Morris Hill Elementary School principal. "We can no longer have this attitude and our students need to see that. Just by sharing with students from another country, it opens up our students' world."
The video teleconference was set up by Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Combat Brigade Team, 1st Infantry Division down range and stateside.
"It was an opportunity for the students in Iraq and the students in the United States to actually come face to face and ask questions of each other because, really, even though they are separated by half a world they are really a lot alike," said 1st Lt. Graeme Young, rear detachment commander, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt.
Linking the American students with Iraqi students bridges the gap between their different, yet similar, worlds, Young said.
"I think in the case of sharing with the Iraqi students it may have put their lives in perspective. The conditions for our students are quite substantial when it comes to schooling," Lumb said. "Yet, when it comes to lives of children they are much the same. Kids from our school and Iraq have a lot of common interests such as music, sports, pets, etc. The list goes on and on."
The common interests of "just being a kid" were evident to Morris Hill students.
"I learned that they kind of do the same stuff that we do. They watch the same TV shows," said Sadee Songer, fifth-grader. "I thought that they would watch a lot of different stuff and do a lot of different stuff, but I learned that they do a lot of the stuff that we do."
Morris Hill students also were interested in learning the differences between the two cultures.
"I learned a lot about how they lived in the other country and what's different about them from us," said Ian Ladiero, fifth-grader.
The differences in the language the students spoke wasn't a barrier, but a learning experience, participants said.
"Their language was really different; I thought that they would be able to speak English. I didn't know that there would be a translator, and I learned a different language," Songer said.
Students on each side of the camera were eager to share questions and songs. One Iraqi kindergartner sang the American ABCs in English to the Morris Hill students.
As the students signed off they were eager to teach the others their respective language by demonstrating how to say "goodbye."
A total of three video teleconferences with international classrooms have been conducted throughout this school year.
"We have had both of our fourth-grade classes and our fifth-grade class participate during the year," Lumb said. "They have been sharing experiences with students in Iraq."
Students in Iraq ranged from kindergartners to fifth-graders.
The video teleconferences were arranged for the students by a Morris Hill parent who is also a service member.
Sgt. 1st Class Luke McGuire, noncommissioned officer in charge, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt., 2nd HBCT, 1st Inf. Div., approached Lumb about the school's interest in participating in the conferences and the school jumped at the chance, Lumb said.
"It was really just coordination, phone calls with the unit that's forward to the unit that's in the back and then of course establishing with the school itself," Young said. "We were able to go ahead and link in with the principal so we can establish this once a month."
The school and military see the power and potential in using videoconferencing for students to learn.
"I think that it gives them an advantage when it comes to technology at this young age because they realize that people can reach out and touch each other and talk to each other whether it's via VTC or whether it's via Skype or whether it's via the internet," Young said. "This is just another medium available to them."
Allowing the students at Fort Riley the ability to video teleconference with Iraq students shows them a different perspective of their parents' work while deployed, Lumb said.
"I think it helps them visually see the work their parents are doing," Lumb said. "Many students know that their parents are in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect us, but may be less aware of the humanitarian work they do each day for these countries. It really increases the pride they already feel for their parents' commitment to our country. It also helps us establish that Americans really want to help others."
Lumb said the school and district have plans to make video teleconferences with students in other countries a part of the learning curriculum beginning next school year.