President George W. Bush has announced the creation of two new web-based education projects that will allow students and educators from the United States to collaborate on projects and share ideas with those in other nations.

The first is an eMail exchange program between students in an effort to promote global understanding; the second is an international database of best practices in teaching.

At a local elementary school in Washington, D.C., Oct. 25, Bush publicized the formation of “Friendship Through Education,” an initiative that uses the internet to link United States students with students from predominantly Muslim countries.

To start, three U.S. schools that were directly affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will be linked with schools in Islamic nations. Eventually, at least one school in every state will participate.

“One way to fight evil is with good; you can help by writing letters to boys and girls your age. You can let boys and girls know what you think is important. You can let boys and girls know what your dreams are, and ask them about theirs, too,” Bush said to students at Thurgood Marshall Extended Elementary School.

Students will use eMail to exchange letters and better understand each other’s countries and cultures. They’ll also be encouraged to swap essays, artwork, and participate in collaborative projects.

“One of the best ways to deter terrorism is through education and understanding,” the White House said in a statement. “This interaction will build friendships and involve students in discussions of issues facing them as future global citizens.”

Some of the participating countries include Egypt, Indonesia, Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey, Bahrain. The program also is intended to reach refugee camps inside Afghanistan.

“We’re using our laptop technology to communicate with two schools we’ve been partnered off with in Egypt,” said Mirian Acosta-Sing, principal of Mott Hall School in New York City, another of the first schools to join this project. The third is Patrick Henry Elementary School in Arlington, Va.

“The students kind of see themselves as ambassadors for the United States, so they are taking this quite seriously,” she said.

The Mott Hall sixth graders already have begun exchanging eMails with the Egyptian students, and they planned to read the eMails they’ve received to each other Nov. 2.

“The kids are really excited. They’re researching and going to different web sites to read about Muslim religion,” Acosta-Sing said. “This is really going to make social studies come alive for them.”

A consortium of nongovernmental organizations and private companies is making Friendship Through Education possible by identifying schools in Muslim nations to participate, providing internet communications to students, assisting with translations, and facilitating classroom projects.

The group includes iEARN-USA, the United Nation’s Cyberschoolbus, ePals Classroom Exchange, Global SchoolNet Foundation, People to People International, Schools Online, Sister Cities International, US Fund for UNICEF, and Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools of the Peace Corps.

It’s up to individual schools and teachers to decide exactly what they will do, according to Lisa Jobson, program director of iEARN-USA and the key organizer of Friendship Through Education.

Educators who’d like to participate can get information and register at the Friendship Through Education web site (see link below).

International best-practice database

The U.S. Department of Education and four Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations have agreed to use the internet to post best practices in education and to promote international collaboration on internet-based learning.

The initiative, called the APEC Cyber Education Cooperation, was announced Oct. 22 during a recent APEC forum in China.

Korea, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States will participate in developing a database of best practices for educators to access via the internet. The content will focus on the use of technology in the classroom, the teaching and learning of other subjects, and the exchange of people and ideas.

Using the database, for example, teachers could find curriculum materials and lesson plans used by Singapore teachers to help their students achieve the best scores in the world on international mathematics assessments.

“A global economy demands a work force that has the capacity to continually update its education and skills through access to the latest developments in a variety of fields, from engineering to fiber-optics,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

“President Bush has made education his top domestic priority, and the eLearning initiative advances the education goals and further strengthens the economies of our APEC neighbors, as well as our own.”

Links:

White House
http://www.whitehouse.gov

Friendship Through Education Consortium
http://www.friendshipthrougheducation.org

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov